All about Japanese chopsticks: A dive into the deep world of wooden chopsticks at “Hashikatsu Honten”

Since the store opened in 1910, “Hashikatsu Honten” carries more than 80 kinds of chopsticks, including chopsticks used by the Japanese Imperial Family, high-end disposable chopsticks for hotels, airplanes, and restaurants, and festive chopsticks when having guests for a celebrative meal. Visiting the shop is not only a fun shopping experience but also a deep dive into Japanese chopsticks culture.

“Hashikatsu Honten”

“Hashikatsu Honten” is only a 5-minute walk from Akihabara Station. After crossing Akihabaras vibrant “Electric Town” with shop after shop selling anime, games, and futuristic gadgets, you suddenly find yourself standing in front of a retro building with those typical Japanese half-length shop curtains.

More than 80 kinds of chopsticks

When you enter the store, the first thing you will notice is the cabinet right under the ceiling with large Chinese characters on them. They say “kunaicho goyo“, meaning something like “Purveyor of the Imperial Household Agency”.This special cabinet holds chopsticks especially made for Japan’s Imperial family. “Hashikatsu Honten” is a so-called “Purveyor of the Imperial Household Agency”, which are carefully chosen merchants and producers who each deliver one kind of product to the emperor’s family and household. “Hashikatsu Honten” is in charge of ALL chopsticks for the royals and their guests.

The chopsticks used by the imperial family are stored behind this door.
This is just a small selection of chopsticks used emperor’s family and household. The chopsticks are made of white willow wood, which is said to bring luck.

The shelves in the store are full of chopsticks in different sizes, colors, and materials. There are high-end disposable chopsticks made from domestic wood for commercial use in restaurants and “celebratory chopsticks” for entertaining guests at home.

Shelves filled with chopsticks.

Many regular customers use the store’s chopsticks on New Year’s Day, school entrance celebrations, and for special occasions, called “hare” days.

Beautiful celebratory chopsticks
Chopsticks for “okuizome” (right) for the first meal on the 100th to 120th day after birth when the baby’s teeth begin to grow, and tiny “Children’s chopsticks” (left).
These chopsticks in paper bags with Japanese patterns on them are perfect for fans of the manga/anime “Kimetsu no Yaiba”, right?

Get in touch with Japanese chopstick culture

Chopsticks made of Japanese cypress and cedar

If you have ever eaten Japanese food, you have certainly used disposable chopsticks made of wood or bamboo. When you take a closer look at these chopsticks, you will see that they come in various shapes, lengths, and materials.

The length of chopsticks depends on the occasion. They all have a different purpose.
The chopsticks are differently shaped, too. There are so many types such as circles, rounded squares, pentagons, and even hexagons!

Chopsticks with thin ends on both sides have a special meaning. Since ancient times, Japanese people believed that during festivals, they share their food with the gods (kami). One end of the chopsticks is used by oneself and the other end is used by the gods. This is a way for the Japanese to wish for happiness. Therefore, even now, when entertaining guests, it’s said to be good manners to use “hare” chopsticks with thin ends on both sides. This tradition expresses the beautiful mindset of the Japanese people for whom every single encounter is a precious “ichigo ichi-e“, a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

Chopsticks for guests and special occasions with thin ends on both sides.
The five-sided (= “gokaku“) chopsticks on the left front are used when wishing for passing (= “gokaku“) an entrance examination. There are also humorous chopsticks such as “just for udon noodles” and “just for hot pot”.

Wooden chopsticks are eco-friendly?!

Japanese disposable chopsticks are made from domestic wood. They are carved out of the leftovers of wood used for building materials that have no other use. It’s a way to eliminate waste and value ​​resources. Japanese people who very are particular about clean, hygienic tableware generally use disposable chopsticks only once and then throw them away, but in fact, unlacquered wood chopsticks can be reused. According to “Hashikatsu Honten”, wooden disposable chopsticks can be washed and reused at home for about a year. If you want to try that at home, too, you should choose disposable chopsticks that are already separated (not the ones that are connected on one side at first).

Eco-friendly chopsticks made from timber from forest thinning.

High-grade chopsticks from “Hashikatsu Honten” are perfect as a Japanese gift and when treating special guests at home. So why don’t you get a pair of exceptional chopsticks for a happy “hare” occasion?

Hashikatsu Honten (Japanese, English)
Hashikatsu Building 1st floor, 3-1-15 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Nearest stations: Akihabara Station, Suehirocho Station