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What are Japanese Chopsticks?

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  • Written By: K T Solis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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Chopsticks are eating utensils that originated in ancient China. They are long, tapered sticks that work together in order to pick up food from a bowl or plate. The Japanese first used chopsticks only in religious ceremonies.

Eventually, Japanese chopsticks were utilized for eating purposes. The first Japanese chopsticks designated for dining were shaped like tweezers. The utensils were crafted from one piece of bamboo. It was until the tenth century CE that Japanese chopsticks were made as two individual pieces.

Japanese chopsticks differ from Chinese utensils because the Japanese chopsticks are rounded and shorter than their Chinese counterparts. It is believed that chopsticks in Japan are more rounded in order to make it easier to remove bones from fish, which is a major part of the Japanese diet. Japanese chopsticks were usually crafted from wood. Women use shorter chopsticks than the ones men typically use. By the 17th century, the Japanese began to lacquer the eating utensils. In 1878, they created disposable chopsticks made from wood.

Although traditional chopsticks were produced from bamboo, these graceful eating tools were also crafted from other materials such as bone, pine, cedar, sandalwood, and teak. On the other hand, wealthy Asians used chopsticks carved from gold, jade, silver, ivory, brass, bronze, and coral. In ancient times, people believed that silver chopsticks would turn black if they touched food tainted with poison.

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Modern chopsticks come in a variety of colors and designs. Consumers can purchase chopsticks decorated with polka dots, stripes, and other fanciful shapes. You can even find chopsticks featuring popular anime characters. Children learn how to use chopsticks by practicing with chopsticks containing special grooves and hooks to teach proper finger placement.

When eating Japanese cuisine, it is important to hold chopsticks correctly. The upper chopstick should be held with the index finger, middle finger, and thumb. Next, place the other chopstick in between the thumb and end of the ring finger. The top chopstick should only move when it is time to pick up a morsel of food. It is considered bad manners to hold Japanese chopsticks with all five fingers.

When chopsticks are not in use, they should lay in front of the eater, tips pointing to the left. Never pass food from one set of chopsticks to another. This is considered bad manners. Other bad manners include waving chopsticks in the air, moving plates or bowls with chopsticks, pointing with chopsticks, sticking the utensils into food, or spearing food with them.

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Sinbad
Post 8

@amysamp - If you can find a kitchen specialty store, then you can usually buy chopsticks in gift sets that include beautiful plates and side dishes that are also Japanese(or perhaps it is just Asian in general)-inspired around the holidays.

I think a Japanese themed dinner party seems like a great idea and you could teach your friends the Japanese chopstick etiquette, because if your friends are like me then they probably had no idea there was etiquette involved with chopsticks.

Although I must say it make sense that there is etiquette involved in chopsticks considering our culture has etiquette on our silverware including which side of the plate to put certain utensils on.

Needless to say, I

have been doing quite a few things wrong with my chopsticks, including where my chopstick rests. I will now lay them in front of me pointing the left when they are at rest.

Actually I think that my biggest problem is that I do not put them down so I end up waving them around and pointing with them - I'm a hand talker so I can only imagine how much I am breaking that etiquette rule!

amysamp
Post 7

@shell4life - I love using chopsticks in my hair to put my long hair up in a unique way, and if you put the chopsticks in your bun right - the chopsticks do an incredible job of holding your hair in place.

When my hair is a little bit shorter, I cheat and put my hair in a ponytail and then use the chopsticks to hold the bun in place. This way the chopsticks use is just to hold the bun and not the entire ponytail, since with shorter hair the hair is more likely to fall out.

I was thinking of having a Japanese inspired dinner party for friends, but I realized I actually don't know wear to buy Japanese chop sticks. Anyone have any ideas on a general place to go?

discographer
Post 6

I think Japanese chopsticks more often come with a design or painting on them than Chinese ones right?

I received a pair of very stylish bamboo Japanese chopsticks as a gift and it has a really nice, colorful flower designs on it. It also came with a noodle cup and it has a little slot for the chopsticks. It's adorable and actually very useful. I'm very good at dropping and losing chopsticks, so it's great to have a special place for them.

I also like Japanese chopsticks because they are wood. Not only is it good for the environment because it could be recycled at one point, but I also feel like wood is healthier as a utensil than metal.

turquoise
Post 5

I love eating with chopsticks. It was hard to learn at first, I looked really silly trying to grab my food with it, but with time I learned. Using chopsticks to eat sushi is actually a great way to learn because sushi is easier to pick up with chopsticks than vegetables, noodles or just rice.

I started out with sushi and then was able to use chopsticks with other Asian food as well. I've also noticed that when I eat with chopsticks, I eat more slowly. So it's a great way to slow down while eating. Doctors say that this helps us lose weight too. Maybe that's why Asian women tend to be slim!

orangey03
Post 4

When I eat at a Japanese restaurant, I don’t use the chopsticks, but I do put them in my purse and bring them home. They are the disposable wooden kind, so it’s not considered stealing, since they were going to throw them out anyway.

I take them home and use them in arts and crafts projects. My daughter loves to paint them and make stick figures out of them. I also use them as popsicle sticks.

My friends who do use their chopsticks wipe them off and hand them to me when they are done. There’s no need I leaving them there at the restaurant to be thrown into the trash, and they know I will make good use of them.

shell4life
Post 3

I love wearing those Japanese hair chopsticks. I have long hair that I often curl into a bun to keep it out of my face, and the hair sticks add style to an otherwise uninteresting hairdo.

The pair of hair sticks that I have are black with intricate designs painted around mother-of-pearl pieces. The paint is silver and light blue and complements the shell. The black provides excellent contrast to the light colors.

Since my hair is light brown, these sticks are very visible in it. I have even worn them with a black dress to a formal event. They instantly give what might be considered a sloppy updo a glamorous twist.

Perdido
Post 2

@OeKc05 - I’m like your friends. I always ask for a fork. I have listened to lectures from my friends about how to use Japanese chopsticks, but I just cannot get the hang of it.

I guess I just don’t have good hand-to-finger coordination. I embarrass myself when I use chopsticks by accidentally flicking fried rice everywhere and dropping everything before it gets to my mouth.

I think that the Japanese wait staff do not consider it rude for an American to ask for a fork. I’ve even had them offer to bring me one before I asked. They probably just want me to use whatever helps me keep the food in my mouth and off the floor.

OeKc05
Post 1

Wow, the waiters in the Japanese restaurant must think I have horrible manners. I had no idea there was a proper way to lay them down on the plate. I also didn’t know I shouldn’t be spearing food with them.

It’s just so much easier to stab a vegetable than to grasp it between two narrow pieces of wood! I could ask for a fork like several of my friends do, but I want the authentic Japanese experience, and that means I have to try to eat with chopsticks.

I will try to follow proper chopstick etiquette from now on in public. I’m a little embarrassed at how I’ve been using them.

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