Japanese chopsticks are shorter than Chinese chopsticks and taper to a finely pointed end. They are traditionally made of plastic, wood, usually yew or bamboo and are lacquered. It is common for Japanese sticks to be of shorter length for women and children's chopsticks, in miniature, are also common.
Here are some helpful tips and hints about Japanese etiquette when using Japanese chopsticks;
- Food should not be transferred from one's own chopsticks to someone else's chopsticks. Japanese people will always offer their plate to transfer it directly, or pass a person's plate along if the distance is great. Transferring directly with chopsticks is how bones are passed as part of Japanese funeral rites.
- The pointed ends of the chopsticks should be placed on a chopstick rest when the chopsticks are not being used. However, when a chopstick rest is not available as it is often the case in restaurants using waribashi (disposable chopsticks), a person may make a chopstick rest by folding the paper case that contained the chopsticks.
- Reversing chopsticks to use the opposite clean end is commonly used to move food from a communal plate, and is acceptable if there are no communal chopsticks (for example, if the meal is hosted at someone's home). If the meal is at someone's house, communal chopsticks are not requested if there are none on the table. At a restaurant, it is better to mimic the locals. If one is the host, community chopsticks should be provided.
- Chopsticks should not be crossed on a table, as this symbolizes death, or vertically stuck in the rice, which is done during a funeral.
- Chopsticks should be placed right-left direction; the tips should be on the left. Placing diagonal, vertical and crossing each stick are not acceptable both in home and restaurant manners.
- Disposable unlacquered chopsticks are commonly used especially in restaurants. These often come as a piece of wood that is partially cut and must be split into two chopsticks by the user (demonstrating that they have not been previously used). In Japanese, these are known as waribashi. Natural wood chopsticks have an innate antibacterial property absent from other materials. In formal use, disposable chopsticks should be replaced into the wrapper at the end of a meal.