Chopsticks are called hashi or ohashi in Japan. They are personal belongings, just as office mugs in the U.S., so that they are not to be shared even within a family. For that reason, there are many different sizes, designs, functions and materials of chopsticks to suit personal preference or needs.
Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese also use chopsticks, but they are different in lengths and shapes. They are typically made of wood, and have tapered pointed ends. Koreans use metal ones. Chinese and Vietnamese use longer ones with blunt endings.
Children’s chopsticks are shorter to accommodate small hands. Learning how to use chopsticks is not easy even for Japanese children, but as long as they are born as Japanese, they must master using them. Some parents buy training chopsticks for their small children.
Older generations lament that young Japanese increasingly hold chopsticks awkwardly. In Japan, adults who can’t handle them properly could give impression of immaturity.
Some people think that the use of a spork, a hybrid utensil of spoon and fork, which was widely used in a Japanese school lunch system after the WWII, turned children away from learning how to use chopsticks.
Spork was convenient and saved money. But due to the national cry, almost all Japanese schools now stopped using sporks, and switched to chopsticks or a combination of knife, fork, and spoon or chopsticks.
Most Japanese chopsticks are traditionally made of wood or bamboo, and often they are lacquered or varnished. Some of them have ribbed tips, so that they can grab and hold slippery noodles with a little more ease.
When guests are invited for dinner, disposable wood chopsticks or plain reusable guest chopsticks are used. Reusable ones are more personable than disposable ones and environmentally friendly.
Chopsticks may be purchased at Japanese grocery stores. For the people who are not used to use chopsticks, the ones with ribbed tips or disposable chopsticks give better grip of food.