箸【Hashi (chopsticks)】

Chopsticks, which are called hashi in Japanese, are the basic utensils that Japanese people eat with. Chopsticks are used for Japanese meals instead of the forks, knives, and spoons, which are used for eating Western food. In addition, there are also chopsticks that are used for cooking. There are several types of chopsticks that are used depending on the purpose. Chopsticks for eating with are usually about 20 centimeters long (approximately 8 inches) and are pointed at one end. They are made of a number of materials including plastic, wood, and ivory. Chopsticks made of wood such as cypress or willow are the most common because they are strong and light. These wooden chopsticks are usually coated with lacquer. Iwai-bashi, chopsticks made from willow, are specially prepared for auspicious occasions such as New Year’s Day. Saibashi, long chopsticks made of bamboo, are used for cooking.


Each person uses one pair of chopsticks throughout the meal when eating Japanese food. These chopsticks are not replaced with a new pair. When people eat soup, the solid part of the soup is eaten with chopsticks and the broth is sipped directly from the soup bowl. In Japanese families, it is customary for each person to have their own pair of chopsticks that they normally use and no one else ever uses. Restaurants, inns that are called ryokans in Japanese, and other places that serve food generally provide customers with disposable chopsticks called waribashi. Waribashi refer to two wooden or bamboo chopsticks that are still connected to each other. Then the waribashi are broken apart when they are used. Waribashi are enclosed in what look something like a long, narrow, open-ended envelope before they are used. When people have guests in their homes, they give them waribashi to eat with.


Chopsticks were introduced to Japan from China in ancient times and the Japanese have been using them to eat with for hundreds of years. Manners and customs for using chopsticks have evolved over this long period of time. Many taboos and superstitions related to chopsticks have also evolved over time. One of the greatest taboos is aibasami. Aibasami means that one person passes food from his/her chopsticks to the chopsticks of another person. It is equally unacceptable to stick your chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice. Both of these taboos are related to Japanese funeral customs. It is also bad manners to stab food with your chopsticks, put food you have picked up with your chopsticks back on a serving plate, lick anything off your chopsticks, and wave your chopsticks over a plate while deciding what to eat.


It is not clean to put chopsticks directly on the table when they are not in use. It is recommended that the ends of the chopsticks that go in your mouth be put on a small ceramic, wooden, or glass stand, which is called a hashioki in Japanese. The hashioki, beautifully colored and gracefully shaped, also serves as a decoration on the table.


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