Hello everyone! Today we would like to tell you about a traditional Japanese tableware called chopstick rests. Chopstick rests may seem like a small item at a dining table, but in fact, their role and cultural significance are very profound. In this article, we will explore the history of chopstick rests, their role, tips on how to choose one, and why they are so important.
- History of Chopsticks Rests
- Basic role
- Add a Playful Touch on your Dining Table
- Give a Sense of the Season
- Adding Color to your Meals
- Omotenashi (Hospitality)
History of chopstick rests
The culture of eating with chopsticks has developed in Japan since around the 7th century. During the Heian period (794-1185), earthenware called mimikawarake and chopstick rests called mihashidai were introduced into the formal table, mainly at the imperial court. Mihashidai was a mimikawarake with legs, which is considered to be the origin of the chopstick rest. However, these chopstick rests were used only by aristocrats, and it was not until the Meiji period (1868-1912) that the general public began to use chopstick rests.
Until the Edo period, meals were generally served on a small table for one person. Chopsticks were placed so that one side of the chopsticks rested on the edge of the table. In other words, the table functioned as a chopstick rest.
However, with the arrival of Western culture in the Meiji period (1868-1912), families began to gather around a single table, and chopstick rests became commonplace in each household. In other words, during the Meiji period, chopsticks were placed directly on the family dining table, which many people began to use chopstick rests because it was considered a hygienic problem. Even today, at izakaya (Japanese-style pubs), yakiniku restaurants, and other eating establishments where meals are not served on a tray for one, many people fold chopstick rests in the bag that contained the disposable chopsticks. This shows that a chopstick rest, which prevents the chopstick tips from touching the desk directly, plays an important role.
Placing chopsticks on a chopstick rest, rather than directly on the desk or mat once you have brought them to your mouth, allows you to use chopsticks hygienically and at the same time prevents them from staining the table or luncheon mat. It also naturally prevents the taboo usage of chopsticks, such as Watashi-hashi (placing chopsticks on a bowl or plate) and Mayoi-hashi (moving chopsticks around while holding them, wondering which one to eat), and leads to improved eating manners.
Add a playful touch to your dining table
Using different chopstick rests for different days makes the mealtime more enjoyable. Chopstick rests can become a topic of conversation, or the moment you see a cute looking chopstick rest, you may smile and feel happy even before the meal begins.
It is also a good idea to choose one that matches the meal of the day. For example, if the meal of the day is ramen noodles, you can pick a chopstick rest in the shape of naruto, or if you are drinking beer, it would be fun to choose a chopstick rest with an edamame motif, a classic snack for beer.
Give a sense of the season
You can create a sense of the season by using chopstick rests with motifs of seasonal vegetables such as watermelon and eggplant in summer, chestnuts and sweet potatoes in autumn, or chopstick rests with motifs of seasonal events such as the Doll Festival and Children’s Day. Seasonal plant motifs are also wonderful, such as cherry blossoms in spring, sunflowers in summer, and maple leaves in autumn. For New Year’s, we also recommend using lucky charms to wish for good fortune in the New Year.
Adding Color to Your Meals
In Japan, the basic color scheme for food presentation is to use five colors: blue (as in green), red, yellow, white, and black to make dishes look beautiful and tasty. Even if you use colors well, it is a little tricky to be conscious of using all five colors every time you cook or serve a dish. In such cases, chopstick rests can be used as a way to add color. By using colorful tableware and chopstick rests, you can make your meals more colorful.
When a chopstick rest is provided for each guest, it gives the guest a feeling of respectability and a sense of welcome. It will also convey a sense of thoughtfulness, as you want your guests to enjoy their meal and feel the seasonality of the food.
For example, if the guest is a cat lover, using a chopstick rest in the shape of a cat or preparing a chopstick rest with a design that relates to what you talked about the last time you met will make the guest feel happy that you remembered what you talked about last time. You may even have them take the chopstick rest home as a gift.
Chopstick rests are tableware that, contrary to appearances, have deep meaning and cultural importance. In Japanese dining culture, the use of chopstick rests when handling chopsticks is an essential element for beauty, protection of the chopsticks, good luck, and respect for tradition and customers. Chopstick rests add a touch of color to the dining table and make meals more enjoyable. As you experience Japanese culture, pay attention to chopstick rests as well.