What Itadakimasu Means

My wife and I visited Japan in 2016. We spent 10 whirlwind days exploring Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, and their surrounding areas. It was a wonderful trip, and someday, we hope to return, exploring more of the rural areas.

Some evenings I watch NHK World, the English-language version of Japan’s NHK News channel. It’s similar in concept to PBS here in the States, containing a mixture of news and educational shows.

One of the educational shows is called Trails To Oishii Tokyo. Oishii is Japanese for delicious, and the show explores the roots behind different ingredients and foods popular in Tokyo.

One episode recently explored the Japanese concept of itadakimasu (頂きます; ee-tah-dah-kee-mah-su). Like the French bon appétit or the Spanish buen provecho, itadakimasu loosely translates to “I humbly receive” and is intended when sitting down to a meal. Though, the intended meaning of the word runs far deeper than a colloquial phrase.

Itadakimasu lies somewhere between a blessing and note of gratitude to everyone and everything involved in preparing the meal: animals, farmers, chefs, etc. Itadakimasu is a way to acknowledge the gift of the meal and honor the animals involved. As with all words, there are different formality levels, but at the core, itadakimasu is a moment of reverence before a meal.

Next time you sit down to a meal, either prepared for you or cooked yourself, take a moment a say itadakimasu. See if it changes the way you approach your food.

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