Is sushi eaten with your hands? Or should you use chopsticks?

Sushi was originally a food eaten with your hands. Even, for example, if you are in a prestigious sushi restaurant in Ginza, you can still eat with your hands. You can actually use your hands to eat the ginger too. Restaurants that prefer you to eat with your hands will provide an extra, smaller towel for cleaning your hands between sushi, along with the normal hand towel (Oshibori towel). Even then, feel free to use chopsticks if you prefer.

Anyway, using chopsticks for the first time can be challenging, but don’t worry – here is the ultimate guide to becoming an expert at picking up your favorite sushi without damaging it. You’ll learn how to use chopsticks like a pro.

Follow these simple steps to use chopsticks like an expert:

  1. Hold the chopsticks by their thickest end.
  2. Place the chopstick on the lower end of your hand in the gap between your thumb and index finger.
  3. The chopstick on the top goes on the fingerprint of the thumb and index finger.
  4. To pick each piece of sushi, move the upper stick with the help of your thumb, index, and middle fingers.

Follow the steps above and soon, you’ll be the one teaching your friends! Now you know how to pick up sushi with chopsticks!

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Revision date: September 14, 2023

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Some notes on chopstick manners

There are manners in using chopsticks that tourists may be unaware of. We would like to introduce some of those here.

First of all, it is impolite to place chopsticks on your dish in the middle of a meal. Make sure to place them back on the chopstick stand when you aren’t using them.

It is also poor manners to stab food with chopsticks (Sashi-bashi) and or to use chopsticks to look through dishes. Please avoid breaking up the beautifully arranged dishes when you eat.

The improper use of chopsticks

1. Passing foods (Hiroi-bashi or Awase-bashi): Never use your chopsticks to take something from someone else’s chopsticks. This way of passing things relates to Japanese funerary customs (Kotsuage).

2. Drawing plates or bowls near you (Saguri-bashi): Don’t draw a plate or bowl toward you with chopsticks.

3. Touching foods unnecessarily (Utsuri-bashi): Don’t touch foods with chopsticks unnecessarily without eating them.

4. Scooping: Don’t scoop up food by using chopsticks like a spoon and bring them to your mouth.

5. Shoveling food into the mouth (Komi-bashi): Don’t put your lips on a plate or bowl and shovel food into your mouth with chopsticks.

6. Picking up plates or bowls while holding chopsticks (Nigiri-bashi): Don’t pick up a plate or bowl while holding chopsticks.

7. Pointing at someone (Sashi-bashi): Don’t point at someone with chopsticks.

8. Laying chopsticks across a plate or bowl: Don’t lay chopsticks across a plate or bowl.

9. They stuff their mouth full of food and push it in with chopsticks (Oshikomi-bashi).

10. Lick the chopstick tips (Neburi-bashi).

11. Hold it with chopsticks while dripping the cooking juices (Namida-bashi).

12. Eating the same food over and over again (Kasane-bashi).


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Revision date: March 1, 2024

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Where should I grab the sushi when eating with chopsticks?

Laying the chopsticks sideways as if scooping up the sushi distributes the strength and the sushi won’t break easily. If you grab it in the middle then there will be too much force on that part and it will break in two pieces. Make sure to eat this beautifully formed piece of sushi in one bite.

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Revision date: December 4, 2017

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Why aren’t the prices included on the menu at sushi restaurants?

If you visit a premium sushi restaurant, such as one that places piles of salt by the entrance for good fortune, you’ll notice there are no price displays.

There’s not even a menu. All you find is a slab of wood hanging down the wall with names of the daily offerings such as Conger Eel (anago) or Spotted Shad (kohada).

This is not a place to get angry and ask how customers can order without knowing the price. First time customers may not know the market price and worry about budget, resolving to pay with a credit card if they don’t have enough cash in their wallet.

I guess you could say that sushi restaurants that don’t display prices are accepted by customers as being more traditional, like the old days. But actually, at pre-war sushi restaurants, there were wooden panels that listed prices such as “Fatty Tuna: 2000 yen”. It was during the 1960s that they stopped displaying prices.

The 60s was the start of an era of high-growth in Japan. Prices were rising rapidly and sushi prices also went up drastically. At the same time, the business practice of entertaining clients was gaining popularity and suddenly about 80% of the clientele of high-quality sushi restaurants were these types of business groups, rather than individual customers.

