Unless your planning on offering your food to the dead, its best to place them back on your chopstick rest or laid flat across your bowl toward one side. I wouldn't worry too much about it, though. My Taiwanese husband and his entire family do it all the time. Also, I've witnessed many Japanese friends making the same faux pas. However, if you do abide by the proper etiquette people will be impressed with you.
*Btw, the question did not specify Japan and this is not only Japanese etiquette, it originated in China and was brought to other parts of Asia (namely, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan). The Taiwanese are not a different "race" and while there are cultural differences there are also similarities (partially due to the fact that Japan has borrowed a lot from Chinese culture and that Japan militarily occupied Taiwan from 1895-1945).
Lastly, I'm not lying, I have seen two close Japanese friends in the US leave their chopsticks in their bowl on multiple occasions, I don't think I've seen this in public in Japan. If anyone is insulted by this, sorry but its the truth.
RYokucHa, if you're going to imply I'm a lying hakujin onna (white woman) have the guts to say it in English so other viewers can see the prejudice you have lowered yourself to.
rYokucHa: You make absolutely no sense:
Stop being so ethnocentric and stop drawing conclusion that aren't there. Have the decency to refer to people without racial epithets like "china man" "white woman".
This isn't just about Japan and no one made the comparison that if its ok with some Taiwanese families its ok to go to Japan and leave your chopsticks in your bowl, you're the only one doing that.
The friends I'm referring to aren't ESL students; one works for a kaisha in Tokyo, but studied (grad school) in the states before that. The other is a close friend of my family.
Lastly, stop insinuating things you know nothing about. Of course I've been to Japan, many times. I did a homestay with a family after college. How do you think I could read your cowardly and ignorant comments?
I'm a Japanese language teacher, grew-up with a Father her works in Sichuan, husband is Taiwanese