I’m sure you’ve seen people in TV shows or movies say itadakimasu (いただきます) before digging into a meal. Maybe you’ve been with a Japanese person who’s said it. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself. But what does it really mean, anyway?

The Meaning and Origin of Itadakimasu

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Some of you may recognize the girl in the above video as Hiroko from HirokoChannel who was featured in our Awesome Japanese YouTubers post. She also does some stuff for JapanesePod101, and this video does a great job of summing up the origin of the word itadakimasu and how it came to be used as it is today.

As Japan has a healthy background of Buddhist culture, it’s not surprising that itadakimasu is also related to the Buddhist principle of respecting all living things. Before meals, itadakimasu is said as a thanks to the plants and animals that gave their lives for the meal you’re about to consume. It also thanks all those involved, ranging from the hunter/farmer to the preparer of the meal.

How to Use Itadakimasu

In Japan, it’s common to say itadakimasu before eating a meal. The word itadakimasu is often translated as “I humbly receive,” but when relating to food, it’s often compared to saying “Let’s eat,” “Bon appétit,” or “Thanks for the food.” Some even compare it to the Christian tradition of saying grace before a meal.

It’s not unusual for everyone to say itadakimasu together, but it’s just as common for people to say it individually or quietly to themselves before digging in. A proper itadakimasu, however, is performed with clasped hands and a slight bow.

Why You Should Always Clean Your Plate in Japan

In Japan, it’s considered wasteful not to finish your plate. This is related to the Buddhist philosophy that all life is sacred. If you are really sincere about that itadakimasu you said, you should eat all your food. Since something gave up its life for your meal, it’s kind of disrespectful to let it go to waste. And speaking of disrespectful, here’s a list of other things to avoid while at the Japanese dinner table.

As Japanese portion sizes are relatively small, few people have trouble finishing their plate. I’m sure your parents have told you at least once to eat all your food, but in Japan, it’s even more important since they are mindful of the entire process that went into bringing the food to the table.

Other Uses

Itadakimasu has other uses as well. Not only can you use it before eating a meal, but you can also use it when you accept something from someone. With the literal translation being, “I humbly receive,” this makes perfect sense. For example, if someone gives you a gift, or if you take a free sample of something at a counter in a store, you can use itadakimasu. Pretty much anytime you are receiving something, itadakimasu can apply.

To get a better feel for when it’s appropriate to use itadakimasu outside of food related situations, you can always watch some J-dramas or anime and pay attention to when itadakimasu is said. You’ll catch on in no time.

So, did you learn something new today, or did you already know all about itadakimasu? It’s an important word to know in Japanese, so I hope this helped your understanding of it. Are there any other Japanese words or phrases that don’t quite make enough sense to you? Let us know in the comments!

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  • ジョサイア

    I learned this along time a long time ago!
    I heard this on a movie then looked it up, Although now I have a better understanding of it. :D

  • シンバ

    Thanks for that… im hitting my forehead on the table, I work for a Nihon Company, when we order food i usually order 200g steak or quarter chicken or something, but Japanese always order several dishes,. I finish my steak, but there is also pizza, noodles and other things. Its very akward and difficult because i have to take a bit of this n that, which I never finish. Can I turn down Alcohol?

  • Kimura

    On a related note to シンバ’s comment, are you allowed to turn down things you can’t eat or drink? Also, is it impolite to ask about certain ingredients for the same reason? In my case, it’d be mushrooms (mild intolerance), and I’d have to turn down sake or other alcoholic drinks, though I’m okay if alcohol was used as an ingredient (as is the case with inari pouches).

  • マルセロ

    When I went to Japan, I did it by myself. Sometimes I wanted people to take pictures of me using my camera. I learnt that one very polite way to ask that was 「すみません、私の写真をとっていただけますか?」 (Sumimasen, Watashin no shashin wo totte itadakemasu ka?). They understood it pretty well. :)

  • Argos

    Great article! Do you think it would be weird if I said it at a Japanese restaurant in the US? I’m just don’t want to seem pretentious or like I’m appropriating someone’s culture if I use it when they’re not expecting it since they are serving largely non-Japanese guests (at least the two Japanese restaurants closest to me seem to be largely non-Japanese guests, though the owners and servers definitely are).

  • Erika

    I wondered what Itadakimasu origins were. What about Gochisousama’s origins, I always thought it meant I’m finished with a meal and is said before you leave the table.

  • fee_fi_Fiona

    I’d like to know more about gochisousama too… and other expressions like yoroshiku…

  • Emi

    Oh cool! I didn’t know to use itadakimasu
    when receiving gifts or helping myself to a free sample ect. I figured it was used only as politeness before receiving/eating a meal. Thank you, John! =D

  • Nicolaas Van Amstel

    I saw Kyoko and I’m like, This guy is awesome.

  • conpanbear

    I thought that you should always leave a tiny bit of food, because then the people who fed you know that you must be full and couldn’t finish it all; otherwise, they might feel bad about giving you an insufficient amount? I’m sure I read something to that extent online – is this idea a bunch of phooey?

