Chopsticks are an essential tool used throughout East and Southeast Asian cuisine, with each culture having its own preferences and traditions. In Japan, chopsticks are essential to the dining experience. Japanese chopsticks come in all styles, from cheap disposable to colorful souvenirs to high-quality hand-crafted types.
History of Japanese Chopsticks
The first records of the Japanese using chopsticks were in the 8th century AD, however, it could have been much sooner considering China had started using chopsticks in the 6th century AD and its influence spread from there. Early versions of chopsticks were bamboo sticks joined together at the top with chains or conjoined like tweezers, which eventually developed into the forms we use today.
The word for chopsticks in Japanese is “hashi” (箸) or “ohashi,” the latter being more formal of the two. The direct translation is “bridge,” which comes from history. Chopsticks were originally used to share food with the gods or deities. It was believed that when a pair of chopsticks was offered to a deity, the chopsticks became inhabited by that deity.
Types of Japanese chopsticks
There are several types of Japanese chopsticks and each type has a different use.
The most common type of chopsticks called waribashi are either made of bamboo or wood as they are inexpensive materials. They are commonly found in restaurants and bentos across Japan.
Chopsticks that have been lacquered or varnished tend to last longer, and it is common for a person to have their own pair of chopsticks, rather than ones to share communally.
The other types of chopsticks that are used for different occasions include meoto-bashi, iwai-bashi, rikyu-bashi, and sai-bashi.
Meoto-bashi is a set containing two pairs that are gifted to newlywed couples.
Iwai-bashi are chopsticks used throughout New Year celebrations in Japan. Each
member of the family is gifted a set and when the holidays end, the chopsticks are ceremoniously burned in a shrine.
Rikyu-bashi are handcrafted wooden chopsticks used in the modern Japanese tea ceremony. Before the tea is served, guests are given small sweets using
Finally, sai-bashi are longer chopsticks, usually around 17-18 inches, that are
used for cooking, serving, and plating.
About the author:
Samantha is currently a 5th-year JET in Okinawa, originally from Hawaii. She has been somewhat connected to Japanese culture her whole life despite being Chinese American. She's had the privilege of traveling to Japan and experiencing Japanese culture at a young age. She loves food and is always looking to try new places. When she is not working or out eating, she is an avid baker at home and has been known to feed her colleagues an excessive amount of baked goods.
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