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Friday, September 14, 2012

Size Matters... For Chopsticks

A long, long time ago... 1991 or so... when I was still living and teaching in Japan... I cam e across a study done by Tokyo university professor who calculated the ideal length of hashi (chopsticks).

Now... there is not simply one size fits all... no... this professor, worked out ideal length of chopsticks based on a person's height. That is to say, he assumed that a person's height and the size of one's hands relative to a pair of chopsticks was important.

Look... I know that there are small training chopsticks, and chopsticks for kids, larger ones for adults, and super long ones for cooking/stirring... but different chopsticks for people of different stature? Separated by a centimeter or two? 

It all sounds like hokum to me, but just for the record, he states that the perfect length for anyone's chopsticks should be 15% of a person's height.

Now, perhaps this assumes that tall people have large hands, or something idiotic like that - and many of my tall friends do... but does that mean a person who is 183 cm (1.83 m = 6'0") tall requires a pair of chopsticks 27.45cm long?

And that since size does matter if you've got wood, if you are 180cm tall... your chopsticks should only be 27cm long? Is this why some people can't pick up their soup with their chopsticks? Or that elusive pea? They have ill-fitting chopsticks?

It makes a great excuse, at least:
It's not my fault. I told the restaurant I needed 27.45cm long chopsticks, and clearly these are 27.3cm! The harmony of my meal is wrong! I'm not paying for this meal I have already tried to eat and clearly spilled down the front of my shirt. 

Does Japan make hashi based on a person's height? Not yet. 

People will buy anything... perhaps someone wants to work on a business plan with me. Hey... even if I don't believe it, if I can make money off it, I will believe anything.

Anyhow...  take a look at the photo above... I actually have close to 100 sets of chopsticks. I was given a large number by the official hashi maker of the Japanese Royal Family before I left (not included in this photo). You can tell from this small sampling that red chopsticks in the middle and the black pair on the right are the same size, while the red on on the far right and the brown ones in the middle are equal in size, while the plain wooden ones on the far left, are smaller than both. But... despite the size differences, it does not appear to cater to anyone of a particular height.  

Somewhere with left-handed chopsticks,
Andrew Joseph

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