How To Hold Chopsticks The Japanese Way

5 from 3 votes

Looking to learn how to hold chopsticks? With these easy steps and helpful tips, you’ll confidently use chopsticks at the dinner table in no time!

holding chopsticks

If you want to learn how you hold chopsticks, this comprehensive guide will help you! Follow these simple steps, you will master your new skills, and you’ll be confident using chopsticks at any meal.

    This guide is for you if:
  • You are not sure how to hold chopsticks prperly.
  • You want to improve your chopstick skill.
  • You want to know more about Japanese chopsticks.

Let’s get started!

Chopsticks In Japanese Culture

Chopsticks are the primary tableware in Japan. If you go to a Japanese restaurant, your meal always comes with chopsticks.

Chopsticks play a significant role in Japanese culture, from birth to death. The “Okuizome” ceremony, which is held when a child is 100 days old to pray that the child will never go hungry in life, also involves the use of chopsticks as a ritual tool. Chopsticks are also used in Japanese funerals as well as in dishes offered to the Buddha.

For the Japanese, chopsticks are an inseparable part of our culture, and the use of chopsticks has always been considered a “sacred” and “important” act.

Benefits of properly holding chopsticks

soy meat karaage, steamed rice and miso soup.

For Japanese people, chopsticks are like an extension of their hands. Japanese chopsticks are characterized by their thin tips and can perform various functions, such as picking up, pinching, pressing, scooping, tearing, and many more ways!

Holding chopsticks the correct way allows for finer movements and more delicate handling of food while also providing a stable grip that reduces the chance of dropping or losing control of the food.

Chopstick etiquette is important in Japanese culture, so it’s best to take the time to learn the right way to hold and use them. Properly handling chopsticks makes table manners look beautiful.

Japanese chopsticks

Japanese chopsticks

Chopsticks are used in many other Asian countries, but their shape and materials vary depending on local customs and food culture.

Japanese chopsticks are typically made of wood with thin tips, allowing them to perform various tasks, as I mentioned earlier. In contrast, Chinese chopsticks tend to be longer and have thicker tips, while Korean chopsticks are commonly made of metal, like stainless steel.

In Japan, chopsticks are often the sole utensil used for eating, which is a distinct feature of Japanese dining culture. In many other countries, spoons, and knives are used alongside chopsticks.

How to hold chopsticks

Illustration of holding chopsticks.

First, hold your chopsticks in the correct position. Grasp them about one-third of the way from the fatter end of the chopstick.

Hold the top chopstick like a pencil, and use your middle and ring finger to secure the bottom chopstick in place.

When picking up pieces of food, move the top chopstick with your index and middle fingers while the bottom chopstick stays on your ring finger. By adjusting the opening and closing of the chopstick tips, you can easily pick up food of any size.

Step-by-Step Guide

Ok, now it’s time to try! This step-by-step guide will teach you how to hold chopsticks correctly. It might be hard for the first time, but you can become confident in using them with practice!

how to hold chopsticks step by step.
  1. Grab the first chopstick about one-third of the way from the fatter end, like holding a pencil with the index finger, middle finger, and tip of your thumb.
  2. Insert the second chopstick from the bottom. The second one should be placed between the middle finger and ring finger and held firmly in place.
  3. Align the tips of the chopsticks.
  4. Close the tips of the chopsticks. And this is the proper way to hold chopsticks.
how to hold chopsticks step by step.

Now that you know the basic way of holding chopsticks, let’s try picking up food with them.

  1. Lift the upper chopstick with your index and middle finger. Make sure to keep the lower chopstick stable and stationary.
  2. Let’s practice lifting the top chopstick! Fix your thumb and ring finger with your non-dominant hand, then try lifting the top chopstick several times.
  3. Once you become comfortable with lifting the upper chopstick, you can practice by spreading the chopsticks apart widely and then pinching food with the tips.
  4. Gently close the tips of the chopsticks around the food and lift it up.

Did you make it? Remember, the key to mastering chopsticks is practice. With enough practice, using chopsticks will become second nature to you!

How to find the perfect length of chopsticks

How to find the perfect length of chopsticks

It is essential to choose chopsticks that are the appropriate length for your hand size. Chopsticks that are too long or too short can be difficult to handle, and you will be tired of holding them.

How to measure the length:

The chopsticks that fit your hand should have a length that is about 1.5 times the distance between your thumb and index finger when they are spread open at a 90-degree angle.

Various lengths of Chopsticks

Various lengths of Chopsticks

As I mentioned earlier, it is important to choose chopsticks that fit your hand size, and there are different lengths available for men, women, and children.

However, the general lengths for chopsticks are around 21.5 cm for women and 23 cm for men in Japan. And children’s chopsticks are shorter, starting from about 14 cm, to make it easier for them to grip and use.

My children started using chopsticks at around 3 years old and have been increasing the size according to their growth. In Japan, it’s easy to find chopsticks of different sizes in shops that specialize in chopsticks.

