Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chopstick Violation!!

For Golden Week, I took a trip to Nagano, Gifu, Aichi, & Kyoto w/ a friend visiting from the United States. While we were in Takayama, Laura & I stopped in a nice restaurant recommended by one of the locals. At one point, my friend wanted a taste of my apple cider drink. It was kind of frothy, so I stirred it a bit, and then took the long spoon out of the drink so it wouldn't poke her in the eye.

Apparently, I didn't stir it enough because she proceeded to use the opposite end of her used chopstick to stir the drink, rather than ask me for the long spoon. My first reaction was to shout something like ***GAAAAAH***, then I sputtered something like "what are you doing?!? the spoon is right here! don't use your chopsticks for something like that...they're practically sacred!!" She didn't seem particularly fazed by it, and made it seem like I overreacted.

Well, maybe I did overreact, but it was a good exuse for me to do a little research into the terms used to describe the ways one can violate chopstick etiquette in Japan. If you ever commit a violation, it's good to know a few of these to have a conversation about chopstick-etiquette; my Japanese co-workers seemed to like trying to remember as many as they could.

Here are the ones I could find. I put a star next to the ones that seem to be the most common or at least widely recognized terms. (It seems that no one had even contemplated my friend's particular violation, so maybe I should invent a new one: 混ぜ箸 maze-bashi ("stirring chopsticks"). Otherwise, it's probably a combination of (3), (5) and (13).)

*(1) 迷い箸(惑い端) mayoi-bashi ("wavering chopsticks")
being indecisive about bringing food to one's mouth, that is, moving the tips of one's chopsticks over different plates before deciding which to choose

(2) 移り箸 utsuri-bashi ("transfering-chopsticks")
in spite of having touched food with one's chopsticks, changing one's mind and moving the chopsticks toward another dish.
also defined as: helping oneself to two side dishes successively (instead of eating rice in between)

(3) 涙箸 namida-bashi ("teardrop-chopsticks")
dripping liquid (soup, sauce, etc.) from the tips of one's chopsticks

*(4) 突き箸 tsuki-bashi or 刺し箸 sashi-bashi ("penetration/stabbing-chopsticks")
stabbing food with one's chopsticks

*(5) 探り箸 saguri-bashi ("searching-chopsticks")
using one's chopsticks to find a food one likes by rummaging in one's dish, pot, etc.

(6) 寄せ箸 yose-bashi ("drawing near-chopsticks")
using one's chopsticks to draw a bowl closer

(7) 空箸 sora-bashi ("empty-chopsticks")
touching food with one's chopsticks, then removing the chopsticks without having taken the food

(8) 重ね箸 kasane-bashi ("pile-chopsticks")
continuing to eat the same dish, i.e., not alternating between types of dishes

(9) 椀ぎ箸 mogi-bashi ("tearing off-chopsticks")
using chopsticks to tear food away from one's mouth

(10) 持ち箸 mochi-bashi ("holding-chopsticks")
taking hold of something (e.g., a bowl) while simultaneously holding one's chopsticks

*(11) 指し箸 sashi-bashi ("pointing-chopsticks")
pointing at something with one's chopsticks

*(12) 渡し箸 watashi-bashi ("traversing-chopsticks")
resting one's chopsticks across the top of one's bowl, like a bridge

(13) 洗い箸 arai-bashi ("washing-chopsticks")
sticking one's chopsticks into broth, etc., to clean them off

*(14) 舐り箸 neburi-bashi ("licking-chopsticks")
licking one's chopsticks

(15) 噛み箸 kami-bashi ("biting-chopsticks")
biting one's chopsticks

(16) 掻き箸 kaki-bashi ("scooping-chopsticks")
shoveling food into one's mouth
(17) 握り箸 nigiri-bashi ("grasping-chopsticks")
holding two sticks together as one would grasp a knife to attack
*(18) 仏箸Hotoke-bashi ("Buddha-chopsticks")
standing chopsticks up in a ricebowl (resembling joss sticks)
*(19) 箸渡しhashi-watashi ("chopstick-transfer")
transfering food to another person's chopsticks
(apparently, the action is frowned upon because it resembles the rite of transfering a deceased family member's bones. Fair enough!)
>>NB: Not to be confused with 橋渡し 【はしわたし】 (n,vs) bridge building; mediation; intermediary; through the good offices of, etc.
Phew! That's a lot to remember! Did I miss any?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Origin of Tekkamaki

I was at a kaiten-sushi the other day and a friend visiting from NY asked what the "kappa" was in "kappa-maki" so I told her that the river imp in Japanese folklore, the kappa, likes to eat cucumber, which is the main ingredient in a kappa-maki.

However, I couldn't answer her question about the tekka-maki. I looked up tekka and the dictionary only had "red hot iron" so the etymology wasn't clear to me. I looked it up on wikipedia and here is the entry:

"Tekkamaki (鉄火巻き) is a kind of Hosomaki filled with raw tuna. Although some believe that the name "Tekka", meaning 'red hot iron', alludes to the color of the tuna flesh, it actually originated as a quick snack to eat in gambling dens called "Tekkaba (鉄火場)", much like the sandwich."