The word hashi means chopsticks in Japanese, and boy, do we use them all the time (I’m Japanese, by the way). My mother uses hashi to cook, and she even insists on using them to eat pasta, despite my repeated pleadings. Often, they are made of wood or plastic so that they can be used over and over. Many restaurants in Japan, however, offer their customers waribashi, or disposable chopsticks, to lessen their costs for washing. The word waribashi translates to “splitting hashi” in Japanese because it is made of a piece of wood with a cut-in so that they can be easily split in two before using. Each year Japan throws away 25 billion waribashi. That’s 200 pairs of waribashi per person each year! Not surprisingly, waribashi has become a symbol of wastefulness to many environmentalists, both within the country and abroad.
The My-Hashi movement arose to respond to their concerns, and it is steadily growing in popularity. The My-Hashi movement refers to bringing and using your own chopsticks when eating at a restaurant. After you finish eating, you take them home, wash, and reuse. Some restuarants wash your hashi before you leave. Others give discounts when you bring your own utensils. If you frequent a particular restaurant owned by the Marche group, you can enroll in the chopstick keep program, which allows regular customer to store their chopsticks at the restaurant.
A 23 year-old Japanese businesswoman even found a way to capitalize on this movement. At age 19, Shiho Fujita started her own company to market cosmetics, perfume, shoes, and clothing to hip young Japanese women. Fujita became eco, or environmentally conscious, after she noticed the garbage that was left on the streets of the Shibuya area of Tokyo. She and a friend decided to clean up the area that they love, picking up trash in the various parks around trendy Shibuya on Monday mornings before beginning work in their nearby office. Not long after that, she was introduced to the concept of my-hashi and decided to bring her own utensils when eating at a restaurant. Soon she began marketing her own line of fashionable chopsticks to encourage hip and trendy young women, known as gyaru in Japan, to become more eco. On Aug. 13, 2007, Fujita led 110 gyaru — many of them models — through the streets of Shibuya, each brandishing her own my-hashi and clad in the latest gear as part of an event called the Eco Fashion Parade.
Will we see models parade with chopsticks in the United States any time soon? Highly unlikely, but I think we can all learn from Japan’s My-Hashi movement. My Fork movement? My Spoon movement? How about My Spork movement? Perhaps the My-Hashi movement will inspire entrepreneurial Americans to start a new business. Move over, Henry Paulson, Utensils are here to rescue the American economy.