And...before we eat...Itadakimasu!

Good morning everyone,

Well, we've had nice weather for a few days now and I hope you've enjoyed it. It's going to continue today and into tomorrow morning. However, if you are planning on staying out late tomorrow, you'd better take your umbrella. They are calling for rain late tomorrow night and into Sunday. Saturday and Sunday are also going to be cool-about 3C or 4C cooler than it has been and then we'll see warmer temperatures return from the beginning of the week.

Yesterday we talked about the history of 'Gochisosama' so I figured it'd be fitting to do 'Itadakimasu' today. Now, thinking back, I probably should have done them in the opposite order, but that would have been boring, eh?

In Japan, people say, “Itadakimasu” before they eat. This is taught as basic table manners from as early as they can eat. At nursery schools, kids even sing a Obento no uta (お弁当の歌/ Obento song) together and say Itadakimasu. It´s considered rude to start without waiting for everyone to be ready and saying itadakimasu. To be honest, I'm always surprised to hear from Japanese people that when they do homestays, people start eating as soon as they get their food and don't wait for everyone else. When I was growing up, doing that would have earned you a slap upside the head.

But why do Japanese people say, Itadakimasu?
Itadakimasu in kanji is 頂きます. The kanji 頂 means “top" and is often used for the top of the mountain.  When ancient Japanese people ate they gave their god some food as an offering or when they received something from someone who had a higher position, they would first bring it up to 頂, above the head to show appreciation and respect. From this custom, the verb, Itadaku (頂く) is used in Kenjogo (謙譲語-a formal form to show modesty) of taberu (食べる-eat) and morau (もらう-receive). And later, itadakimasu stayed as a table manner. 
Itadaku still remains in some occasions in modern Japan. At the graduation ceremony. when Japanese students receive the certificate, they lower their head so that the certificate rises above their head.  
Saying Itadakimasu has two meanings.
One is to appreciate all the people who were involved in the meal (like we learned with 'Gochisosama' yesterday). The person who served you the meal or who grew the vegetables or caught the fish and of course who cooked for you.
The other meaning is to appreciate the ingredients. Japanese people always believe that even vegetables and fruits have a life as well as the meat and the fish. By saying itadakimasu, they show the appreciation of them, “I receive your life and it becomes my life”. This seems to be the original usage.
This is how middle/lower class samurai family had a meal. The food was very simple. They usually had rice, miso soup and pickles for breakfast. Lunch and/or dinner was the same as breakfast but had one or two extra dishes such as cooked vegetables, dried fish, cooked seaweed or tofu. The family would have their meals together and until the master of the family (the father) picked up his chopsticks, no one could eat.
itadakimasu no hi

Apparently, there is an Itadakimasu Day  (いただきますの日/ Itadakimasu no hi).  Did you know this? Have you ever heard of it? Why have I been here so long and no has told me about Itadakimasu Day?! So, it is on the 11th of November as well as the 11th of every month and those are the days when we should think about and appreciate the food we enjoy everyday. 
From the picture above, you should appreciate five things on Itadakimasu no Hi:
Itadakimasu to nature.
Itadakimasu to life.
Itadakimasu to work.
Itadakimasu to knowledge.
Itadakimasu to the people around you.
Why do Japanese people say itadakimasu together before they eat?
There is no deep meaning for saying it together, but by saying it together, it means we can share our meal and mealtime.  “Let´s eat!”. The important thing is to appreciate the food you will have including all the work that went into preparing it.
I hope that when I head back home someday, I'll find that my family still waits for everyone to eat. It's become so normal for me to keep doing it while I'm hear, that if I went home and found it changed, I probably wouldn't be able to deal with it! Ha ha!

Have a great day!

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