Okinawa Hai fallback


I plan to pocket a few Japanese customs when we bid this island farewell. While I’m a bona fide fan of the bow I don’t see that going over well back in the States. Or I don’t see keeping many friends if I dedicated myself to that cause.

As for itadakimasu, I’m taking that one with me. It’s that zippy word Japanese folks say before eating a meal. I am not sure it’s reserved just for meals but that’s when I notice it.

Itadakimasu is the polite form of the verb itadaku which means “to receive”.

Not only does it roll of the tongue like a perfect cartwheel, it is a speedy and rich thank-you to all the things on your plate that sacrificed their lives to sustain your life. For these mushrooms, for this miso, for this soba, for this octopus, ITADAKIMASU. I receive you and your life, humbly and gratefully and politely and yummily.

Itadakimasu. You make my life possible.

If I could get away with it I’d give this word out as a stocking stuffer to my friends and family.


  1. Mishka,

    It’s hard to kick the bowing habit. It’s clean and quick and no germs are spread.

    Also if you’d like me to add you to the LOCAL BLOGS list e-mail me at


    I’d love to hear how a Japanese person translates the phrase ITADAKIMASU. Maybe you can grill your awesome teacher.

    It seems to me that the literal meaning and the function are different. Maybe in the same way that we ask people how they are but don’t necessarily want to hear the answer. Just a thing we say.

    Maybe saying BLESS YOU when we sneeze is a better example. I don’t know if people still literally believe a person’s soul flies out when they sneeze unless someone blesses them.

    No matter how you cut it, it’s a crispy and fast way to acknowledge the beginning of chow time. A snappy thankful nod to all that went into making this food yours. Love that.

  2. I have a funny feeling that there are several things I do here that will be hard to shake after 3 years. Bowing, saying the proper phrase (ohayo gozai masu! kunichiwa! kon ban waaa!) to greet others, driving on the left…

    In my recent free Japanese class (Thanks, MCCS), I learned that itadakimasu literally means “I’m in for a treat”. That’s almost always true. As I hold my chopsticks in the fleshy part of my thumb folds and say it, I smile. This is a great custom, I agree!

  3. I love that phrase and try to remember to use it frequently when eating…oh, and on the bow…I actually was so accustomed to doing it here on my daily walks that I had a hard time breaking myself of it when I got back to the States. I did get some weird looks but I think most people (those that would actually look you in the eye and say good morning when you walked by them) appreciated the sentiment. Mostly it was a polite nod…not the full “glad to meet you” bow or anything….heehee.