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Japanese Chopsticks : Connecting People and Ancient Gods

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On Japanese new year’s 3 day celebration, people do not use their own Japanese chopsticks but buy in advance round, wooden, chopsticks with reduced thickness at both ends called ryohkuchi-hashi. It is customary to use this particular type of Japanese chopsticks for special occasions; this specific shape of Japanese chopsticks is meant to connect people with gods.

Unlike hunting in the western world, ancient Japanese were croppers and depended much on good weather. Since natural phenomenon were believed to be doings of gods, people were convinced that the gods must be respected in order to gain their cooperation for the year’s cropping. 

As a token of respect and gratefulness, in Shinto, it was customary in ancient ceremony to invite gods down to human world for celebration from their dwelling: mountains, trees, rocks. Celebration meant dining; dining with gods and entertaining them were believed to be a way for people to be closer to gods, not in hopes to obtain their superficial power, but for gods to work their power in favor of them.

Because dining was the common action of people and gods, tool used to eat had its distinct purpose and meaning. Celebratory Japanese chopsticks gradually gets thinner at both ends in order for people to use one end and gods to use the other to eat together using the same chopsticks.

By eating same dishes and using the same utensils, it gave people the pleasure to know that gods also welcomed what people had to offer in return for the god’s gratitude for good weather to produce what was offered to the gods as celebratory food.

Chopsticks in Japanese is called hashi; hashi, although written in different Chinese character, means “end of utensils or objects”.

Perhaps it was using different hashi (ends) of the same hashi (chopsticks) which brought ancient people to feel closer to gods rather than fearing them.


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