The classic Japanese chopsticks came a long way from their humble origins in China to our Japanese restaurant in Bellevue. It is thought that the first chopsticks came about five thousand years ago. When fuel was scarce, the ancient Chinese would cut up their meat into smaller pieces so that it would cook faster. Cooks and diners found that they were able to make effective use of a simple pair of sticks to handle their meals, and the practice slowly caught on.
Confucius embraced the chopsticks, promoting their use as an eating utensil among all of his followers. The knife and the fork, he reasoned, were crude and vulgar instruments associated with the slaughterhouse, and a civilized diner should aspire to separate himself from this as much as possible. The utensils therefore spread across the Asian continent along with Confucian teachings to Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.
When chopsticks first made their start in Japan around 500 ad, they were only used for religious ceremonies. These first sticks were crafted from bamboo and connected at the top ends, like a set of tongs. Gradually, the sticks made their way into the common dinner table; the nobility would have sticks made from jade or precious metals to show off their stature. Silver chopsticks were popular, as it was believed that the metal would always stain when touched by poison.