How to practice

Don’t forget, the more you practice, the better you’ll become at using chopsticks. With dedication and persistence, you’ll master the art of holding chopsticks for sure!

Let’s practice!

Here is the common practice of using chopsticks to pick up and move food items one by one. I’ll introduce three food items that you can practice with.

Step 1 – Cherry tomatoes

practice holding chopsticks with cherry tomatoes

Starting with larger items, such as cherry tomatoes, can be helpful for beginners. This exercise will help you improve your grip, control, and precision when using chopsticks.

If you struggle with cherry tomatoes, using rolled-up tissue or paper can be a great way to practice without wasting food and can help you get a feel for holding and manipulating chopsticks before moving on to actual food items.

Step 2 – Beans

practice holding chopsticks with dry beans.

If you have mastered picking up cherry tomatoes with chopsticks, the next level is to try with dry beans. Beans are more challenging as they can be slippery and require a firm grip on the tips of the chopsticks.

Step 3 Grains of Rice

practice holding chopsticks with grains of rice.

Let’s practice with smaller items to level up your chopstick skills! It requires a delicate balance between the two chopsticks to grab the grains without dropping them, so it may take some time and patience.

If your hands get tired, take a break! Taking occasional breaks and stretching your hands can help prevent cramping and discomfort for an extended period of time.

The wrong way to hold chopsticks

The wrong way to hold chopsticks

Holding chopsticks in the wrong way can lead to discomfort and difficulty in picking up food. Common mistakes include:

  • Front chopstick crosses
  • Placing the index finger in front of the chopsticks
  • Using all fingers to hold the chopsticks.

If you have become accustomed to holding chopsticks incorrectly, it may be challenging to change your habits. However, you can try practicing the technique mentioned in instruction number 6 above each time you use them. This can help you develop the correct muscle memory and eventually improve your chopstick skills.

Chopstick Rest

chopsticks rest

Chopstick rests, also known as “hashioki” in Japanese, are small decorative objects used in Japanese cuisine. They come in various shapes and designs. Using a chopstick rest not only keeps the pairs of chopsticks clean and hygienic but also adds a touch of elegance to the dining experience.

Different types of chopsticks

Portable Chopsticks

portable chopsticks

When eating lunch on the go, it’s convenient to have chopsticks with a case to bring along.

Disposal chopsticks

disposal chopsticks

In Japan, disposable wooden chopsticks are also a quick and easy option, often included with obento (lunch boxes) sold at convenience stores.

Wrap up

picking up vegetables with chopsticks.

Let’s wrap up! Mastering the art of holding chopsticks requires patience and practice. However, with consistent effort and dedication, you can improve your skills and enjoy using chopsticks with confidence.

  1. Start with the correct grip: Hold one chopstick between your thumb and index finger and rest it on the base of your middle finger. Then, place the other chopstick between your thumb and middle finger, using your ring finger to support it.
  2. Use the right size chopsticks: If the chopsticks are too big or small for your hands, it can be difficult to hold them properly. Find chopsticks that fit comfortably in your hand.
  3. Practice picking up small objects: Start with larger objects and gradually move to smaller ones. This will help you refine your grip and improve your accuracy.
  4. Be patient and persistent: Learning to hold chopsticks takes time and practice. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right away. Keep practicing, and you will get better with time.

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Holding chopsticks.

How To Hold Chopsticks The Japanese Way

5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Save
Prep: 4 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
Author: Juri Austin
Looking to learn how to hold chopsticks? With these easy steps and helpful tips, you'll confidently use chopsticks at the dinner table in no time!


  • 1 pari Chopsticks


  • Grab the first chopstick about one-third of the way from the fatter end, like holding a pencil with the index finger, middle finger, and tip of your thumb.
  • Insert the second chopstick from the bottom. The second one should be placed between the middle finger and ring finger and held firmly in place
  • Align the tips of the chopsticks.
  • Close the tips of the chopsticks. And this is the proper way to hold chopsticks.


Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: how to use chopsticks
Did You Make this recipe?Please Leave a star rating!

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5 from 3 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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  1. 5 stars
    This is so helpful and clearly explained. I’m looking forward to practicing to improve my technique.

  2. At home we use both plain bamboo sticks and fancier lacquered sticks. The lacquered sticks are attractive, but the surface has lower friction (i.e. they’re slipperier), causing the stationary stick to eventually slide off my ring finger. So, in my opinion, I suspect wooden sticks are more practical, especially those that have a bit more thickness on the fat end to allow for a better grip and contact surface.

    I have another problem where the tip of the top stick held by index, middle, and thumb starts to incrementally extend beyond the tip of the bottom stick after 3-4 bites, causing me to constantly realign the tips.

    By the way, I’m quite adept at using sticks and can pick up single rice grains to large cooked or uncooked eggs.

    In closing, I don’t much care for the thick, cylindrical, plastic Chinese restaurant sticks, nor the thin, metallic, Korean restaurant sticks. Find what sticks you like, and stay with then.