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Chopsticks and bowls

Chopsticks and bowls that support WASHOKU

Japan is the only country where only chopsticks are used for meals.
WASHOKU takes pride also in a unique culture of utensils, together with plates and bowls that give seasonal feelings.

Japanese people use plates and bowls in everyday meals casually, by putting cooked rice in a rice bowl, miso soup in a wooden bowl, and grilled fish on a flat plate. The types, shapes and materials used for these plates and bowls vary widely. There is no country, either among nearby countries or in the West, where such a wide variety of plates and bowls are used. That is not irrelevant to the fact that the country has distinct seasons.

“Just using different plates for the season changes the mood even at home,” says Mr. Takahashi of “Hyoutei.”

For example, try using something with florid colors and shapes for spring, materials like glass and celadon that give a cool feeling for summer, something with harvesting colors for autumn, and thick earthenware or wooden plates and bowls that give a feeling of warmth for winter. It is possible to express the season just by changing colors, materials and shapes. This is the enjoyment that is available only with WASHOKU.

Japanese use chopsticks at every meal without giving it much thought, and they are the representative utensils of food culture in Japan. The tradition of using spoons disappeared since the Nara period, and people started to use only chopsticks, which established the style of holding a bowl in one’s hand and sipping the hot soup inside directly from the bowl. At the same time, it became standard that there are exclusive bowls and chopsticks owned by each person. This is different from the food culture in other Southeast Asian countries, where spoons are used and particular bowls and chopsticks are not assigned to an individual. Japan is the only country where people eat only with chopsticks among the cultural zone of chopsticks. In addition, there is also wide variation in chopsticks according to their use, such as for eating, serving or cooking. Even among shoku-bashi used for eating, there is a lineup of different shapes, materials, finishing process and length.


How chopsticks work

Chopsticks for Japanese people are an important utensil covering the whole process of cooking, serving and eating. Because shoku-bashi for eating are basically owned by individuals, it is characteristic that people can select a pair suitable for them.



There are chopsticks used for eating and chopsticks used for cooking. Sai-bashi for cooking, are about 30 - 50 cm long to protect the hands from heat, and some pairs are tied with a string so that one does not go missing. Tori-bashi for serving is also a type of sai-bashi. Because shoku-bashi are basically owned by individuals, you can select a pair with a suitable length for you. Many of them are decorated with lacquer or raden (mother-of-pearl work) decoration.



Shapes of chopsticks used in households include square type, square type with rounded corners, five-sided, six-sided, seven-sided, eight-sided and carved. You can select the one that fits in your hands. There are also types that are specially processed at the tips. As for individual chopsticks for guests and disposable chopsticks, there are types such as genroku-bashi, with an oblong cut surface and slit and chase for splitting, and rikyu-bashi, which is wide at the center and narrow at both ends.



Not only the shape, but also the materials vary. Hard wood like ebony and ironwood are frequently used in recent years. Among trees in Japan, Japanese cedar has a unique fragrance and has been used for chopsticks in kaiseki for tea ceremony and disposable chopsticks. Hinoki is resistant to water and humidity, has a strong preservative quality, and is light and easy to hold. Bamboo is strong, bows adequately and easy to pick up small objects.



Learn the manners of using chopsticks

[Bad-mannered use of chopsticks]

The basic pattern of washoku is to eat cooked rice in between side dishes and soup, i.e., to eat a bite of cooked rice and then have a bite of a side dish, or eat a bite of cooked rice and then have a sip of soup. Please remember that the following uses of chopsticks are regarded as poor manners.

Utsuri-bashi (skipping)

Utsuri-bashi (skipping)

First placing the chopsticks on a dish and then moving to a different dish without picking any food up

Mayoi-bashi (wavering)

Mayoi-bashi (wavering)

Moving chopsticks over dishes as if hovering to choose what to pick up

Sashi-bashi (pointing)

Sashi-bashi (pointing)

Pointing to people or things with chopsticks while eating

Watashi-bashi (bridging)

Watashi-bashi (bridging)

Placing the chopsticks over a plate or a bowl before finishing the meal

Yose-bashi (pulling)

Yose-bashi (pulling)

Pulling plates or bowls to oneself with chopsticks




* On this page, the traditional dietary culture of Japan is expressed as WASHOKU, and dishes with such tradition are expressed as washoku.

Pictures and articles are cited from WASHOKU guidebook.

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