How to Use Chopsticks

If you’re traveling to Japan, then you’re definitely going to want to learn how to use chopsticks. Unless you’re having dinner at a western-style restaurant, it’s very unlikely that the restaurant will have a fork, spoon or knife available. Once you know how to use chopsticks well, you’ll find that they are a very versatile utensil.


When you eat at the Japanese restaurant near your home, you probably get a pair of disposable chopsticks that show the correct method of using chopsticks printed on the sleeve. I’ve been traveling, and living, in Japan since 1998 and I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 3 people use chopsticks the correct way. It’s just not comfortable.

It’s comparable to the correct way of holding the steering wheel of your car while driving. According to the driving manual you should always hold the wheel at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, but I don’t know many people that drive that way. So today I’m going to show you the most comfortable and practical way to hold chopsticks.

How to Use Chopsticks for Beginners


Base Chopstick Held Using Middle Finger


Step 1: First place the top end of one chopstick in the space between your pointer finger and thumb and balance it between the knuckle and fingertip of your middle finger. This stick will always remain stationary.


Base Chopstick Held Using Ring Finger


Tip: If the chopstick keeps sliding over your knuckle, rest it between the knuckle and fingertip of your ring finger and use your middle finger to prevent the stick from slipping over your knuckle.


Holding a Pair of Chopsticks


Step 2: Place the second chopstick between your index finger and your thumb. Your index finger should rest on the stick from your fingertip to your middle knuckle. Use your thumb as the pivot point, while the index finger moves the stick up and down. This stick will do all the work while the other stays in a fixed position.

Tip: It is important to apply just enough pressure to hold the second chopstick comfortably and not lose mobility.


Base Chopstick on Middle Finger
Base Chopstick on Ring Finger


Step 3: Eat! Don’t try and pick the food up with an iron clasp. Using chopsticks is a practice of finding the perfect combination of balance and pressure to pick up your food, and this combination changes from one piece to the next.

Common Beginner Mistakes


Do Not Choke-Up on Chopsticks


  1. Choking up on the chopsticks: The hardest part of using chopsticks is trying to control them well enough so they don’t overlap. In order to remedy this, many new users will move their hands closer to the bottom of the chopsticks. This is actually worse because it makes it more difficult to open and close them. You should always grip your chopsticks up toward the top.
  2. Squeezing too hard: Like most things Japanese, there is a fine balance to the amount of pressure needed to grip your food. Too little, and your food will fall off your chopsticks. However, too much pressure may send your food flying across the restaurant. So you must find that perfect amount of balance and pressure needed to pick up the food and get it into your mouth.

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