In situations like these, if there was a sign that read “Medium Fatty Tuna: 3000 yen” then it makes it difficult for the business guest to order what they like, without worrying about the price. Considering the total bill, they may also order fewer dishes than they want. As you can see, this practice of not displaying prices at sushi restaurants was in consideration for the business customers who were entertaining clients, as well as those being entertained as clients. At the same time, the well-known “Omakase” was created, the “chef’s choice” system in which the customer orders a menu created by the chef on the spot.

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Revision date: October 23, 2017

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So verhalten Sie sich in einem Sushi-Lokal richtig

Hier lernen Sie alle Benimmregeln, die nicht nur in Sushi-Lokalen, sondern in allen Gaststätten Japans gelten. Das Wichtigste ist wohl, auf andere Rücksicht zu nehmen sodass sich andere Gäste im Lokal nicht gestört fühlen. Rücksichtnahme – das ist wohl das Wesentliche im japanischen Leben. Bitte merken Sie sich die hier aufgeführten Punkte.

・Bitte kommen Sie nicht zu spät, halten Sie die Reservierungszeit ein.

・Bitte nehmen Sie den Ihnen zugewiesenen Platz

・Selbstverständlich ist es absolut unerwünscht, im betrunkenen Zustand laut zu reden oder andere Gäste anzupöbeln

・Aufdringliche Gerüche wie zu starke Parfüms sind nicht erwünscht

・Rauchen ist natürlich nicht erlaubt

・Wenn Sie Fotos machen wollen, fragen Sie bitte vorher den Geschäftsinhaber und die anderen Besucher um Erlaubnis

・Es gibt zwar keine bestimmte Kleiderordnung, doch es ist ratsam, sauber und dem Anlass entsprechend gekleidet zu sein.

・Telefonieren im Lokal ist nicht erlaubt

・Legen Sie bitte keine kantigen Gegenstände wie Ihr smartphone oder Ihre Uhr auf die Sushi-Theke, da diese aus empfindlichem Holz gemacht ist

・Sich all zulange mit dem Sushi-Meister zu unterhalten ist kein wirklich cooles Benehmen

・Bestellen Sie bitte nicht immer nur Sushi mit dem gleichen Belag

・Ein Ihnen vorgesetztes Sushi sollte sofort verzehrt werden. Optimal ist: Innerhalb von 10 Sekunden.

・Mit der Hand oder Stäbchen – Sie können Sushi essen, wie Sie wollen

・Um das delikate Gleichgewicht von Reis und Sushi-Belag optimal zu geniessen, sollte man am besten das ganze Sushi-Stück in den Mund stecken. In diesem Sinne ist davon abzuraten, den Belag vom Reisklumpen zu trennen.

・Fische und Meeresfrüchte aus natürlichem Fang schmecken in der jeweiligen Saison am besten. Wir empfehlen, saisongerechte Beläge zu wählen.

・Dippen mit zu viel Sojasauce ist nicht ratsam. Der Sushireis saugt die Sojasauce schnell ein und dann zerfällt der Reis in Klumpen. Zu viel Sojasauce stört auch den feinen Geschmack des weissen Fischfleischs.

・Eine geregelte Reihenfolge gibt es beim Sushi-Essen nicht. Sie können völlig frei wählen, mit welchem Sushi Sie starten und welchen Sie als nächsten essen.

・Ein echter Sushi-Kenner bleibt nicht noch lange sitzen, wenn er fertig gegessen hat. Sich nach dem Essen zu lange in einem Sushi-Lokal aufzuhalten, gilt in Japan als uncool.

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Revision date: September 5, 2017

Is there a certain order for eating sushi?

How to eat sushi properly

During the Edo period when Nigiri sushi originated, it was sold in food stalls. People chose the sushi topping they wanted and satisfied their hunger. There is no such thing as the order of eating. In the first place, there are no rules about how to eat food.

The order in which the food is eaten is at the discretion of the eater.

You can eat Nigiri sushi in any order you like. We dare say that the order of eating dessert first, then the main meat or fish dish, and finally the appetizers is not a good one. Something similar to this even exists in Nigiri sushi.

Recently, Nigiri sushi has become a mainstream dish served in the Omakase course, in which the sushi chef has thought of the best order to eat the sushi. In this case, the sushi chef has thought of the best order in which to eat the sushi. The eater is left to his/her own choice.

Since when do we care about the order of eating?

This is due to the internationalization of Nigiri sushi. Everyone is taught how to eat a dish for the first time. And if you don’t know much about sushi topping, it is only natural that you would want to know more about it.

