Bento item of the week: Make your own chopsticks kit, collapsible chopsticks

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Bento fans give a lot of thought to the bento boxes they use. But the utensils tend to be an afterthought. To me, whether it's chopsticks or a fork and spoon, the utensils I carry with my bento are an integral part of the whole bento eating experience.

In recent years there's been some backlash against the use of disposable chopsticks (waribashi) in Japan. Billions of waribashi_ are used in Japan, most of them imported from China, and because of the way they are made they are used once and then discarded (since the wood used is quite porous, they are impossible to clean properly). With an increasing awareness of the environmental impact of disposable chopsticks, there's a movement called _myhashi (My Chopsticks), which encourages people to carry their own chopsticks to use everywhere, even at restaurants. There's even a myhashi club people can join.

hashikit2.jpgTwo chopsticks stood out for me during my surfing this week. One is this Make Your Own Chopsticks kit from an environmental awareness group called <a href="Mottainai started by Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai (Wikipedia entry). (Mottainai basically means "it's a shame to waste".) The kit contains precut wood strips to make 5 pairs of chopsticks, sandpaper, beeswax and a polishing cloth. The photo at top shows how one could carve them with lots of skills. I doubt that someone using a utility cutter knife (as shown on the site) could do that kind of detailed carving, but just the idea of carving and polishing chopsticks that you would use every day is very appealing. You could do this on your own, selecting a straight piece of wood and assembling the supplies. It would be a great kit for say, Martha Stewart Living or someone like that to put out too, don't you think? (Let's hope someone's listening!)

  • Price: 2982 yen
  • Material: The chopstick wood is yew (ichii), which they say is relatively easy to carve.
  • Link

(Yes, it's another Japan-only shop. But this page makes me hope they'll extend their activities, and shop, elsewhere...)

(If you are interested in buying any of these featured Japanese bento items and you don't have a relative or friend in Japan to help you out, try the overseas shipping services listed on this page. Note this is not an endorsement of any of these services since I have not tried them myself, but they do get positive reviews from readers.)

Chopsticks on your cell phone?

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The other chopsticks that caught my eye aren't as romantic perhaps, but are possibly more practical. They are collapsible chopsticks that come in a little box that can double as a cell phone strap. There's no danger of forgetting your chopsticks this way! They are available from J-List in red and black. Having a pair in your purse or backpack could come in handy...you never know.

  • Price: $28.50
  • Material: plastic and metal?
  • Weight: 150g
  • Links for the red and black models (Disclaimer: Just Bento is a J-List affiliate.)