Mansaku Gallery: A Century Long History Of Chopstick & Earthenware Making

Marriage is like twirling a baton, turning hand springs or eating with chopsticks. It looks easy until you try it. – Billl Bryson  

Whether you’re a luxury traveler, an artisanal products collector or somebody just looking for a gift; one thing is for sure: Asakusa got you covered. Previously, I’ve talked about two shops that features authentic artisanal Japanese crafts. Today, I visited another store that features some of the most important parts of the Japanese tradition: Chopsticks and earthenware. Join me as we visit Mansaku Gallery and Mansaku Asakusa Shin Nakamise to uncover what’s special about chopsticks and it’s relevance in the Japanese culture. 

Address & other details

Address: 1-chome 20-12, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0032, Tokyo Prefecture Someya Building

Contact: 075 585 5598

Schedule:  10:00 AM – 07:00 PM  

MAP

WHY OFFER CHOPSTICKS AS A PRESENT

The *kanji character “箸” or “Hashi” as the Japanese calls it has two different meanings: ‘Bridge’ and ‘Chopstick’. In Japan, it is believed that chopsticks serves as a symbol for a connection between two people, which is why it is presented as a gift to a child or a person leaving the house to remind them of their connection to their family or as a gift to newly married couple as it symbolizes how one cannot be without the other, for a single chopstick on its own may be deemed of no use. 

Chopsticks are also regarded as good gifts in Japan for special occasions such as Mother’s Day, Birthdays, Father’s Day and even those celebrating long years of friendship. Really, who wouldn’t want to receive this as a souvenir? 

(*Kanji is a system of written characters adapted from the Chinese language where content words and names usually come from.)

WHAT TO SEE INSIDE THE STORE

Hashiya Mansaku boasts of their traditional lacquering techniques and earthenware firing techniques which are some of the most celebrated in Japan. With their aim of being able to “Make all kinds of chopsticks”, they make use of variety of raw materials from the Japanese tree “Kiri”, Cypress, Magnolia to porcelains and many more. 

Their lacquering techniques also makes use of “Wajima”, “Tsugaru” and “Wakasa” lacquer-wares which are famous for their glamour and top-quality. Another part of the large range of products they offer are their chopstick rests or “Hashi-oki” which are made using the “Kiyomizu” and “Kyutani” earthenware firing techniques. These techniques which dates back as far as late 15th to early 16th century was used by Japanese artisans in order to create brilliant colored porcelains. 

The Japanese tree “Kiri” which is one of the main materials their chopsticks are made from is also popular among Japanese artisans for a variety of reasons: being insect-repellent, anti-moisture and shock or crack resistant. Thus, making it a perfect material to produce chopsticks from. 

Daruma and lit lanterns welcome you to the store

Set of chopsticks with different materials and designs

It is believed that men’s chopsticks is slightly longer than that of women’s

Traditional chopstick holders

Hashi oki or chopstick rests

Beautiful wooden box used to place chopsticks in when presenting them as a gift

TRADITIONAL EARTHENWARES

Beside Hashiya Mansaku in Asakusa, you will also find their “Mansaku Gallery” which features their most current collection of earthenwares. These earthenwares are created using the same firing techniques they use in making their chopstick rests. Upon entering the store, you will see uniquely Japanese designed platters such as “Taiyaki” and “Juunishi” or Japanese zodiac designs. They also sell set of platters with matching cups which is perfect as gifts for your platter-collector friend. 

THOUGHTS?

Personally, I learned a lot by visiting this shop. Although I’ve been to Japan a couple of times I didn’t really take the time to learn about their culture in-depth before. I only visited popular shops and tourist destinations so this was a very good experience for me. Also, their staff fashions a Japanese samurai haircut which was pretty cool. He was also well informed about their products, where they came from and even challenged us if we can use chopsticks by picking a tiny seed using their product. They have very diverse and intricate designs for all sorts of people from minimalists, kawaii-lovers to elegant fashionistas. I know I’ll be back to buy a couple before I go back home to my motherland for Christmas. 

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TRIVIA

  • Chopsticks first arrived in Japan around 55 A.D from China
  • Japan was the first to create disposable chopsticks made of bamboo and wood.
  • In the past, silver chopsticks were used by Royals to check if there is poison in their food. It is believed that silver chopsticks changes color when in contact with poison. 
  • Visit their website for ongoing sale and new design information: https://mansaku1848.com/ 

 

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