Meal Blessings for a Healthier, Happier Okinawan, Japanese Meal

When we made our big trip to Okinawa, Japan, our brother-in-law and sister-in-law helped us learn some cultural traditions regarding meals. I consider these traditions meal blessings. They help us to remember to focus on gratitude, not only before we begin our meal, but also after we are all done.

In Japanese tradition, before you begin eating a meal, you say, Itadakimasu (literally: I humbly receive) out loud. When you eat with a group, you say it together when all have arrived at the table, before the meal. At the meal’s end, another phrase is used. The group also says this together in a similar fashion: Gochisousama deshita (literally: it was quite a feast/or it took a lot of effort to obtain and prepare the food). Often, people shorten the phrase into the more casual Gochisousama or Gochiso.

Customarily, you place the palms of your hands flat together while you say these meal blessings. But this is not always done. If you eat in a restaurant, you can say Gochisousama deshita to the cashier before paying at the end, or to the staff as you depart. Doing this is not only good manners (which are appreciated). The phrases express gratitude.

The Meaning of the Meal Blessings

When you look at the meaning behind the words, both phrases show gratitude to all that made your meal, and all that made your meal possible. That includes the cook, the farmer, the fisherman and/or the hunter. It gives thanks to the plants and animals which sacrificed themselves to make up the meal. It shows gratitude to the earth and sun and all that created and made it possible.

These meal blessings can help us to live more positive lives. The more we cultivate gratitude (and do our best not to take things for granted) the more we will have to be thankful for. If you want to learn more about Japanese culture and traditions as they pertain to meals, look up the Obento Lady. She helps promote the healthy, happy way that Japan eats.

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger


Jenifer Tull-Gauger knows what it’s like to be an “old soul” and a painfully quiet kid struggling to fit in. Her journey to 7th degree black belt is a testament of how she found inner strength through traditional karate. Now in leadership for the international U.R.K.A., she heads up a private dojo with her husband.

Jenifer combined her passions for art and writing, with what she’s learned from 23-plus years of teaching karate, to create a children’s character-building picture book series. The Dojo Kun Character Books help children to find their own power in their lives.

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