Itadakimasu and Gochisousama Deshita: Being Polite in Japan

If you’ve watched anime or other Japanese media, you’ve probably heard the phrases いただきます(itadakimasu) and ごちそうさまでした (gochisousama deshita). But what do they mean? 

When eating food is involved, Itadakimasu is translated as, “I receive this meal.” Gochisousama deshita means “thank you for the meal.” However, there are deeper meanings to both of these humble Japanese phrases. 

In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at itadakimasu and gochisousama deshita to understand what they really mean and when you should be using them. Let’s get started!

頂きます (Itadakimasu) – To Humbly


A close-up of a man and woman holding hands while seated at a dinner table to say grace. There is a basket of bread and plates in front of them.

Have you ever had to say “grace” before eating in a Western country? Consider itadakimasu to be in the same sort of vein. Although the habit of saying it only spread around the early 20th century, itadakimasu is such a staple of Japanese etiquette that some babies are taught to say it before they can even talk! Kids are expected to say it in school when eating lunch with their class. Adults even say it when they’re eating alone.

Itadakimasu is technically kenjougo, or humble Japanese. The literal translation of the root word “頂く” (itadaku) is to (humbly) receive. 

The less humble way of saying itadakimasu is もらいます (moraimasu). However, you should never replace itadakimasu with moraimasu before a meal, no matter how well close you are with the chef. 

This is because it’s not just the cook you’re thanking when you say itadakimasu! The word is rooted in old Japanese Buddhism, which teaches respect for every living thing.

Saying itadakimasu goes beyond thanking whoever served you a meal; you are thanking the workers who harvested the ingredients and the plants and animals who died so that you could eat! It’s always a nice gesture to show your gratitude by saying “Itadakimasu” before you start eating.

When to Use It

Japanese people say itadakimasu no matter when, where, or what they are eating. How about eating alone at home? Many people still say “itadakimasu” before they eat.  

What if someone cooked for you? Definitely say “itadakimasu” to show them your gratitude.  

Are you eating out at a restaurant? Even though you’re a paying customer, it’s still good to say “itadakimasu” before you feast.   

For some examples on how to fold your hands and how deeply to bow while saying itadakimasu, check out Tofugu’s article.

You can also use itadakimasu when you receive a gift. The gift doesn’t have to be food-related; so long as it’s a physical object, you can say itadakimasu as you receive it! This is a formal way of saying “thank you” for their present. So if your boss or someone you’ve just met gives you something, be sure to say, “いただきます” and you might impress them with your gratitude. 🙂  

ご馳走さまでした (Gochisousama Deshita) – Thank You for the Wonderful Meal

A wooden Japanese lunch box with 4 smaller dishes inside of it with a pair of black chopsticks resting on top of a dish. There is a blue and white bowl on the side of the lunch box. All of the dishes have the remains of food, most of which has been eaten.

Gochisousama literally translates to “it was a great feast.” Deshita is simply the past tense of です (desu) or to be. Gochisousama deshita is used in the past tense because you say it after you’ve finished your meal.

The word ご馳走 (ごちそう、gochisou) might mean “a feast” in modern Japanese, but it has its roots in old mealtime etiquette and tradition as well. The two kanji that makes up ご馳走 has more to do with horses and running than they do with food (馳 – to gallop, 走 – to run). That is because the original meaning of gochisou was to run around (like a horse) and host or take care of people. 

Like itadakimasu, this is a traditional Japanese Buddhism concept. When you say, “ごちそうさまでした!” you are technically not only giving thanks for a good meal, but also the effort and care your host has taken to serve you.

When to Use It

Unlike itadakimasu, the phrase gochisousama deshita is mainly restricted to food and drink. Here are the different situations in which you can say, “ごちそうさまでした!”

  • After you finish a meal, whether in your own home or someone else’s home.
  • When you’ve finished eating in a restaurant. Servers and chefs will love to hear you say gochisousama deshita to them after completing your meal.
  • When a coworker or friend has treated you to a meal or a drink. Gochisousama deshita is a good way to thank someone for covering your bill. This even applies if it’s just a hot drink they bought for you at the convenience store or vending machine!

In Conclusion

Itadakimasu and gochisousama deshita are two essential phrases in Japanese dining etiquette. Both phrases have deep roots in Japanese Buddhism and culture.

Thanks for reading this article on itadakimasu and gochisousama deshita! Have you eaten any great Japanese food that led you to say these great phrases? Feel free to share your stories, questions, or feedback in the comment section below!

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Erin Himeno

Erin hails from the east coast of the United States. She initially came to Japan to share her love of English and country cookin', but ended up getting married and adopting two chubby cats. Erin doesn't mind; she enjoys her life in Japan and writes about culture shock, culture share, and the exciting chapters in between.

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