Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What's this?

 Ok, this isn't too hard. It's a toothpick. But look more closely. Toothpicks in America are sharp at both ends. Nicer ones are wood color and have a round shaft. Cheaper ones are colored and have a square shaft. You know the ones I'm talking about.

But Japanese toothpicks are sharp at only one end. The other end is rounded like the finial at the bottom of a staircase. A Japanese person told me you are supposed to break off the rounded end and lay it on the table and use it as a rest for the sharp end, just like a "hashi-oki" or chopsticks rest. This represents the Japanese attention to detail. In America, being able to use a toothpick twice is more useful. But for the Japanese, aesthetics and design are sometimes more important, even something as mundane as a toothpick can be made more beautiful.

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