Itadakimasu – the Japanese Way to Live Life With Gratitude

There’s a Japanese saying that goes like this: “Seven Gods live in one grain of rice.” And what this means is that when one eats food, one should not waste even a grain of rice that’s leftover in your bowl. In Japan, spurred on by Buddhism, history, and the Second World War, the concept of Itadakimasu was born. But what is the itadakimasu meaning? And when should you use it? Let’s take a closer look.

The Concept of Itadakimasu

When it comes to the itadakimas meaning, there’s no literal translation to English. Some say it’s the equivalent of saying “Bon appetit” in French or saying grace before a meal you’re about to consume. Ultimately though, the Itadakimasu meaning in English means to accept or take something humbly. This is a practice that has been practiced by a majority of Japanese people before they consume a meal as a way to say thanks and show appreciation for the person who made the food and for the food itself.

With Buddhist roots, Itadakimasu places the receiver of the food in a humble position of accepting something from a higher authority or higher power. It is a way of expressing gratitude to the giver.

So, how would you properly and politely express your thanks to your host when dealing with Japanese itadakimasu? The process is pretty standard across Japan, with some variations, of course. Firstly, you will need to place your hands together in a pose as if you were praying. Then, raise your hands slightly high near your face and say “Itadakimasu” to your host, the server at the restaurant, or anyone else who is giving you something. After that, you’re ready to pick up your chopsticks and start digging in.

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But can Itadakimasu be used for anything else other than food? The answer is yes, but it relates to physical objects and not to inanimate or abstract objects such as advice, directions, or even a ride to the airport.

itadakimasu meaningThis means that whether you’re offered a potato, a baseball glove, a video game, or anything else, the phrase goes. Its origins come from the fact that when one places their hands together and raises them higher, it resembles the peak of a mountain’s highest point, which is where the origin of the word first arose. Doing this will show great respect for your hosts but remember that if you’re sitting at a restaurant with a friend and you say this word, you will essentially be implying that they will be paying for the meal. So choose your occasion wisely.

Apart from this, do all Japanese people practice Japanese Itadakimasu, meaning that is it such a big part of the culture? The answer is an overwhelming “yes”, but it does come with a pinch of salt. For example, only about 6% of the population doesn’t practice Itadakimasu and these people are often referred to as “Monster parents”. These types of parents teach their children that they do not need to be grateful for food that they’ve already paid for. They believe that when they go into a shop and pay for food, they are supporting local businesses and the gratitude should essentially go to the parents instead of the business owner. These types of parents are also the ones who go to their children’s principal’s office to seek better treatment for their children. As you can guess, this is not a widely popular custom in Japan and is an approach that’s best avoided.

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Now that you know what itadakimasu is in English as well as when and where to use it, you’ll be showing much more respect and gratitude to your hosts, and you’ll be displaying a higher level of politeness. It’s always safer to express your gratitude rather than doing the opposite. This way, you’ll earn the respect of your hosts and friends in Japan as you show a true willingness to immerse yourself in and accept their culture. This is likely to earn you lifelong friends and strong bonds and relationships. So, the next time you’re ready to enjoy a meal with your friends, don’t hesitate to say Itadakimasu and you’ll make a long-lasting and favorable impression on them.