Generally, start by eating fish with a lighter flavor like white fish and move onto fish with a heavier flavor such as Toro, Uni, Japanese conger (Anago), and then Egg (Tamagoyaki). Finishing with Seaweed rolls at the end is a typical way.

The following menu is an Omakase style at the Former 3 Michelin star restaurant in Ginza. Since Sayori is offered, one can imagine that the season is early spring. This menu is composed of sushi topping that changes as the seasons change.

Begin with white fish?

Marbled flounder (Makogarei)

Striped jack (Shima aji)

Golden cuttlefish (Sumi ika)




Gizzard shad (Kohada)

Common orient clam (Nihamaguri)

Horse mackerel (Aji)

Kuruma prawn (Kuruma ebi)

Japanese halfbeak (Sayori)

Common octopus (Madako)

Mackerel (Saba)

Ark shell (Akagai)


Salmon roe (Ikura)

Japanese conger (Anago)

And Omelette (Tamagoyaki) comes last, just along the general order. Perhaps the way this owner serves might have become common.

To maximize each flavor of toppings, have some pickled ginger or hot tea between different types of sushi to cleanse your palate. You don’t have to stick to the specific order, though. It seems like having customers eat freely is the idea held in common by most sushi chefs. However, indeed, you won’t be able to taste the next flavor after eating something rather sweet. Japanese conger (Anago), Egg (Tamagoyaki), and Kanpyoumaki should be eaten at the end.

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Revision date: January 29, 2024

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Revision date: August 10, 2017

Is it polite to use Gari as a brush to apply soy sauce?

Using too much soy sauce spoils delicious sushi so make sure to only put a bit of soy sauce in the special dish. Make sure to tilt the sushi to the side and put just a dab on the end of the topping. Gari can be used as a brush to apply soy sauce to sushi rolls since they cannot be tilted. However, there are differing opinions as to whether this is a refined way to eat or not. Many people say it was basically made up by a publishing company. You just need a few drops in the soy sauce cruet. Actually at very fancy establishments the sushi is served with Nikiri so normal soy sauce is never used for dipping.

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Revision date: July 26, 2017

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Drinking tea makes sushi taste better!

Even if you order beer or sake at sushi restaurants, your meal will always end with a cup of tea. But if you’re going to go out for sushi, you should really start drinking that tea earlier instead of saving it until the end. The tea at sushi shops is far more significant than a simple beverage. Especially when eating fatty tuna or bonito, tea plays a role that beer and sake simply cannot fulfill.

The key is in its hot temperature.

Hot tea works to dissolve the fat left on the tongue. Traces of fat is left on your tongue when you eat fatty sushi. It covers the taste buds like a film, subtly inhibiting your sense of taste. It would be a shame to miss your chance to experience the full range of flavors on your visit to a delicious sushi restaurant. No matter how much you drink, beer and sake can’t do anything about this thin film.

But drinking hot tea dissolves the fat and washes it away. Tea can also be considered a type of preparation for enjoying the next piece of sushi.

Another fun fact, sushi teacups are bigger than traditional tea cups because sushi chefs used to man their food stands alone. They just didn’t have enough hands to be constantly refilling tea while also pressing the sushi. The stands used large teacups so they wouldn’t need to be refilled as often.

Related contents:

What are Konacha and Mecha?

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Revision date: September 8, 2022

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Frequently Asked Questions-Sushiuniversity

What is the appeal of Sushi University?

We are sure you’ve never heard of an interpreter accompanying you to a restaurant. Why does Sushi University go through the trouble of providing an interpreter? This is because sushi restaurants have an element that you won’t find at any other restaurant in the world. That is because they are the only restaurants where you can have a direct conversation with the chef. Sushi chefs make the sushi in front of the customers and in addition to chatting while the sushi is being made, they also make an effort to invite conversation that inspires thoughts of the changing seasons and make your experience memorable. Normally this isn’t an option for visitors who don’t speak Japanese, but our interpreter gives you this opportunity. This is one thing that makes Sushi University interesting and unique.

What to expect

The more you know about sushi, the better it tastes. Let’s consider the meaning of these words.

Fish and shellfish are worked with while they are still fresh and fixed into a state that they can be stored. This process was created for Edo-style sushi and has continued to be passed down for approximately 200 years.

These methods were normal practice during a time without refrigerators and the practices continue in almost the same way today. However, the purpose has shifted from optimum storage to optimum taste of each ingredient. In other words, sublimation for even more delicious sushi.

The techniques known as “work” on the sushi, including salting and soaking in vinegar, steaming and boiling and thorough pickling are commonly known in Edo-style sushi, but do you think about which work is applied to each individual topping when you eat it?

