What Do You Say Before Eating In Japan?

Different countries have different cultures, and with different cultures comes different customs and habits.

In particular, there is often a big difference in culture between Westernized countries and Eastern countries. Especially when it comes to traditions surrounding eating. 

In many parts of the world, people just tuck into their food once it is placed in front of them without a second thought. In other areas it is custom to say Grace before eating, but what about in Japan? 

Well, if you are planning a visit to Japan in the near future, you probably want to know. So, keep on reading to find out what you say before eating in Japan!

what do you say before eating in japan

What Do You Say Before Eating In Japan?

In Japanese, Itadakimasu means “I humbly accept” or “I gratefully receive”. It is used as a greeting and also as a response to questions such as “How do you feel?” or “What did you think about this movie?”. 

But when it comes to eating, Gochisousama is another common phrase that is often said by tourists who are unsure of how to respond to a situation.

This phrase literally translates into “good luck”, but it is more commonly associated with the Japanese saying “itadakimasu” and is used when someone wishes you good fortune.

A long, long time ago, people literally had to run (run) to get their food hunting (hunt), fishing (fish), and even harvesting (harvest).

Gochisousama (literally means “feast’s running”) was used by guests to show great appreciation toward those who ran, gathered, harvested, and prepared the food being served to them.

When the kanji characters are combined, 馳越す, the meaning changes from “running” to “feast”.

Gochisousama means “thank you very much” when you’re eating something delicious. You can also use it when someone else is doing something nice for you.

For example, if you’re having lunch with friends and you see that your favorite restaurant has a new menu, you might say gochisousama shita (meaning “I’m really glad I got to try it”) instead of gochisousama.

In Japan, people usually say “itadakimasu” or “gochi-sousamu” when they eat rice. This means “I am thankful”. People also say “itadakimasu” or “gochisousan” when they drink tea. This means “Thank you very much”.

More Common Japanese Phrases When Eating

There are many different ways to ask for more food in Japanese. You should be polite and ask for what you want. When you finish your meal, it’s polite to clean up your dishes.

Oishii means delicious or tasty. When you say oishii, you’re saying you don’t want to try it. You can say kokkoudesu meaning “no thank you” when someone asks you to eat something.

You can say kekkoushitsu meaning “I’m full”, when someone asks you if you want more food.

Onaka ga ippai is used when someone is full or finished eating. You can say this after finishing your meal by saying “ippai” (full). You can also use this phrase if you want to politely refuse an invitation to eat more.

When To Use “kudasai”

Kekkou desu doesn’t imply any sort of rude tone. Saying kekkou alone implies a very polite tone. As for the other phrases, itadakimono takes on a more polite tone when you add desu to the end.

Gochisousama and oishii also take on a more polite meaning when you add desu. Onaka ga ippai takes on a more polite meaning if you add desu.

Kudosai is a Japanese word meaning please. You could use this when you’re saying something to your teacher or boss.

Adding kudosai to a phrase makes it sound more polite. For example, instead of saying “Please pass me the milk,” say “Okawari kudasai” (please).

What Does “Itadakimasu” Mean?

Itadakimasu is the polite form of “itadaku,” which is a word to express humility for accepting and eating. Its origin is the Japanese Kanji character 頂 meaning “top of the head”.

It refers to the body posture (kneeling down or bowing, head bowed, hands extended upward) when receiving anything from a higher ranking person.

Saying “itadakimasu” means “I am thankful for this meal”. It is said before eating. “Itadakimasu” is used when someone gives something to you or prepares a meal for you.

What Does “Gochisosama” Mean?

Gochisosama is a formal term meaning “a feastful and luxurious meal” or “a feast”. It is derived from the verb “to run”, and the honorific prefix “go” indicates formality.

Sama is an honorable suffix that is usually added to a person’s name. This phrase is used to show respect and gratitude to the person(s), who prepared this feast.

In Japanese culture, people say thank you by using the phrase “Gochisosama” when someone prepares them a meal. Do not hesitate to use this phrase when you’re visiting Japan.

You can buy us a cup of green tea (see also, ‘What is Hojicha?‘) if you want to support us. Thanks!

Itadakimasu means “I humbly receive” or “I accept”. Gochisosama means “Thank you very much”.

Can Foreigners Say Itadakimasu In Japan?

In Japan, foreigners can say ‘itadakimasu’ when they eat, but they shouldn’t do it while drinking alcohol. Saying ‘itadakimaisu’ will not offend the Japanese people, but it is polite to use the word ‘itadakimi’ before eating or drinking something.

You must be careful about how you pronounce your words. When you speak Japanese, you need to make sure you pronounce everything correctly.

When saying “itadakimasu”, some Japanese people will put their hands together as if praying. Others won’t. It’s up to them. It’s more like personal choice than an obligation. You can watch this short video to learn how to say “itadakimasa” correctly.

In Japan, saying “itadakima-su” before eating is optional. You don’t need to say it, but it’s polite to do so. However, if you’re going to eat sushi or sashimi, you should say “itadaki-masu”.

Also, when you ask for something to drink, you should say ‘itadakimasu ka’ instead of ‘itadakimasu-wa’.

Gochisousan means thank you for the meal. In Japan, this phrase is used after eating. It is used to show gratitude for the food. Gochisousama/gochisou mamadeshta is used when thanking someone for the food.

It is usually used by a single person to a larger group of people.

Japanese Table Manners

So we’ve spoken about what to say before eating in Japan, but what about the other table manners that you should bear in mind when eating? Let’s find out. 

Table manners are very important in Japanese culture. You should always be polite when eating or drinking at a restaurant. You should also always wash your hands before eating.

Chopsticks are used to eat rice or noodles. You should use them like this: hold your chopstick vertically, then place the tip into the bowl of rice or noodles. Then pick up the rice or noodles with your other hand, and put it onto the chopstick.

Then lift the chopstick up with both hands, and bring it towards your mouth. Once you’re done eating, you should put down the chopstick and wash your hands.

You should always use chopsticks instead of knives or forks. Never stab them into your food! This is because it looks too much like incense that is burnt during funerals.

Food should be served by picking it up with chopsticks and placing it on a plate. This is how people eat at funerals. When you eat, you should always go first to your own plate.

Then you can fill up on whatever you want. Don’t ever leave your plate empty, or you’ll end up eating more than you need.

You should never drink alone. When you finish a cup of coffee, you should always offer another person a refill. If someone asks for a refill, you should give him/her a refill. If you run out of coffee, you should ask others to fill up your cup.

Slurping is allowed! In Japan, slurping is considered a compliment to the chef.

Other Useful Mealtime Phrases

You should answer “Iie” when you’re asked if you’d like more food or drink. Otherwise, you’ll be rude.

Now that you’ve learned how to greet people when you’re done eating, what do you say after finishing your meal? Gochisōsama deshita Thank you very much for this delicious meal. You should also learn more about Japanese phrases!

Final Thoughts

The best way to enjoy Japanese cuisine is by trying different dishes from around the country. It’s not just about sushi; try ramen noodles, tempura, yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), udon noodles, and soba noodles (see also ‘Are Soba Noodles Good For You?‘).

And don’t forget sake, which is made from rice. And hopefully, now you know exactly what to say when enjoying these tasty treats!

Aura Ruggeri
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