Basic Japanese : “Itadaki masu” – Phrase before meal
When I watch foreign TV dramas, I sometimes see Christian people praying before meal.
It seems that the prayer is to appreciate God who have given them food.
In Japan, maybe Christians do the same, but I guess most of people say certain phrases before and after dinner instead of a prayer.
If you love Japanese manga, films, etc., you perhaps have heard or seen these phrases :
Both phrases are said with putting your palms together (and vow to food).
It’s rather seldom to see people saying these in public places like restaurants.
I myself don’t say them usually in public.
Sometimes, I do gestures and just say those phrases to myself or very quietly.
I can’t explain why, but perhaps I feel embarrassed to say them aloud on my own, because when I’m with my friend, I often say them.
Even at home, I say them only when I feel like to, although I do more frequently than in public.
In this post, I’m explaining about the phrase before meal – “Itadaki masu”.
“Itadaki” in “itadaki masu” is a combination of a verb “itadaku” and a suffix word to show politeness “masu”.
The verb “itadaku” is a modest expression for “taberu” (eat something) or “morau” (receive something).
Originally, “itadaku” was used when people ate food which had been offered to god(s), or received something from somebody in the higher rank.
The Kanji character for the word means “top (of something)”, and it can be used as a noun like “yama no itadaki”, “the top of the mountain” (“yama” is “mountain”, and “no” is “of”).
In the old times, when people received something from a higher ranking person, they used to raise it over their head as if they were putting it on the top of their head, to show their respect to the person.
They behaved the same way before they ate food which had been dedicated to god(s).
This is how “itadaku” had become a honorific word meaning “eat” or “receive”, and people started to say the phrase “itadaki masu” before meal.
So, the phrase is to show the respect, but to whom?
To everybody and everything who are related or involved to the meal.
To people who raised vegetables (or cows, pigs, etc.), caught (or raised) fish, delivered them, cooked them, or anybody who worked so that people could eat them.
And to food itself, as many Japanese believe that everything, not only animals or fish but also plants like vegetables or fruits, has got its own life.
We consume others’ lives to live, and we should thank them which keep us alive.
I don’t think that it’s too much to say that “itadaki masu” is a phrase to appreciate the world, and I feel that this is one of the most beautiful expressions in Japanese.
Some Japanese might say that you haven’t got to say this at restaurants because you pay your money for the meal so there’s no need to appreciate it.
I don’t think that those people ever consider about the fact that we cannot live without sacrificing other lives.
Next post: “Go-chisou sama”
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