Just slicing up seafood and slapping it on some vinegar rice is not Edo-style sushi. It’s fresh. It has fat on it. You should think about the work put into the dish, not just whether the fish is sweet or fatty.

Sushi University offers plans that allow you to acquire basic knowledge of Edo-style sushi while you’re eating. After the lecture you’ll want to visit sushi restaurants even more than ever before.

Why us

Sushi University interpreters aren’t just translating the words. There are a lot of things that even regulars at sushi restaurants don’t know. This is because restaurant mentor is always watching over everyone and is in a position to answer questions honestly. The mentor normally doesn’t take the initiative to talk to people and it might just be the interpreter’s job to create opportunities for dialogue.

Our interpreters are able to do this because they are well-versed in Edo-style sushi and have a firm grasp of the basics of why each sushi dish is good and what work was done to make it so delicious. Interpreters who are not familiar with sushi get caught up in just the words of the interpreting and often don’t have the capacity to engage in meaningful exchange with the mentor. Not just anyone can become an interpreter.

What sushi restaurants does Sushi University visit?

This information isn’t disclosed until the day of the course. If students learn the name of the sushi restaurant in advance, they may search for it online and find mistaken information or acquire unnecessary preconceptions. The course is not about where you will eat the sushi, but why it is delicious and what Edo-style work has gone into the dishes to create that flavor. This is what you should focus on during your visit. Thank you for your understanding.

Why do we need to provide my mobile number?

When you apply online, mobile number is a required field. However, we will never call your phone. Perhaps you feel that means it’s not necessary.

When we need to contact you, we will first call the hotel. If we can’t get ahold of you there, we will send an email. If we don’t get a response to the email, then we will send a message to your phone.

If you happen to be staying in an Airbnb, we will send a message to your mobile phone once we arrive at your Airbnb to pick you up.

We appreciate your understanding.

 Why do you call the hotel the day before my reservation?

The day before your Sushi University reservation, our interpreter will call your hotel.

The reason for this is not only to confirm your reservation with you but also because the sushi chef will be visiting the Toyosu market the next morning to purchase the ingredients he will use for your meal. Some of the toppings are prepared a few days before serving, but most will be purchased on the morning of the reservation.

Most sushi restaurants serve an Omakase course. The benefit of this for the customer is that you will be served the chef’s expert choice. The benefit to the sushi restaurant is that they can avoid stocking seafood in the counter display case without knowing if they will have an opportunity to serve it or not. In other words, they won’t purchase seafood ingredients that they don’t need.

In recent years, global warming has affected fishing hauls and seafood prices have gone up between 50% to 100% from just a few years ago, so over-purchasing is an important issue from the viewpoint of running sushi restaurants and SDGs.

There are also some cases in which travel schedules change. Sometimes trains or planes are suddenly canceled or don’t run on schedule. Such things are unavoidable, but by calling your hotel the day before, we can understand and mitigate the situation a bit better.

Therefore, we will try calling your hotel the day before your reservation. If the hotel indicates that you have not checked in and do not intend to, we will send you an email and possibly send a message to your phone as well.

We appreciate your understanding.

Can you provide interpreters for languages other than English?

In Tokyo there are very few interpreters for languages other than English. However, if you apply well in advance, we may be able to find an interpreter in your language of choice. In this case, an extra fee will be applied.

Can children participate in the program?

Sushi University courses are not overly formal, but participants need to stay in their seats for a period of time. Please consider this when making your reservation.

Is there a children’s menu available?

Unfortunately, the sushi roll dishes that children tend to enjoy such as Salmon and Avocado rolls and California rolls are not available on a traditional Edo style sushi menu. The sushi can be made smaller, and wasabi can be left out, but generally the menu will be the same as the adult course.

I’m not a foreign tourist. I am a sushi chef. Can I participate in Sushi University?

Of course you can. Please ask any questions you would like, such as points to watch out for when making sushi, preparation methods, etc. We will answer what we can as sincerely as possible. However, you will not be able to actually cut toppings or make sushi in this course.

I am a foreigner living in Tokyo. Can I participate in Sushi University?

Of course you can. However, we will designate a hotel lobby for the meeting place. We are unable to make arrangements to meet you at your home or another place of your choosing.

Is it OK to take photos during the lecture?

It is OK to take photos of anything you are interested in, such as sushi ingredients and knife skills. A sushi master has given us permission. Please be careful not to accidentally get a picture of any other customers. However, please refrain from taking video and uploading to sites like YouTube.

