Various chopstick rests; ideally, the tips protrude by one sun.
Chopsticks have always been accompanied by an unassuming, but very essential tool: the hashi-oki chopstick rest, which is sometimes also referred to as a hashi-makura, or chopstick pillow. Chopstick rests allow diners to eat and serve food without having to lay their chopsticks directly upon the table surface. In Japan, chopsticks are placed horizontally before one’s plate, with the tips pointing to the diner’s left. Traditional etiquette suggests that the tips protrude by one sun (3.03 cm, a little over one inch), so as not to touch the hashi-oki directly. Chopstick rests evolved from small unglazed earthenware called kawarake used during the Heian period (794-1185) to cradle chopsticks during meals. These days, hashi-oki are made from many materials, including wood, bamboo, ceramics and glass. They come in countless designs and motifs, many of which reflect the seasons or special festive events.