Getting Used to “JAPANESE MEALTIME COURTESY”
Is there a specific phrase you use when start eating or finishing meals in your country?
In Japan, there are two major mealtime expressions which people use on an everyday basis: “itadakimasu (いただきます)” and “gochiso-samadeshita (ご馳走さまでした).” Normally, we join our hands when expressing these words.
“Itadakimasu” is a phrase we use just before starting a meal, which can be interpreted as “I gratefully receive.” This single term incorporates a sense of appreciation for everything to make a meal come to a table, including people who cooked, producers of foodstuffs and live stocks which sacrificed their lives.
|“Gochiso-samadeshita” is a phrase we use just after finishing a meal, literally meaning “to make every effort to entertain a guest.” In this setting, it is a word to show gratitude for all efforts taken by people to prepare a meal.
Both of these phrases have their roots in Buddhist teachings, however, not many Japanese are aware of it.
|These expressions are deeply ingrained in our lifestyles as they are taught not only in households but also in schools. Public elementary and middle school students in Japan are mostly provided with school lunch (給食, kyu-shoku), where they all start eating saying “itadakimasu” in chorus with their classmates.
(Photo: Students with Japanese-style aprons serving school lunch to their classmates)
As school lunch is nutritionally balanced, teachers encourage students to eat everything up, mentioning that they are spoiling food and disregarding efforts of people who cooked for them if they have leftovers.
These are just small example phrases that are very challenging to quickly explain to people from different cultural background where the same expressions do not exist.