Do you consider yourself a chopstick ninja, picking grains of rice with your o-hashi like a pro? Well, you might need to reevaluate your skills, especially if you’ve been told by a Japanese person you how jouzu you are. Turns out, they may not actually know what they’re talking about!
In 2012, a survey conducted by Mejiro University revealed that only about 30% of Japanese men and women from their 30s to 50s correctly hold their chopsticks. What’s worse, the researchers also noticed that the proportion of people knowing where to correctly place their fingers is decreasing year after year.
I know it’s bad, but the right way to hold them has always been super annoying.
Children are taught to hold their chopsticks by their parents. However, the proper way to hold them (according to older generations) doesn’t feel easy or natural and requires training our fingers and hand muscles. Before even learning how to hold them, you actually have to know how to choose the right pair of chopsticks for your hand size. The path to chopstick mastery is like a combination of sport & mathematics.
How to (correctly) hold your chopsticks
First, you must know exactly where to place your fingers, starting with the upper chopstick.
Hold it about one-third of the way from the top like you would a pencil (of course, that involves knowing how to hold a pencil in the first place). To grab food, you only need to move the upper chopstick with your thumb, index, and middle fingers.
The lower chopstick goes against your ring finger and is held by the base of your thumb.
The debate on how many Japanese know how to hold their chopstick (and should we really care? 46,8% of Japanese are in favor of being tolerant) is still going strong years later after the survey.
Earlier this year, the results resurfaced on Twitter, when Chicago Cubs pitchers Darvish shared how he holds chopsticks on video.
— ダルビッシュ有(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) February 3, 2020
“By the way, here’s the way I hold chopsticks. I know it’s bad, but the right way to hold them has always been super annoying. This is the Reiwa era standard.”
Weeks later, the #箸の持ち方 buzzed once more.
— アイリス (@SetAboutIris) June 23, 2020
“Everyone can correctly hold their chopsticks like in these pictures, right? I can’t.”
These screenshots were taken from one of comedian Kentaro Kobayashi’s hilarious video series on Japanese traditions.
You probably won’t be able to eat that way.
“The coolest way to hold chopsticks”
“Looks like the way to hold chopsticks is becoming a trending topic.”
“Hey! It’s Kofuwakkuma.
How to hold chopsticks started trending. By the way, a little while ago, my brother and Kotsume were playing with chopsticks. It was cool! Should I practice how to hold chopsticks too?! Ah! I cannot hold them!
See you later!”
Expressing “hard to do” with にくい, づらい, and 難い
The Japanese language relies on a lot of prefixes and suffixes to add nuances to other words and verbs. Knowing them will help you hold more complex conversations. When you want to express that an action is hard to do, you can use the three suffixes にくい, づらい and 難い. All three are attached to verbs’ stem minus the ます form.
The first one, にくい is quite basic and probably the first you’ll learn in class. にくい refers to an objective difficulty, or external reason, for something to be difficult to do.
この地図はわかりにくいです = this map is difficult to understand
The suffix づらい, however, refers to how an action is mentally or physically difficult for you. In other words, doing the action is somehow stressful for the speaker.
お箸は使いづらいです = chopsticks are hard to use (for me)
Finally, the suffix 難い has very limited usage, specific to people’s understanding and feeling. You can only use 難い with verbs such as to agree, to imagine, to believe, to forgive, to approve, to admit, to forget.
理解し難い = hard to understand
So, are you a chopstick master or do you need to go back to school? Let us know in the comment!
|ちなみに||chinami ni||by the way|
|箸の持ち方||hashi no mochikata||way to hold chopstick|
|昔から||mukashi kara||from long ago|
|使いづらすぎる||tsukaidurasugiru||too hard to use|
|話題になる||wadai ni naru||to become a topic|
|トレンド入りする||torendoiri suru||start to trend|
|そういえば||souieba||by the way|
|お兄ちゃん||o ni chyan||brother|
|難い||gatai||hard to do (suffix)|
|にくい||nikui||hard to do (suffix)|
|づらい||du*rai (*pronounce dzu)||hard to do (suffix)|