Speakin’ Japanese: Chopsticks chatter

Speakin’ Japanese: Chopsticks chatter

by Takahiro Takiguchi and Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Japan

Sushi, tempura, savory okonomiyaki – there are so many yummy Japanese foods you won’t want to miss during your stay. “Hashi” or chopsticks are an indispensable tool when you sample these local specialties. Learning how to use them is a great way to get acquainted not only with the food but also the culture of your host country. Honing your chopsticks skills has double the benefit as it is both really rewarding and really tasty.

As you explore tourist areas and many different kinds of restaurant, you’ll soon discover that chopsticks come in all shapes, sizes, materials and quality. Pick up a pair of beautifully lacquered and adorned chopsticks, an ideal souvenir for family and friends. Or, check out the novelty pairs with your favorite Japanese animated characters like Hello Kitty, Doraemon or Gundam.

As you begin (or continue) your dive into Japan’s dining culture, take the phrases and vocabulary below to help you along the way.

Asking for help with your chopsticks

“Hashi no tsukaikata wo oshiete kudasai.” = Please teach me how to use chopsticks.
(“tsukaikata” = how to use, “oshiete” = teach me, “kudasasi” = please)
(pronounced – hashee noh zookaheekahtah woe ohsheeheyteh koodahsigh)

“Doko wo nigittara ii desuka?” = Where can I grip?
(“doko” = where, “nigittara” = grip, “ii desuka” = is good to)
(pronounced – doughkoh who neegeetahrah ee dehsookah)

“Tadashii mochikata wo misete kudasai.” = Show me how to hold them right.
(“tadashii” = right, “mochikata” = how to hold, “misete” = show me)
(pronounced – tah-dahshee-ee moecheekahtah woe me-set-the koodahsigh)

“Muzukashii desune?” = It is difficult, isn’t it?
(“muzukashii” = difficult, “desune” = isn’t it?)
(pronounced – moo-zoo-kah-shee dezooneh)


In a Japanese restaurant

“Irraishaimase” = Welcome! (Said by shop owners almost every time you enter store. Also used in retail stores and other businesses.)
(pronounced – ee-rah-shy-mah-seh)

“Waribashi wo kudasai.” = May I have a pair of disposable chopsticks, please.
(“Waribashi” = disposable chopsticks made of wood or bamboo and are attached at the top, requiring them to be split apart before use, “wo kudasai” = give me)
(pronounced – Wah-ree-bash-ee woe koodahsigh)

“Fooku wo kudasai.” = May I have a fork, please.
(“fooku” = fork) 
(pronounced – folk-oo woe koodahsigh)

“Sumimasen. Hashi no tsukaikata ga wakari masen.” = I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to use chopsticks.
(“sumimasen” = I’m sorry. “ga wakari masen” = I don’t know..)
(pronounced – soo-me-mass-en. Hashee noh zookaykahtah gah wack-aree mass-en)


Shopping for chopsticks

“Kono hashi ga hoshii desu.” = I want this pair of chopsticks.
(“kono” = this, “ga hoshii desu” = I want..)
(pronounced – cone-oh hashee gah hoe-shee dehz)

“Kirei desune?” = They are pretty, aren’t they?
(“kirei” = pretty)
(pronounced – kee-ray dehz-neh)

“Ikura desuka?” = How much is it?
(“ikura” = how much, “desuka” = is it..?)
(pronounced – ee-koo-rah dehz-kah)

“Kaado wa tsukae masuka?” = Can I use a credit card?
(“kaado” = credit card)
(pronounced – kah-doe wah zoo-kai mass-zoo-kah)


Pronunciation key: “A” is short (like “ah”); “E” is short (like “get”); “I” is short (like “it”); “O” is long (like “old”); “U” is long (like “tube”); and “AI” is a long “I” (like “hike”). Most words are pronounced with equal emphasis on each syllable, but “OU” is a long “O” with emphasis on that syllable.

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