Itadakimasu — a Japanese Expression of Gratitude

It’s more than just a before-meal word

Diane Neill Tincher
2 min readNov 19, 2021

I grew up in an old-fashioned household. When we gathered for our nightly formal dinners, we quietly waited for all the family members to be seated, then my father would lead us in what we called “Grace,” the Catholic prayer of blessing and thanks for the food.

This sort of lovely custom is familiar to people of many religions and countries. Japan is no exception.

Cute drawing of a little boy with hands folded in front of him before a typical Japanese meal featuring miso soup and rice. His mouth is open, saying, “Itadakimasu.”
Itadakimasu! (Image courtesy of irasutoya.)

Itadakimasu (pronounced ee-ta-dah-key-mäs)

In Japan, children are taught from babyhood to place their hands together, bow, and say “Itadakimasu,” “I humbly receive,” in unison before picking up their chopsticks. Simply put, this is a word that expresses gratitude to the cooks, the shopkeepers, the farmers, and to the gods — to everyone that had a hand in providing the food of which they are about to partake.

What exactly does Itadakimasu mean?

Itadakimasu has a deeper meaning that is revealed through the implied word that goes before it, inochi-wo, meaning “for your life.” Putting that together, itadakimasu means, “I am sorry that you have sacrificed your life for my life, and I am deeply grateful.” This is said with a bow of the head and a folding of the hands, showing respect and humility.

This concept is in line with the indigenous Shinto religion that believes that all things have a spirit, as well as the Buddhist belief in reincarnation into plants, animals, or humans, according to karma earned in each life.

Itadakimasu acknowledges that everything that contributed to the meal — the plants, the animals, the bacteria, the air, the water — has sacrificed for us and is worthy of our recognition and appreciation.

Regardless of your religion, no one can deny the inherent value of expressing gratitude in such a broad and deep sense.


https://toyokeizai.net/articles/-/149451, https://allabout.co.jp/gm/gc/390299/

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Diane Neill Tincher

Top writer in Travel. I’ve lived in Japan since 1987 & love learning, history, & the beauty of nature. Pls use my link to join Medium: https://bit.ly/3yqwppZ