Japan and China are two of the most prominent countries in Asia. Their food, culture and exports have covered a good majority of the world, and one of the most unique culinary impacts they’ve had is the use of chopsticks.
Chopsticks have a long and involved history in Japan and China, as well as much of Asia. But not surprisingly, different countries have different rules and uses for the instruments. People from the western world have had a lot of trouble adopting chopsticks into their dinner table as well, whish is sort of why we're putting this information out there. We want to help educate on not only the different styles of chopsticks, but how to use them.
We’re going to go over some of the basic styles and descriptions for Japanese and Chinese chopsticks, as well as a demonstration of how Ruthie and I each use ours. So please check out the youtube video below to learn how to use chopsticks. And you can take our chopstick poll at the bottom of the page.
In case you didn't quite get the video, let us explain. The bottom chopstick never moves. It's always stationary. The back end of the chopstick (the part that doesn't touch the food) is rested at the base of the thumb and index finger. The other end of the chopstick rests comfortably against the ring and or pinky finger. The top chopstick is held sort of how you use a pencil. It is moved up or down by the index and/or middle finger. We hope this helps you out. And whether you're eating food at a Chinese restaurant, or if you've got sushi in a take out box, don't be afraid to practice your chopstick skills. If you need help, try our Funchop! And get experience with some $1.25 chopsticks!
Naming: Chopsticks are called Kuaizi (筷子) in Chinese, which means "something fast" or "quick one".
Basic Rules: Because the use of chopsticks in China is so old, the rules have had a chance to become cemented in the culture. Some of these rules coincide with the Japanese etiquette, and some are more unique. First of all, one should not tap the chopsticks against a bowl, as beggars typically do this, and one should not point their chopsticks at other people. However, one is allowed to pass food to another family member with their chopsticks, which is usually looked down upon in Japanese tradition.
Style: Chinese chopsticks are typically squared-off and blunt at the end. They are also typically longer than the Japanese models, with their average length at about 10 inches. Usually they are a little more bland in style as well, lacking the flare that the Japanese put in theirs.
History: The earliest evidence of chopsticks dates back to China in approximately 1200 BC. Various dynasties seemed to have their preference on which style to use, with some preferring gold, jade, bronze, or wood. Silver was even popular in the Tang dynasty because of a rumor that it could detect poisons.
Current usage: In Chinese homes today, bamboo and plastic are the most popular materials to make a chopstick out of because the materials are cheap and readily available.
Portable Mario Bros. Chopstick Set
Naming: Chopsticks are traditionally called Hashi (箸), however in fancier establishments they may be called Otemoto (おてもと).
Basic Rules: Japanese chopsticks tend to have more stringent rules than the Chinese chopsticks. Some of these rules are shared with the Chinese etiquette, but a few contradict each other. In Japan one should not spear their food, nor should one stab their food into rice so that it sticks up straight. This resembles an act done for funerals. Also one should not move food from communal plates to their own, or point at others with their utensils. One should also leave his or her chopsticks on a Chopstick Rest, as opposed to on the plate.
Style: Japanese Chopsticks are generally Rounded and tapered to a point at the ends. They are typically shorter than Chinese models, with lengths that run around 8 to 9 inches. They are often more colorful and intricately designed as well.
History: The Japanese developed unique types of chopsticks. They have different styles of chopsticks used for various reasons, including eating specific meals, kitchen or cooking usage, for picking up sweets, and even during a funeral.
Current styling: Today, Japan uses many varieties of materials in the manufacturing of chopsticks. Wood or plastic are the principle materials used today, however chopsticks have also been made of: metal, bone, ivory, and even jade. However, these are typically reserved for special events, or just for show.
Disposable Chopsticks are also a great idea for people just starting out. You can try them with each meal and not worry about washing or caring for them.
If you're interested in learning not only how to use chopsticks, but how to follow Japanese manners and etiquette as a whole, you can go to our blog page, Japanese Etiquette. And don't forget to take our poll below!
Not responsible for typos, inaccuracies, misinformation, or omission stated or implied.