Everything you need to know about chopsticks in Japan.
Different types of utensils can once be used when eating. The most common is, of course, the spoon and fork. However, Asian countries also have the tools that they use in addition to the spoon and fork. Probably the most popular type of utensils representing Asian countries is a pair of chopsticks.
History and types of Japanese chopsticks
Chopsticks are necessarily chopsticks of equal length, used in pairs. Almost all of East Asia has used chopsticks for over two millennia. The Chinese first invented it under the Zhou dynasty. After some time, the use of chopsticks also spread to other countries. These countries include Japan, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Cambodia, Nepal, Myanmar, and Thailand.
Chopsticks are usually conical and smooth. They are generally made of bamboo, wood, plastic, or stainless steel. However, some chopsticks are made of unique materials such as titanium, silver, jade, gold, porcelain, and ivory. Using the dominant hand, chopsticks are held between the thumb and fingers. The two chopsticks are used to pick up pieces of food.
The chopsticks are said to have been invented about 9,000 years ago. Many believe that chopsticks were initially used for cooking and not for eating. They may also have been used to stir the fire as well as to serve pieces of food. The Chinese only began using chopsticks as eating utensils during the Han Dynasty.
The reason they were used as such during this time was that chopsticks were seen as more friendly to use with lacquers compared to other sharp food utensils. However, the use of chopsticks was not yet universal at the time. It only became the norm during the Ming Dynasty when people started using chopsticks both to eat and to serve food.
Today, several Asian countries use chopsticks as daily eating utensils. The design of chopsticks varies according to the country. In Japan, it is common for most chopsticks to have circumferential grooves at the lower end. These grooves were made to help prevent food from slipping off the chopsticks. Most chopsticks in Japan are also usually pointed and sharp.
Japanese chopsticks are usually made of bamboo or wood. They are also traditionally lacquered. These designs were first made and used during the Yayoi era, which was about 2,000 years ago. Known as “Suribachi” in Japanese, lacquered chopsticks have different varieties based on where they are made. Different types of varnish are also used to brighten up Japanese chopsticks.
The city of Obama, located in Fukui Prefecture, is known as the leading producer of traditional Japanese chopsticks. The chopsticks they make come in various colors with a layer of natural varnish. These chopsticks are also usually decorated with mother-of-pearl of abalone origin. To ensure that the chopsticks last a long time, they are also made with eggshells that provide them with a waterproof shield.
Another type of Japanese chopstick is known as Edo Kobashi. Tokyo’s craftsmen have been making these sticks since the Taisho period, which was about a hundred years ago. Hand planed, these chopsticks are made from high-quality wood. This includes ebony, ironwood, maple, red sandalwood, and Japanese box trees. They also come in different shapes, namely pentagonal, octagonal, and hexagonal, which makes them easy to hold.
The ends of these chopsticks are also rounded. They are designed to avoid damaging the bowl or plate. On the other hand, the chopsticks used for cooking are called ryoribashi. As for chopsticks used to transfer food to the plate or serving bowl, they are known as Ishibashi.
How to use Japanese chopsticks correctly for beginners
It can seem a bit difficult to learn to use chopsticks correctly for the first time. However, if you were visiting or staying in Japan, the regular spoon and fork might not always be available. Therefore, it would be better to learn how to use Japanese chopsticks.
The first tip when trying to learn how to use chopsticks for the first time is to use a light pair. Probably the lightest pair of chopsticks available in Japan is the disposable one. You can also choose to practice using plastic chopsticks, as they are also considerably lightweight. Once you have mastered the use of these types of chopsticks, you can practice with heavier wooden or metal chopsticks.
An important note when practicing using chopsticks is to adjust the grip. Some beginners try to grasp the middle part of the chopsticks first, as this will help them to understand the pieces of food much more quickly. As you become more comfortable with using chopsticks, you can adjust the grip according to how you would be most comfortable holding the chopsticks.
It is common to lift spoons and forks when using them as feeding utensils. Instead of leaning towards the plate, spoons and forks are used to carry the food from the plate to the mouth. However, with chopsticks, it is common to lift the bowl towards the face when eating. This is especially true when you are eating a bowl of rice. Just make sure that the food is not pushed into the mouth.
This action helps to ensure that less or no grain of rice will fall as soon as the rice is lifted from the bowl. As the container is raised towards the mouth, any grains of rice that fall will most likely fall back into the pot. Do not use your free hand to pick up any food that falls from the chopsticks instead of the bowl. This may be seen as rude by some people.
You can also observe other people when they are using chopsticks. In a way, this will help to understand how the Japanese usually use chopsticks. In addition to seeing other people using their chopsticks, it is also necessary to practice regularly to master the art of using chopsticks. It may be easier to start practicing with a few pieces of meat or vegetables, as they are easier to grasp.
As you move forward, you can also start to practice using chopsticks for rice and pasta. It can be particularly challenging to use chopsticks on soft foods such as soft tofu. The best way to use chopsticks correctly is simply to practice their daily use until you get the hang of it.
Some of the Best Chopsticks Made in Japan
Japan produces different types of high-quality chopsticks that some people even collect. One of the best pairs of chopsticks that can be obtained from Japan is a pair made by AOOSY. It is a set of Japanese natural wood chopsticks with a case consisting of five pairs of chopsticks. The chopsticks are made of nanmu natural wood and built with safety and durability in mind. The chopsticks also do not contain any toxic materials such as BPA, phthalates, or PVC.
Not only are these chopsticks made of organic materials, but they are also considered easy to clean and store. They are sold in a decoratively designed gift box. The chopsticks are decorated with white flowers at the ends, making them look elegant and delicate. These chopsticks are not only practical but also eloquent in design.
Another great pair of chopsticks made in Japan is the Reusable Classic Style Japanese wood chopsticks set by Youmi. Consisting of five pairs of chopsticks, this gift set is perfect for the whole family and for small dinners. Like the first set mentioned, these chopsticks are also free of any toxic materials.
Made of jujube wood, these chopsticks are also considerably easier to clean and polish. These chopsticks are not only durable, but they are also varnished with food-grade ecological varnish. This is for the prevention of stains as well as for the prevention of breakage of any kind. The chopsticks in this gift set are also decorated with painted golden flowers at the base. The game comes with an organization box where the utensils can be stored and stored.
Last but not least, another great pair of Japanese chopsticks are the Crane Design Black Boxed Japanese Chopsticks Set by Happy Sales. These chopsticks are lacquered in black to protect from wear and tear. They also have a beautiful glossy finish for that general polished look.
In addition to its aesthetics, this chopsticks set is also perfect for traveling due to its size. It also comes in a beautifully decorated plastic box. The case can easily be packed in a bag and serves as protection for the chopsticks.
Japanese chopsticks are genuinely a great representation of history, culture, and heritage. To this day, chopsticks are still useful in the daily life of Japanese people. Learning how to use chopsticks and the etiquette that surrounds them will be truly useful when visiting Japan.