Hello, This is Waka-Danna, the chopsticks young master.
I have talked about “chopsticks” three times now, but this is the end of the series.
I hope you enjoy it until the end.
Hidden Japanese Treasures
What tree reminds you of Japan?
Is it the cherry blossom tree, which blooms all at once in spring?
Or perhaps it’s “bamboo,” famous for the bamboo groves in Kyoto?
There is one that is often forgotten but has been indispensable to our lives for a long time.
It is the cedar tree. It is a representative tree with a long history that is deeply rooted in the lives of Japanese people as a familiar material.
Many of the chopsticks we handle daily are made from cedar.
The cedar tree has a very interesting scientific name.
“Cryptomeria japonica” also means “hidden Japanese treasure.”
Although you may not have realized it, Japan is a heavily forested country.
Japan has about 25.05 million hectares of forests, of which 13.48 million hectares (around 50%) are natural forests, 10.2 million hectares (around 40%) are planted forests, and the remainder is treeless land, bamboo forests, etc.
The forested area accounts for about 66% of the national land area.
This figure is comparable to that of Finland and Sweden, both of which are known as the land of forests and lakes.
This fact is not well known.
It is truly a “hidden resource” and an “unknown treasure.”
Japan’s continued relationship with the forest
As you can see from the Japanese Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, Japan has a long history of utilizing forests.
At Horyuji Temple in Nara Prefecture, which is designated as a World Heritage site, some of the timber used in its construction still remain. The wood is approximately 1,400 years old.
On the island of Shodoshima in the Seto Inland Sea, soy sauce is still made in huge cedar vats called Kioke. The wooden vats are treated with great care, and the same ones continue to be utilized for decades.
The Kioke is an interesting item that is “used up” over the years, first for making sake, then for soy sauce, and finally for vinegar.
The hinoki bath is also very unique. The bathtub is made of a wood called “hinoki,” and is designed for enjoying the fragrance of the wood while bathing.
Another one is the Japanese version of sandals called “Geta.” These are worn by fewer people nowadays, but people used to repair them in order to keep using them for a long time. I also love using them during summertime.
Other items include cutting boards, pencils, and chopsticks.
Even today, we can see glimpses of how the forest has been utilized.
What is the hidden treasure?
So far, I have touched upon the relationship between people and forests, while focusing on chopsticks. Physically speaking, chopsticks can be considered to be just “two sticks.”
They may be insignificant. They may be worthless.
Yet, if we examine and look at their history and culture, we will realize that they are truly diverse and full of possibilities.
This is true not only for chopsticks but also for ourselves.
Even if we might judge ourselves by saying, “This is no big deal,” “I have no talent,” or “I’m not making any progress,” if we stop to analyze and think about it carefully, we may find that we are full of brilliance.
I first began to think about this when I traveled to Uganda, Africa, a few years ago.
The purpose was to establish the first authentic Japanese restaurant and to hold an event to introduce Japanese culture with Sake no Kuramoto and a manufacturer of Edo kiriko glass, which is a traditional type of glass.
The people there had never eaten Japanese food or even heard of sake, let alone used chopsticks in their culture.
So when asked, “What is this?” I had to start from the very beginning.
It was a very valuable experience that made me ask myself how much I really knew about chopsticks. It was very rewarding and I gained a lot from it.
If I had simply thought of them as “two sticks that grasp food,” then it wouldn’t have been anything special. But when I told them about “the admiration and appreciation for nature” and “the relationship between people and the forest,” I could sense a clear change in the way they viewed chopsticks, which until that point had been nothing more than two sticks to them.
Our world is full of different languages, different customs, different religions, and different races. It’s full of diversity.
In such a world, I saw with my own eyes how “chopsticks,” which are just two sticks, can overcome various differences and deliver a common message.
I was delighted to think that perhaps I could play a role in conveying “gratitude for food” and “the importance of admiration for nature” through chopsticks.
Until then, I had never had much confidence in myself and had a very negative outlook on life.
I hadn’t been able to recognize my “hidden treasure.”
How about you, the readers of this article?
There may be hidden treasures buried in your life that you are not even aware of.
Being humble is very important in business, but please don’t be overly critical of yourself.
Also, take a moment to think about things that you normally take for granted and don’t pay attention to.
Think of it as looking at a field of grass that is blooming with flowers and seeing the roots that are under the ground.
See, doesn’t the world seem a little more beautiful than before?
That’s all I have to say.
Please come visit Japan.
I look forward to meeting you all.