  • conpanbear

    御馳走さまでした (gochisousamadeshita) is the honorific “go-” attached to “feast”, and the “sama deshita” part is like, “that was the extent/degree of it”. Hence, 御馳走さまでした is literally “That was such a feast!!”. It’s just a way of expressing how much you liked the food, which is a polite thing to do in any language ^u^v

  • conpanbear

    If you are in a drinking situation, the best thing to do is leave your glass full or mostly full. This way, they won’t refill your glass, you won’t have to keep drinking, and you won’t offend anyone, otherwise they will keep filling/topping up your glass if it’s looking a bit empty (as it is the custom to fill each others glass and never your own). Also, if you fill someone else’s glass, they will probably try to do the same in kind.

    As for food, if you have an allergy (or even if you don’t want to eat something and don’t mind lying about it), you can say「すみませんが、Xは食べられません。Yにアレルギーなんです。」(“sumimasen ga, X wa taberaremasen. Y ni ARERUGII nan desu.”) which means “I’m sorry/excuse me, but I can’t eat X; I have an allergy to Y” (X might be “this”=これ=kore, or a particular dish). If you are intending to go out for food with people, it could be good to use Yにアルレギーなんです when you are all talking about what sort of food you want to eat, to inform them in advance of your allergies and avoid being a trouble to them later.

  • hikaru1412

    Why would be weird if Christians can say grace everywhere (in comparison)? Shouldn’t be a problem at all. :)

  • Nicole Yamagawa

    I went to visit my boyfriends family for Golden week, and while I was there, my boyfriend had to leave for a few days, which meant that I was alone with his parents.. His mother kept making homecooked meals the whole time we were there, but for some reason she went “all in” when I was alone with them, which meant HUGE dinners. I have always been taught to eat everything on my plate, even when I’m full, so although the food was delicious, she was close to killing me since she kept making more and more of it every day. My boyfriend told me that I don’t have to eat everything she offered me, because she would save whatever I didn’t eat for him anyway. But it was crazy to see the amount of food grow to larger and larger portions for every day..
    I guess it depends on the situation, because I have also been told by others that it’s not okay to leave food.. I have no idea when it is okay to leave food and when it’s not though..

  • Raymond Chuang

    The most memorable use of “Itdakimasu” I remember was from Episode 14 of “Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go,” where Nozomi (a bit of a glutton for eating a lot of food) says that when Kurumi puts down a plate of pastries and Nozomi promptly gets her hand slapped….

  • MB

    When I stayed in Japan with a family, they taught us to say ‘itadakimasu’ before eating, but I started noticing they rarely said it themselves before eating, bar a cousin who was from a long way outside of Tokyo who said it all the time, hands clasped and quietly to herself.

  • Lychalis

    I wondered what that meant – although when I first heard it was subtitled as ‘irashimasu; I’m pretty sure (DAMN YOU ME2) which got me all confused. derp.

  • Olivia

    I actually spent 6 weeks in Japan as an exchange student with AFS, so I learned in no time to always say it before a meal but it was funny because some of my younger host siblings would just say “itadaku!”

  • Brainy Pint Sizer

    What a great post! I learned about this many years ago when I worked with someone from Japanese and began a love of Japan — a place I’ve never even visited (I even took Japanese classes, but alas, with no-one to practice with, lost all of what I did learn). Since I’m head over heels for the food, ive said this numerous times over the years. As for cleaning the plate — that I will never have to worry about…I’m not shy with chopsticks in my hands.

  • John


  • John

    Happy to help!

  • Cat

    “Japanese portion sizes are relatively small”. No wai D: I usually can’t even finish half of what I get! I’m always ashamed when leaving food on my plate in Japan, so I really hate going to restaurants. Maybe I need to bring a pocket sized dog to finish the rest of my food.

  • Himmn

    Responding to the E-Mail. Gesundheit means like Health, but its more complicated than that because it is a noun converted form of Gesund- healthy.

  • forest sprite

    Yoroshiku onegai shimasu means “Please be kind to me” (also can be said in short as just “Yoroshiku”).
    In English it’s equal to “pleasure to meet you”.
    Yoroshiku from what I’ve gathered means almost a thank you for helping me or I’m counting on you in the most polite way.
    A good example would be in Naruto Shippuden episode 12:
    When team Kakashi was in search for Gaara (who was taken by the Akatsuki) and Kakashi asked his dog Pakkun to search for the hide out. Pakkun agreed without fail and Kakashi followed that by saying “Yoroshiku.” The English translate was “Thank you.”, but it was more of a “I’m counting on you” or “I’ll leave it to you” kind of thing.
    I hope this helped.

  • forest sprite

    The serving that you receive you should finish all of it.
    A good example would be if there were a pizza party at the office, and everyone there helped themselves, whatever they grabbed they must finish. but if there was one slice of pizza left NO ONE ate it. They would all fear being seen as greedy for taking the last piece when there might be someone else who wanted it. So in that case having food left over isn’t a big deal, but when it’s on your plate, it’s polite to finish it all.

  • Usui

    thx anonymous… now I know the meaning…

  • HK417N

    japanese always have a new thing to us.