Thursday, February 18, 2016

5 things that you should not do with chopsticks in Japan

In many Asian countries, people eat with chopsticks.  However, while in some of them, like China and Korea, people use other cutlery such as spoons, Japan is a unique in that people use chopsticks for eating almost all food from rice, meat, vegetables to soup.

Over many years, an etiquette around use of chopsticks has developed in Japan.  Many of them are not well known outside of the country, but they are considered the basic manners of Japanese cuisine.
Here is some of the taboos that you may want to avoid when you have meals with Japanese people.

5 things that you should not do in Japan when eating.

1. Stick the chopsticks in the middle of the bowl. (Tate-hashi or standing chopsticks)

In buddhist funeral, we place a bowl of rice with the chopsticks sticking in the middle as an offering to the dead.  It is thought not to be appropriate that you do this as it implies someone's death.

2.  Lick the chopsticks (Neburi-hashi)
Licking the chopsticks or putting them in your mouth unnecessarily is not proper.

3. Move a plate with using the chopsticks (Yose-hashi)

Also, dragging a plate on the table is thought to be bad.  When you want to move the plate, you take it up and place it without dragging.

4. Point out someone with the chopsticks. (Sashi-hashi, pointing chopsticks)

You are not supposed to use chopsticks to point people or things.

5. Give food from chopsticks to chopsticks (Hashi-watashi)

I used to do this when I was little and I was often scolded by my mom...  When you give food to your friend, you place it on the plate and a friend pick it up from it.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Japanese way of Valentine's Day

In Japan, the meaning of Valentine's Day is a little different from the one in North America and Europe.  It is a day when a girl gives chocolate to a boy she loves.  It is a big day of confession for a girl, but it is only a girl who makes action and not vice versa.

When I spent one year at the university in Canada many years ago, I was very surprised that I received flowers or little gifts from my friends of girls.  It never happens in Japan.  In Western countries, the meaning of Valentine includes gratitude for someone you care regardless of sex, but in Japan, it is solely about love and confession from a girl to a boy.

 You may think that it is unfair that only girls give presents to boys, but to compensate this, Japan has something called 'White Day' one month after Valentine's day which is on March 14.  In White Day, boys give gifts to girls in return regardless of whether it was from the girl he likes or not.  It is manner to give back something to a person who gave presents on Valentine's Day.  In return of chocolate, boys give something 'white' such as marshmallows or cookies.

There is also something called 'giri-choco', duty-chocolate often at work occasion.  Lady workers give her men colleagues and bosses chocolates out of their sense of social politeness.  Ladies think it 'nice' and 'pleasant' to give chocolates to men workers and this helps to make more smooth and harmonized work environment.