How to make an izakaya-grade chopstick.

Jan Chipchase
Nov 15 · 3 min read

I’ve been working on a side project with fellow Japan-based designers James Gibson and Eko Hayashi. It all started with a visit to a chopstick factory in Yoshino, Nara.

In a hurry? Just visit

Want the backstory? Read on…

Every year billions of disposable chopsticks in Japan are thrown away after a single meal. While 99% of these are imported from China, the remaining 1% percent are manufactured in Japan using upcycled premium wood from the construction industry.

Yoshino in Nara prefecture is the historical center of Japan’s timber industry. Surrounded by sustainable forests of cypress and cedar, there are twenty-six timber mills still active in the town, and two family run chopstick factories.

The production of disposable chopsticks in Yoshino started in the late 1800’s, from the recycling of used sake barrels. It is also home to the Kitamura Seihashisho founded in 1970. Kitamura san specialises in making izakaya-grade chopsticks — known for using high quality wood, and a clean snap when a pair are pulled apart. Most of their customers are high-end izakayas and ryōteis in and around Tokyo.

An early association between Yoshino and chopsticks came through Sen no Rikyū. Born in 1522, he is known as the founder of wabicha style tea ceremony and a pioneer of wabi — celebrating beauty in imperfect things. He was known to carve chopsticks for his guests using wood from Yoshino, as a way of enhancing social interaction before meals.

While the chopstick making process uses upcycled wood from the home construction industry, it also generates left-over wood in the form of a single piece that is the perfect wood, length and height for a pair of chopsticks, but is not wide enough to make a full pair. These were discarded, collected and burned to heat the wood-softening sauna. Until now!

Hamidashimono (はみだしもの) is the wood that is leftover from the chopstick manufacturing process, as shown in this short video. Every Hamidashimono is collected, stored and dried as if it were a regular pair of izakaya-grade chopsticks and once whittled, sanded and wiped clean, is ready for use in eating.

We source our Hamidashimono #1 from the family-owned Kitamura Seihashisho, and commissioned a custom made cedar storage container, and washi strips that can bind the finished pair together. A brass Higonokami whittling knife (familiar to Japanese schoolkids for sharpening pencils) is included, and the whole kit is bound in a silk-screened, indigo dyed tenugui — a versatile traditional cloth that is often used to carry objects.

To make a single pair of chopsticks good enough for eating with takes about fifteen minutes — and is the ideal pre-dinner activity over good conversation and a glass of sake. It takes months of practice to become a true hashi tatsujin — chopstick master.

We’re pleased to announce the launch of the Hamidashimono #1 — a kit for making izakaya-grade chopsticks using upcycled cypress from the Kitamura Seihashisho chopstick factory.

For gift-giving season we’ve made a limited number of Hamidashimono #1 kits available for sale. For more, head over to

Jan Chipchase

Written by

Founder, Studio D Radiodurans. Writing at the intersection of design, human behaviour & culture @janchip

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