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Friday, July 12, 2013

I Got Wood

I am not the world's foremost expert in the manipulation and use of chopsticks known as hashi (or o-hashi, if we are adding the honorific), but I do know how to use them.

Sort of.

When I went to Japan back in 1990, I had only ever eaten Japanese food once prior in Toronto... about three days before leaving in fact.

I sure as hell didn't know how to use chopsticks... (hashi is Japanese, and means wood... not really... it means 'bridge'... usually made of wood in the old days... and it means 'chopsticks'... also made of wood in the old days)... but on the same day I had my first ever work day at the Ohtawara Board of Education, Hanazaki-san (Mister Hanazaki) asked me if I knew how to use Japanese chopsticks.

I shook my head and said iie (pronounced ee-ya), which means no.

"Then, we must teach you how to be real Japanese," he says - and not for the last time, I might add.

He picked up a pair of pencils - sharpened - and taught me the proper grip... which I mastered in five minutes, which was well-enough to impress him.

"Oh, you use Japanese chopsticks just like a real Japanese," he said in that typical flattering Japanese tone I never got tired of hearing.

Soon, after mastering the grip, he had me pick up some dried beans he just so happened to have in his desk.

It has only just struck me as odd - 23 years later - that he had dried beans in his desk. Who the hell has dried beans in their desk? Apparently Hanazaki-san does... just for me. It was like he expected his new AET (assistant English teacher) to be lacking in certain Japanese social graces. It's okay... it's not insulting if he's correct. He was correct.

He had me practice and practice and practice, and soon after about 60 minutes, I was adroit enough to pick up the slick dried beans with my o-hashi... and not just one... but at rate of speed that would have anyone watch me from behind think I was a very fast Japanese person.

Really. In 60 short minutes, I was able to work at champion-level speeds... it only took me about five minutes to be good enough to eat with the damn things.

It also took me about five minutes after I stopped practicing to forget what I was taught.

And so... I developed my own hybrid o-hashi grip that is so close to what the Japanese use, that no one has ever called me on my lack of Japanese-ness.

And even if they did - so what? I can actually use my hybrid grip to eat faster than the average Japanese bear. I don't mean male homosexual either... it was a pun on an old Yogi Bear saying. Never mind.

Anyhow... I bring all of this up because I know someone - a female gaijin - who despite nearly 20 years integration into a Japanese family still can't use a pair of chopsticks... though to be fair... these chopsticks are not Japanese o-hashi... they are otemoto, which is the Japanese term given to 'disposable chopsticks'. Apparently they are still honorable.

Now... yes... I am poking fun at my o-femme fatale, but please note that she also is able to poke fun at herself... it's that poking part about her that I find a real turn-on.

How do I know she's a good sport and doesn't mind a bit of poking? She recently went to a restaurant and was served a pair of chopsticks with the message contained in the photo above.

It's like even the Asians like to provide a poke or prod at the ol funny bone. I can appreciate that.



  1. I've been tagged! (poke)

    1. Poke right back at 'cha.
      Wait... who's it?

  2. Not Caro Kennedy, that's for sure.

    1. yup! I'm the gal Friday who barely works any day of the week ;)