Saturday, March 7, 2009

Itadakimasu or Let's Eat


Pronounced "ee-tah-dah-ki-MAHS," this word is traditionally used to begin meals in Japan. It is somewhat akin to "let's eat" or "bon appétit." The term has an ancient origin and may have originated with Buddhists. It is supposed to mean "I receive" or "I humbly receive the gift of this food." This is an expression of thanks to everyone who contributed to making the meal, from the farmers to the cooks.

But it seems that "itadakimasu" may more literally translate as "I take your life." This refers to how animals and plants are sacrificed for our meals, and the term is an expression of gratitude for their sacrifice. Yet this meaning seems to have been largely forgotten, especially as people have become more and more removed from the source of their food. Maybe we need to return to those roots.

Let us step back and think more about the sources of our food. Let us consider where our meat, fruit and vegetables come from. This can lead to many different issues, from sustainability to factory farms. Too many of us are deaf, dumb and blind to the sources of our food. Let us open our senses and seek to educate ourselves.

I will soon be addressing some of these issues on my blog, especially as I have been reading several books dedicated to these matters. Won't you join me on my journey?


Linsey said...

Richard - love the way you are starting out this series.

I first went to Japan and started learning Japanese about 25 years ago. When we were introduced to the expression itadakimasu, we were told it meant "I gratefully partake," which is actually closer to its meaning than "I receive", as it is a humble honorific form of partake/receive - with the implication is that the giver (of life, of produce, of dinner, of things yielded from the earth etc) is superior to the receiver. It is an apt way to begin your contemplation and discussion of these matters.

Richard A. said...

Thanks very much Linsey. It is a new term to me though seemed very appropriate considering my planned future posts.

JacquelineC said...

I love this concept and think this is a perfect starting point for this discussion. I was recently using this phrase for the same purpose - while a group of us were eating, come to think of us, steak!

Looking forward to the posts!

Richard A. said...

Very cool to see someone else using this phrase in a similar way. I actually got the inspiration for this post from the Introduction to "Sustainable Sushi" which uses the phrase.

moi said...

I learned the word "itadakimasu" as a teenager, from reading Tetsuko Kuroyanagi's Totto-Chan - The Little Girl At The Window. In that book, it was translated only briefly, as "I gratefully partake". Yours is the best explanation I've come across of "itadakimasu". Thank you! I've linked your post on my blog - I hope you won't mind.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks very much moi. I don't mind at all that you linked to my post.