Chopsticks- Simple and extravagant
The role of chopsticks in the life of the Japanese
Chopsticks are found in every Japanese household, used for eating rice and side dishes, they have been essential since countless centuries. Every individual carries his/ her own personal chopstick even within families each member owns their own. There is an expression in Japanese saying “life begins with a chopstick and ends with one”. For babies, especially after 100th day after their birth food is bought to their mouths using a chopstick to symbolize an act of eating (okuizome), this event is a prayer for healthy growth and that a child may never go hungry throughout their life.
Everybody has thought once about how 2 sticks can be used to pick up small morsels of rice. It’s a recurring question if your friend doesn’t know about the cuisine. Well
The Japanese cuisine has developed in such a way that anything can be picked up with chopsticks. The vegetables and meat are usually cut into small bite size pieces which can be eaten in one go and the rice is sticky which makes it easy for a mouthful of rice sticking together to be picked up. Removing small bones from a fish takes a little bit of practice, but definitely doable.
There are a variety of chopsticks which differ in shape and usage:
Long bamboo chopsticks- cooking, resistant to heat and oil.
Pointed ends – fiddly tasks, they’re used to arrange food before it’s served
Thick: rituals, offered to god, along with offerings as a prayer to be blessed with many decedents
Willow made chopsticks: on occasions such a new year, they are tapered at both ends with a belief that both the deity and the offered can eat together. Since ancient times Japanese people have linked the chopsticks as a means of being closer to god and they are considered sacred.
Recently chopsticks are being produced with special, varying tips designed based on what is going to be consumed like flat blunt tips to eat tofu, curves and grooves on the tip for eating ramen or noodle based food, some chopsticks are made to eat western dishes like pasta.
Etiquettes exist even to use and handle a chopstick, your table manners are dependent on them. You may be judged by as simple a thing ass holding a chopstick. I’m sure you would have come cross many videos online about the way to hold a chopstick and etiquettes surrounding it.
Chopstick making as a craft:
Bamboo, simple chopsticks took a turn to lacquered based in Edo period when rich merchants asked for order made chopsticks
Lacquered chopsticks: synthetic lacquers are usually used, but naturally colored lacquer chopsticks are also available. Japan is the only country where you find colorful lacquered chopsticks which are very attractive to look at. I myself own a few chopsticks but don’t use them because of how beautiful they are. A quality chopsticks takes time and effort and are thus expensive than the normal ones.
Chopsticks can range from being a simple bamboo use and throw to a lavish extravagant lacquered pair made of glass, lacquer, extendable, retractable katana looking chopsticks even! If you’re looking for a souvenir from japan, there’s a wide variety to choose from at a chopstick specialization store
Chopsticks though are a normal tool used every day, it can be turned into an exquisite beauty of art of quintessential Japanese sensibility