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  • Writer's pictureAkiko Murakami

"Itadaki masu": expressing gratitude for the blessings in form of foods.

Meaning of Itadakimasu.

"Itadaki masu" is a very common, typical Japanese phrase recited vocally before dining with folded hands in front of our chest .

When I was an elementary school student, before every school lunch time, all the classmates greeted each other saying "Itadakimasu" all together. In this way, it have become part of my habit.

This is a phrase quite hard to find a perfectly matching expression in English.

literally, it means "let me start eating", so, some people simply translate as "Let's eat!"

But it has much deeper thoughts and ideas deep rooted in our culture and history.

Basically it is an expression of gratitude before meals.

If interpreted this traditional phrase with a ZEN Buddhist master Dogen (道元) 's

"Gokan no Ge (五観の偈 Meal Sutra )", then, the meaning of "Itadakimasu" gets more clear and meaningful. (please see the attached picture above!

Thinking about Japanese history, before the end of World War II (1945), about half of the Japanese people were farmers. During the Edo period, before Japan's modernization time from Meiji (1867-), more than 90% were farmers.

It is easy to imagine that people were much closef to nature back then, and appreciated every blessing in the form of the sun, and its fruits, rice etc.

The attached English sentence above is the simpler version of ”Gokan no Ge", translated by Mayumi Oda.

Students siting "Itadakimasu" before school lunch.


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