A Quick Overview…
Hashi (箸, Japanese word for ‘chopsticks’) were once upon a time a medium that served as a connection between Gods and humans. During the Heian period (平安時代), the arrival of hashi venders who sold them in the city of Kyoto enabled people to purchase them. They were purchased and used as charms against evil beings by worshipping them at the household Shinto (a Japanese religion) alters. These chopsticks were made from bamboo and were joined at the top, kind of like those “trainer” chopsticks you see today.
Gradually the japanese chopsticks found its way to the table and became used for eating on a regular basis. The first recorded instances of separated chopsticks being used for normal eating don’t show up until 10th century Japan. Like before, people were probably doing this for a long time in some areas.
China has been using chopsticks since 1200 BC, maybe even earlier. The first known sets were made of bronze. They were mainly used for cooking as they were handy for reaching into boiling pots of oil or water. Until 400 AD people started eating with them and then by 500 AD or so, chopsticks had spread all over Asia.
The oldest official records of chopsticks being used in Japan is from the Kojiki, written in 712AD. They probably made it over there even sooner than that. Chinese culture made its way over to Japan through Korea earlier than that. The chopsticks were likely to have made it over around the same time too.
Japanese chopsticks (Hashi 箸) in today’s society…
Today, hashi is the best daily commodity suitable for a gift as luck for bonding people, as well as a charm against bad luck.
Hashi are usually shorter than other chopsticks and taper to a fine point. They are traditionally made of bamboo or wood and are often lacquered. Hashi also come in kid sizes and woman sizes which are even shorter than standard sizes. Bento sized hashi, which fit inside of bento boxes, can also be quite short and sometimes made of colorful plastic.
In Japan, the lacquered wood tradition started in the 17th century. The extravagant had their hashi made from jade, gold, ivory, or silver. Speaking of fancy, if you want a nice set of chopsticks to go with your fine tableware, Kyoto is considered the center of chopstick design. In terms of production, 85% of Japan’s chopsticks are made in nearby Obama, Fukui Prefecture.
John. (Sept. 2013). “Unearthing the Mysteries of Japanese Chopsticks” www.tofugu.com. Retrieved 16 Jun. 2016. Discover more here.