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The Art of Chopstick Wrapper Folding

Japanese Tip

Words / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

松本有一家即叫即造的蕎麥麵店叫三城,管理店面的只有店主一人,是一位七十多歲的婆婆,穿著男裝的和服,十分帥氣。每次離開三城時,我都會順便把紙製筷子套帶走。筷子套的設計很簡單,只寫著三城二字,是婆婆每天親手一筆一劃寫上去的,帶走它彷如帶走一片旅行的回憶。

紙製的筷子套就像是餐廳對客人的一種打招呼方式,可能很隨意,也可能很用心。辰巳雄基則覺得,在日本這個沒有小費文化的國家裡,筷子套也可以是客人給予店員的小費。辰巳雄基於學生時代,曾經於居酒屋作兼職,他清理客人離開後的桌子時,不時感到驚喜——筷子套被折成各種各樣的事物了!小橋、紙鶴、狗、小艇⋯⋯有時說不上是甚麼事物,只是被捏成一團,形態卻剛巧帥氣得很。當然筷子套不值錢,但辰巳雄基覺得客人用餐時不經意的折紙,給店員的繁忙工作裡帶來一點小趣味,這正是客人為店員留下的小費。

辰巳雄基自2012年開始,展開他收集筷子套的計劃「Japanese Tip」,花了一年半的時間,走遍日本各地的餐廳,後來又請各個城市餐廳幫忙,為他保留下客人留下的有趣筷子套,現時他的藏品已有一萬五千件之多。今年九月,「Japanese Tip」完成了在韓國舉行的展覽,現時展覽正在京都的書店Hohohoza舉行,其後更將移師到巴黎。辰巳雄基的藏品圖冊「箸袋でジャパニーズチップ!」(中譯:筷子袋,日本人的小費)亦已於今年夏天出版,看著千變萬化的筷子套折紙,不禁驚訝,這民族的創造力是何等流滲於生活裡。

In Matsumoto, there is a made-to-order soba noodle restaurant called Shanjiro. The only person managing the shop is also the restaurant owner — a handsome old lady in her 70s who wears man’s kimono. Every time after my visit to Shanjiro, I would take with me the chopstick wrapper. The wrapper is a simple design with only the shop name Shanjiro handwritten on it by the shopkeeper lady every day. This little item, to me, is a memory of my journey.

Chopstick wrapper can be seen as a greeting of a restaurant; it can be casual or sincere. Since tipping is not popular in Japanese culture, Yuki Tatsumi thinks chopstick wrappers can well be interpreted as another form of “tip” the customers give to their servers. Tatsumi once worked as a server in an izakaya restaurant when he was a student. When cleaning up the table, he often found nice surprises left by the customers. People would use chopstick wrapper to fold a bridge, a crane, a dog, a boat and many more little things. Sometimes it could be as simple as a crumpled wrapper that looks somehow stylish. Chopstick wrappers have no value at all, but Tatsumi believes these little things the customers made while enjoying their meals could cheer up the hardworking servers. It is a nice reward that can as well be seen as a tip.

Since 2012, Yuki Tatsumi has started his chopstick wrapper project called Japanese Tip. He spent one and a half year visiting restaurants all over Japan collecting interesting-looking chopstick wrappers left by the customers. He also got some help from restaurants in many cities to contribute to his collection. Until now, he has already collected fifteen-thousand pieces of chopstick wrapper. After the exhibition in Korea in September earlier this year, Japanese Tip has come back to Japan to exhibit in a bookshop in Kyoto called Hohohoza, before showing in Paris next. Tatsumi has also published a book back in summer titled Chopstick Wrapper: How the Japanese Tip that showcases the unlimited possibilities of wrapper folding. You would be surprised by how Japanese demonstrate their creativity in their everyday life.