Anywhere you are in Japan, at any meal, with any person, you will hear them clap their hands together and say itadakimasu 頂きます which translates, roughly, to “I humbly receive” before they begin eating. This is such an ingrained aspect of their culture that you will see people do it even when alone. These days it has more of a casual “let’s eat” or “bon appétit” feeling about it.
I love the use of itadakimasu. It has the reverence of saying grace, in a way, which I do not do, but is a little more all encompassing. It is a show of gratitude for the food you are about to eat. However, the show of gratitude is to every person and animal that has been involved in the food’s journey to be in front of you. The farmer who grew the rice, the fisherman that caught the fish, the truck driver who delivered the fish and the chef and wait staff who prepared and served the meal. It also acknowledges the animals who have given their lives for the meal, and is rooted in Buddhist philosophy. We say it at every meal at home. I would like to think that my kids are all feeling thankful for the meal we have provided, however, I am not sure their level of gratitude matches my own. (Especially when Super Sake Boy cooks).