Chop-sticking it to the Man

July 19, 2007 at 5:45 pm 2 comments

After sitting down for dinner with a few friends the other night, one girl held up a pair of shiny, plastic chopsticks she’d taken out from her purse. “I bring them wherever I go. It’s far more sanitary than using the restaurant’s utensils,” she said smugly. She’s the type to always lug a heavy load around her shoulder. Even if she’s jogging to the corner mailbox she’s got a bag with her. And so after dinner she wiped off her chopsticks, placed it back in a plastic case and returned it to her purse. It was an odd sight, but somehow made me want to carry a pair of my own.

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That’s what hundreds of Japanese girls are also doing now that it’s been publicly declared cool to do so. Back in May, over 110 hair-bleached and bronze-faced girls (otherwise known as gyaru, after the English word “gal.”) stormed the streets of Tokyo in a spirited rally to encourage others to use their own chopsticks when dining out. Each girl waved their chopsticks around like cheerleaders with brand-new batons. This comes after China declared a tax on wooden disposable chopsticks, an effort to show its environmental philanthropy by curbing deforestation.

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If you’ve ever been to Japan you know just how much the country relies on wooden chopsticks. At convenience stores and fast food bento chains, stock is overflowing with sticks as an offering to customers to come back soon. Even in Japanese homes, you’re sure to find a drawer-full for those just-in-case moments.

I never thought twice about wasting a pair. After all, they’re biodegradable and weigh no more than a couple ounces. (Sometimes I’d break apart a pair and if they split unevenly I’d scrap them and try again.) So what’s the shtick? How bad can the environment really be?

Well, apparently enough to get some worried about a chopstick scarcity. Enough to have someone hire a bunch of airy young girls to romp around town brandishing a polished pair like it was their new boyfriend. So it seems we have an environmental movement going on. In the next few years I expect Japanese companies to very receptive toward new trends, which also happen to help Mother Earth. Personally, I’ll probably tote my own pair of chopsticks … though only if they’re decorated with pink glitter and cute little animals… or maybe Hello Kitty. (^_<)/

Himawari

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Entry filed under: Japanese Business, Japanese Culture, Japanese Entertainment.

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