While chopsticks may intimidate the uninitiated, fans of Japanese cuisine would agree they help to make dining experiences far more interesting than standard cutlery. Even if you struggle to actually use them, chopsticks are a staple of eating Japanese food in restaurants, whether in the country itself or in the West.
Chopsticks are incredibly versatile, and help to make reinforce the tactile, hands-on nature of eating Japanese cuisine. Whether you’re scooping steaming noodles into your mouth or delicately lifting sushi rolls off of your plate, once you develop an affinity for chopsticks, you may struggle to go back to those simple forks.
Want to know a little more about chopsticks? We’ve put together the following 7 fascinating facts …
1. The Majority of Japanese Chopsticks are Crafted from Wood
While chopsticks are available in different materials in other countries (in Korea, metal ones are widely-used, while you may have tried plastic ones too), Japanese chopsticks are generally manufactured from wood.
Why? To start with, they don’t actually conduct heat – an obvious advantage over metal ones! Wood also gives you a better grip, which is obviously crucial. They’re also more cost-effective to create.
2. Where You Rest Your Chopsticks Matters!
In the West, we tend to cross our cutlery on our dishes while we eat, whether we’re reaching for a drink or just taking a break.
However, doing this with chopsticks in Japan is seen as a faux pas. You should also leave your used chopsticks out of sight of other diners, such as behind your dish.
3. Not All Chopsticks Are Alike
We all know Japanese chopsticks aren’t the only ones, but did you realize different countries have their own variations of chopsticks?
Chinese chopsticks are longer, and their tips are bluntly rounded. Japanese chopsticks are shorter with a pointed tip. Korean chopsticks are short and blunt at the tips, while Vietnamese chopsticks tend to be longer.
4. Chopsticks Are More Popular than You Think
Believe it or not, around a third of the world’s population uses chopsticks on a daily bases – which is basically the same as the amount of people using knives and forks with their meals.
5. Most of Japan’s Chopsticks Originate from One Location
A truly impressive fact is that 80 percent of all of Japan’s lacquer chopsticks are produced in Obama, a small city with a modest population. Considering there are more than 127m people in Japan, Obama must be producing an awful lot of chopsticks …
6. Japanese People Commonly Own a Unique Set of Chopsticks
Incredibly, it’s extremely popular for people in Japan to have a unique pair of chopsticks. These will last them for years, and different members of a family may well have vastly different ones to ensure they don’t use someone else’s by mistake.
7. You Should Never Use Personal Chopsticks on a Communal Dish
Just like leaving your chopsticks resting across your bowl is a faux pas, so too is taking food from a communal dish using your own pair.
Serving chopsticks are typically provided, which should be used to bring food to your own dish.
There we go: 7 fascinating facts about chopsticks. We hope this inspires you to use them more often!