Before beginning a meal, Japanese people typically pause to say “thanks” or itadakimasu. The thanks in this case extends to everything and everyone involved in bringing this meal to you – from the animals that died to the chef who prepared it.
The basic procedure is to put your hands together in a prayer position, say itadakimasu, bow slightly and then pick up your chopsticks. It also serves as the beginning of the meal, as people often wait for everyone to be ready to say it at the same time before starting the meal.
It’s a small, simple thing, but something I realized I miss quite a lot when I’m not here.