This time culinary rather than angling: “collapsible” screw-in chopsticks. These I bought with the screw fittings already set in the raw wood and the whole cut down to the right size; I just sanded the wood smooth, shaped the chopsticks a little and then lacquered them. This time I used a technique called “Rubbed Urushi” which looks a little different to the kind of finish you get on bamboo fishing rods.
Most restaurants here in Japan will be happy for you to bring your own chopsticks as it saves them the expense of a pair of wooden ones, which are thrown away after use. If you eat out just one meal out of 21 in a week, in a year that is a saving of more than 50 pairs. Some restaurants these days in fact try to cut down on their use of wood chopsticks and have changed to plastic washable ones, but unfortunately here in Japan in the snootier higher-end eateries, conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste is a mark of status and rank and prestige, and these places will almost invariably serve out throw-away wood chopsticks, invariably contained in equally wasteful decorated paper wrappers. It always amuses me to whip out my chopsticks, in restaurants high or low, to see the reaction of the proprietors and other customers. My local bar and also my local sushi restaurant gladly take my chopsticks away and rinse them clean for me at the end of my meal. For those who can’t/won’t lacquer their own chopsticks, there are several stores in Tokyo which specialise in chopsticks, for the gourmand. They make excellent presents for friends and family, and if you can persuade even five of your acquaintances to carry their own chopsticks when they eat out in Japan, you are making a considerable difference.
Anyway, these chopsticks break down into halves 11cm long, so when wrapped up in their little printed bag can be easily stowed in one’s pocket or hand-bag. The design of the bag print is a traditional Japanese motif called asa no ha, or ‘cannabis leaf.’ Before the Allied powers took control of Japan in 1945 and proscribed it, cannabis grew all over Japan, both cultivated and wild: in particular, its fibre was used to make clothing, twine and sandals, and its oil was used in traditional remedies. The more enterprising among GIs stationed in rural areas amused themselves to soaring levels as they helped eradicate the ‘dangerous drug’ from Japan. They were not entirely successful however, and to this day cannabis finds many uses in Japan. My rod-making work clothes are made entirely from hemp fibre as it is tough, light and cool – the last being particularly important when so much time is spent sat in front of a charcoal brazier, and the many occasions where physical exertion is necessary. A quick examination of festival-goers’ sandals will show they are made from wound hemp twine. And even one of the seven ingredients of the traditional Japanese hot pepper powder shichimi (lit. “Seven Tastes”) is cannabis seed!