Can I book a large party online?

Online reservations can be made for up to seven guests. For a party of 8 or more people, or anyone who is interested in reserving an entire restaurant, please email with the name of the course, the date, the number of people, your name and etc.

What is the cancellation policy?

If you need to cancel or amend your booking, please let us know as soon as possible. No cancellation fee will be charged as long as the booking is cancelled at least 24 hours in advance.

However, if you cancel the day before or the same day as your reservation, you will be charged a cancellation fee as follows :

Day before tour reservation: 50% of total tour fee

Day of tour reservation: 100% of total tour fee

How do I cancel my booking?

Bookings must be cancelled on the link included in the email confirming the reservation. Cancelations will not be accepted over the phone.

What if an emergency happens and I have to cancel last minute?

Cancellations are handled on a case by case basis and at a manager’s discretion. We will always be hospitable and take the circumstances into consideration.

Do your oils contain trans-fat?

Our oils do not contain trans-fat.

Am I allowed to bring my own drinks?

No, guests are not allowed to bring their own drinks under any circumstance.

Do you allow smoking inside the building?

No, we’re sorry, we do not.

What types of payment do you take?

We are sorry to inform you but we do not accept payment by credit card. We only accept payment by cash only.

How do I make a complaint, say thanks or suggest an idea?

Complaints, compliments and suggestions can be sent to us via email to

Can I make a Sushi University reservation for one?

The minimum reservation is 2 people. The problem is that for a single reservation, the interpreter’s fee would have to be covered by only one customer. Communicating with the sushi chef is the most important part of this course and is a major part of the fee.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: September 24, 2019

How do you order at a sushi restaurant?

The sushi restaurant is unusual in that the customer sitting at the counter can see the seafood (neta) from which individual servings will be made, and can watch the chef deftly perform his art while enjoying lively conversation. Sushi restaurants also differ from other restaurants when it comes to menus.

Typically there aren’t any.

If the customer is inclined to worry about what the bill will come to, he orders Okimari (combination set)*. This consists of 7 to 10 pieces of nigiri-sushi and nori-maki selected by the proprietor in such a way as to allow them to offer an affordable price. It is cheaper because, like ready-made clothes, Okimari is not necessarily made piece by piece to fill individual orders. Of course, it will not be of inferior quality. Okimari is prepared by the chef and his assistants in the same way that everything else the shop is prepared. If the diner still wants more, they are always free to order sushi of their choice (Okonomi). Generally Japanese customers eat no more than 10 pieces of nigiri-sushi.

People at the counter most often order Okonomi (a la carte)**, which may be likened to having suits tailor-made from the finest fabrics. The customer who orders only the best will find that the check at the end can get a little expensive. But this is worth remembering (sushi worth eating is never inexpensive).

Long ago people used to say that first ordering Okimari and then ordering Okonomi after was the best deal for eating sushi, but that is a thing of the past. Actually, there are more and more shops that don’t allow Okonomi orders. The only choice is Omakase***. In some cases, all customers sitting at the counter take their seats at the same time and eat the same dishes and the same sushi in the same order. Even if you know nothing about sushi toppings, if you leave it to a master sushi chef, they will provide you with a combination boasting a good balance of early, peak and late season sushi. Omakase is great as it allows you to concentrate on genuinely enjoying the sushi and, especially if you’re visiting a shop for the first time, there will be no confusion regarding the best dishes.

*Okimari-The price and menu content are easily understood when ordering “Okimari”. The rank of “Tokujou”, “Jou”, “Nami” are often used. Order additional sushi as you like for a more fulfilling experience.

**Okonomi-A way customers choose and order sushi they want to eat. If you clearly know what you like and want to enjoy eating at your own pace, ordering “Okonomi” your choice of sushi, would be best.

***Omakase-If you don’t have any preferences, and you are happy to have a professional choose the most delicious toppings from that day’s catch, then ask for Omakase.

Related contents:What are Omakase, Okonomi and Okimari?

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Revision date: January 26, 2021

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Why is it important to avoid wearing too much perfume?

It is often said that the taste, texture and fragrance of sushi should be enjoyed. For example, the striking scent with traces of acidity that gives you a sense of the iron content in tuna. Abalone has a salty fragrance with an abundant seaweed smell. Don’t let perfume get in the way of your enjoyment of the joy of smoked straw scent that penetrates your nose the moment when you put dried bonito in your mouth.


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Revision date: April 3, 2017

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