Yasunari Uenaka Shares – Values You Hold in High Regard

Chopsticks

Decoding Chopsticks, a tool cherished in Japan

It depends on the personality of the individual, but I think it is when something they value is violated people tend to express the emotion of irritation or anger.

It can be something material or something invisible, such as values.

This is not a favorable situation in business.

When speaking of the impression of people in Japan, what comes into mind.

Are they like the samurai we see in the movies, scary and aggressive when treated wrongfully?

Or are they polite and with a lot of  bowing.

Either way, I think most of the people probably imagine an image of someone who is usually relatively mild-mannered.

Although it is not recommended to try it, there is a way to easily enrage people of those manner in Japan.

That is to “intentionally drop the chopsticks you are using while eating on the floor.

Some may think, “It’s just cutlery.

But it is not.

Think of it as the impact of having your rosary, a treasured possession of devout Christians, dropped on the floor.

Let me talk about the relationship between chopsticks and the Japanese.

My name is “Yasunari Uenaka or as alot of my firends likes to call me the “chopsticks young master.

I run a chopstick shop called “Hashitou Honten” in Tokyo’s Kappabashi Tool Street.

It was founded 112 years ago in 1910.

Since my great-grandfather started the business, we have been selling chopsticks for generations.

Selling Chopsticks

Chopstick Eating Culture in Asia

Japan is not the only country where people eat mainly with chopsticks.

Let’s take a look at the differences between chopsticks in Korea, China and Japan as representative countries.

1. Material of chopsticks 

In Korea, they are mainly made of metal. Those made of silver or stainless steel are used.

In China, most are made of plastic, bamboo, etc.

In Japan, many are made of hardwood, softwood, bamboo, etc.

2. Shape of chopsticks

In Korea, flat and thin cross sections are used.

In China, they are short and long, with a rounded, non-pointed tip.

In Japan, they are characterized by a thin, pointed tip.

3. How to place chopsticks

In Korea and China, chopsticks are generally arranged vertically, just like knives and forks.

In Japan, they are usually placed horizontally in front of the bowl.

4. The concept of individual ownership

In Korea and China, families share the same chopsticks.

In Japan, it is common for each individual to use a different set of chopsticks.

Although many things have been mentioned, the most characteristic difference is “The concept of individual ownership”.

In addition to changing the length of the chopsticks as people grow, chopsticks are regarded as personal items.

In other words, they are similar to clothes or shoes.

The standard idea is that chopsticks are personal, not only during the period of small infants, but even after they have grown up and become older.

Why is this?

The secret is hidden in the “events of life’s milestones” in Japanese culture. Let’s get started.

It begins and ends with chopsticks.

In Japan, our lives are so inseparably linked that it is said, “Chopsticks begin and end with chopsticks.

The event that marks the beginning is called  “Okuizome” and it is a ceremony held on the 100th day after the birth of a child.

In outline, a small bowl, bowls, chopsticks, and other utensils are prepared, and a meal of rice with red beans called “oseki-han” and grilled sea bream, which is eaten at the time of celebration, is prepared.

This celebration is intended to express the wish that the child will soon be able to eat rice, and that in the future he or she will have no lack of food to eat.

Naturally, children cannot eat rice yet, so they only imitate eating with chopsticks, but it is such an important event that relatives used to gather to celebrate.

Then, what is the end of the ceremony? It is “makura-meshi,” or pillow rice, in which a heaping pile of rice is placed in the bowl used by the deceased and served at his or her bedside, with chopsticks standing up.

When the deceased was cremated and the burnt bones were picked up, the two of them would hold the same bones between their chopsticks and place them in an urn, an act known as “chopstick passing.

It is considered an act that should not be performed in everyday life, such as “putting chopsticks up to the rice” as is done in makura-meshi and chopstick passing, and pinching the same dish between two people.

The reason why many people in Japan people feel very uncomfortable about the act of “intentionally dropping the chopsticks they are using on the floor during a meal” is because

Chopsticks are not a common family cutlery but a highly personal item, and they play an important role at milestones in life, such as events during the early stages of life and at the time of death.

Therefore

There is a strong sense that they are beings that must be treated with care.

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