Dear Miyabi supporters, you may know that when the Japanese pick up chopsticks before starting to eat they say “itadakimasu”. What they say is about this: we accept with thanks the gifts of food, and the sticks will serve us not only as a tool, but also a reminder of an important wisdom. I’m not exaggerating. Here is an explanation.
It is important to know that Japanese chopsticks are called ohashi in Japanese. An “O” in that word indicates respect and gratitude: it is a courtesy prefix. Similarly, the prefix “o” is added to the word kaasan, means mother. People call their mothers okaasan. The word hashi as a wand has a synonym word hashi to it, but this time it means a bridge. Of course, the bridge for crossing from one side to the other is written with a different calligraphy character than chopsticks, but the different characters do not prevent from our further philosophical considerations. It can often be the key to humorous connections. Jokes. The Japanese love to play with words. Anyone who knows Japanese humor knows his well.
Eating chopsticks are simply two sticks. They may be ivory or gold, but such are used only rarely in Japan. The highest hierarchy for ohashi chopsticks are chopsticks made of unpainted, precisely processed white wood. In addition, both sides have the same shape. One side is thought to be for us and the other for something/someone above us. For God’s sake. Chopsticks remind us to thank for the gifts of life. To be thankful. And because we are what we eat, and because the tool for eating are chopsticks, a bridge is created here between nature and us – the hashi without “o”. What’s more, a bridge is being formed between us humans and our overlap, that is, deities.
This is what people in Japan have believed since ancient times. Chopsticks and a bridge are one. Ohashi and hashi. They have mutual connection. Chopsticks, whether unpainted or lacquered wooden, decorated with precious metals or even modern plastic, carry many symbols and reminders. They are not just a tool for eating, they are a communication bridge to our soul. They are always in pairs. They express the power of cooperation. They symbolize love. Chopsticks serve, but they do not dwell in self. They are ideals of selflessness. Chopsticks symbolize care. They are tools of showing interpersonal respect in relationships. Chopsticks simply have the right to be honored. The prefix “o” rightly belongs to them!
People in Japan think that a person’s soul is embodied in the ohashi they eat with. That’s why everyone has their own ohashi in households. The longest are for Dad, the smaller for Mom, and even smaller ones for children. The family grandmother has her own chopsticks and grandfather his own. And still other chopsticks are there ready for guests. People never inter exchange chopsticks. Chopsticks are not inherited from others. They are part of every single person. They are buried with their owners. Until the owner is alive and until the sticks are not damaged, they are used. When the sticks break or fall down to the ground, superstitious people have a subject to worry about what it means. Chopsticks simply represent their owner. The role of good parents is to transfer to their children the best possible etiquette in the handling of chopsticks. The chopsticks should be properly taken from the table, they should be properly held, they should be used for eating correctly and they should also put down correctly. How someone handles chopsticks reveals what family he comes from and what his social status is. And the Japanese are watching. They truly are!
I have my own story for that. It happened in the early 80’s. My Japanese husband and I went to introduce ourselves to the Tea ceremony teacher. We both wanted to become disciples of chadou art together, because we believed that it would help us in our international marriage. We knew that this teacher only accepted foreign students of the International Christian University ICU as his disciples. I was a university student and I was also a foreigner. Of course, my Japanese husband did not qualify. He graduated from a different university and was a working salaryman. The teacher seated us on the tatami in his tea room, where everything was ready for the Tea ceremony. A moment later he brought a tray in front of us, and on it was a lacquered bowl of sweet boiled oshiruko beans and chopsticks. He encouraged us to eat. We ate and waited for his verdict. And then the teacher turned to me and said, “I will accept you both. Your husband, by marrying a foreigner, is now half a foreigner himself. But most importantly, he can’t eat properly with chopsticks. Come both next Sunday and we’ll start. ”
The lesson of this story is: If you want to be prepared to visit Japanese hosts, learn to eat nicely with chopsticks. Now it occurs to me, do you want to try it together? We can meet in Miyabi in a new Zen house. The environment itself will put chopsticks in your hand as a tool to encourage you for thanksgiving to life and human community. Send me a message about your interest and then things will happen!.