What situations do you imagine when you use chopsticks?
Ramen is probably the easiest to imagine when it comes to familiar foods.
In Japan, we have a long history of using only chopsticks to eat not only noodles but also many other foods.
Even though we Japanese tend to overlook this, the variety of chopsticks in Japan is extremely rich.
If we were to compare them to other items, “shoes” might be the closest analogy.
Formal leather shoes. Sneakers. Trekking shoes for mountain climbing. High heels. Sandals, etc. There are various types of shoes depending on the material and purpose.
It is natural to think of chopsticks as something that belongs to the individual, but it is strange to think of cutlery as something that is shared by all members of the family.
What exactly are there?
Various types of chopsticks
Chopsticks are often made of wood.
Cherry trees, plum trees, olive trees, as well as coniferous trees such as cedar, hinoki, and pine. Other woods include bamboo and apple trees. Some are made from wine barrels (oak) that have outlived their usefulness.
In addition to the common square and round shapes, chopsticks are also made in octagons, pentagons, hexagons, and other shapes. The part where you pick up the food with chopsticks (the tip of the chopstick) requires special attention, and the craftsman’s skill is shown by making it square or thin.
Chopsticks made of lacquer, which is also a natural coating material, come in vermilion or black. In addition to gorgeous ones decorated with gold leaf, those using a technique called “raden,” in which the inside of a shell is inlaid with material cut from the shiny part of the shell, are especially popular among women.
In addition to everyday chopsticks used for ordinary meals, there are also chopsticks used for celebratory occasions (festive chopsticks), Rikyu chopsticks for kaiseki cuisine, and “serving chopsticks” used when serving food.
Vegetable chopsticks are used like a turner or spatula when cooking. Agebashi is used to deep-fry food. Hanabashi, used to make batter for tempura, is also unique.
The last type, hanabashi chopsticks, are thick chopsticks, measuring approximately 35 cm, and look like a bachi(drum stick).
Another interesting new product that has been developed in recent years is chopsticks for potato chips. When you take them out of the bag and eat them, you are inevitably bothered by the oil on your hands. Chopsticks were developed to avoid this problem.
Another long-running product is chopsticks for stirring natto (fermented soybeans), which is a major foodstuff in Japan.
Some chopsticks are suited for different types of food.
Imagine French cuisine.
The cutlery used for a full course, from hors d’oeuvres to dessert, is neatly lined up at the end of the right and left hands.
Basically, in Japan, the same chopsticks are used for all dishes from the beginning to the end of the meal, but in reality, as in France, there are different shapes and materials suitable for different dishes.
In the case of noodles, for example, there are chopsticks suitable for each of the popular Japanese dishes: ramen, udon, and soba.
Ramen noodles have a greasy surface, and chopsticks made of bamboo with a round tip may cause frustration because it is difficult to grasp the noodle.
We recommend wooden chopsticks with a square tip.
There are a relatively large number of disposable chopsticks that fit this category.
Udon noodles themselves are often thick. In such cases, thin chopsticks do not provide a good grip. On the contrary, chopsticks with thicker tips allow you to grip the noodle firmly and feel a sense of excitement when you are eating.
In contrast with udon, soba noodles are thin and delicate. For cold soba, chopstick tips should be especially thin and made of cool bamboo, etc., to make your meal more enjoyable.
This fact should be easier for you to visualize.
It is like a marriage of food and alcohol.
It is also a way to make the dining experience more enjoyable and exciting.
Don’t you think that the cutlery used to eat the food also plays an important role?
Hors d’oeuvres of organic vegetables beautifully arranged on a white plate.
Tomatoes bursting with freshness in your mouth. Freshly picked and fragrant herbs.
Many are pricked with metal forks and brought to your mouth.
Now, let’s stop time here.
Why do we need to “prick” them with a “metal fork”?
The chef designed this menu with the aim of “letting you feel the bounty from nature.”
Inevitably, when you eat with a fork, you destroy the arrangement of the food, and you also damage the fibers somewhat by stabbing the ingredients.
This has never been an option, but why not switch to chopsticks?
Chopsticks are made from pruned olive trees.
Eat nature’s bounty with cutlery made from nature, and by “picking” instead of “stabbing”.
It is a gentle to the food and above all, it tells a story. Don’t you think it leads to a richer time?
This activity of “proposing a new style of chopsticks that change according to the contents of the dish” has started at restaurants around the world, regardless of whether they are in Japan or not.
Japan is also famous for longevity, and the use of chopsticks has been taken up in brain development and aging, and games using chopsticks have been adopted for “early childhood education” and “health promotion.
Chopsticks have great potential that many people are not yet aware of.