Wajima, a small town in Ishikawa prefecture, is located in the far north of the Noto Peninsula, which sticks out into the Sea of Japan. Although Wajima is situated in a somewhat remote location, its rustic charm attracts a lot of tourists every year.
The most renowned attraction in Wajima is its morning market which has more than 1,000 years of history. This market opens every day from 8 a.m. to noon – with the exception of the first three days of each year and the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. Along the 360 m-long lively street, there are more than 200 market stalls selling seafood, vegetables, fruits, as well as Wajima’s famous lacquerware.
Wajima is also famous for its unique traditional festivals. The biggest and most exciting of them, Wajima Grand Festivals, is a collection of four different festivals which take place annually from August 22 to 25. During these festivals, kiriko lanterns, which are large, rectangular and typically four to five meters tall, are carried around the town. You can find examples of gigantic kiriko lanterns at Wajima Kiriko Art Museum.
About ten kilometers outside of Wajima along the coastline are the Senmaida rice terraces. “Senmaida” means 1,000 rice fields, but there actually are 1,004 of them. These beautifully-tiered rice fields are still farmed today, and rice harvested there is sold at a shop next to the fields.
Modern but Traditional
Our company, Hashimoto Kosaku Lacquerware Shop, a manufacturer specializing in lacquered chopsticks, was established in 1949 in Wajima, where the Wajima lacquerware was born. Although the exact origin of the Wajima lacquerware has not been discovered, it is known that some lacquer craftspeople were already active in Wajima in 1476.
Wajima lacquerware, one of the best lacquerware in Japan, is famous for its durability and beautiful finishing. But nowadays, especially among the younger generation, the image of lacquerware has become something not stylish, not affordable and not easy to handle.
With this background, in 2021, we launched our new brand “18 Zen” in the hopes of making lacquerware more accessible to a wide variety of people.
Our brand name, 18 Zen, is a combination of the Japanese expression “ohako,” and the way to count pairs of chopsticks. “Ohako,” written as “No. 18” in Japanese, refers to one’s specialty. This expression is said to come from kabuki, the Japanese traditional drama. A long time ago, a group of kabuki actors chose 18 kabuki plays which they excelled in performing and kept those scripts in a box, which is “hako” in Japanese (“o” is a prefix expressing politeness). As a result, No. 18 has come to be read as “ohako” and refers to something that someone is most good at. “Zen” is a Japanese way of counting pairs of chopsticks. By combining these two words, we express our desire of applying our best lacquering skills to craft excellent pairs of chopsticks.
Antibacterial Wood and Durable Lacquer
Noto cypress, a type of coniferous tree which is native to the Noto region where Wajima is located, is the one and only wood we use. We believe we can contribute to maintaining our healthy forests by doing so.
Another reason for using Noto cypress is its durability. Noto cypress contains a great amount of hinokitiol, the antibacterial natural agent which is effective in preventing bacteria and fungi from growing. This is why Noto cypress is decay- and moisture-resistant, and is tougher than other types of wood.
Lacquer contains urushiol, a substance which prevents food poisoning. Lacquer also is able to resist heat, water and decay. For these reasons, lacquering is the best finish for wooden tablewares, especially for chopsticks.
The Wajima lacquerware requires multiple layers of lacquer, and we only use natural lacquer for these. On the tip of each chopstick, we apply a special textured lacquer to prevent food from slipping. This also provides extra sturdiness which promises a longer life cycle.
Some people may have heard about skin irritation caused by lacquer – but it only happens when lacquer is raw. Our finished products are completely dry and perfectly safe to use.
Safe Chopsticks for Everyone
In this day and age, our lifestyles and tastes have become more diverse. Keeping this in mind, at 18 Zen, we have created 18 series of modern and lightweight lacquered chopsticks which come in five different colors. With this wide variety, we think it is possible for anyone to find their favorite pairs of chopsticks.
Since chopsticks will touch your food and mouth directly while being used, we also care about the quality. That is why we only use 100% natural materials, namely Noto cypress and natural lacquer, which are completely safe for our bodies.
Maintenance is super easy – just wash by hand and wipe off with a soft cloth. Please remember lacquerware is not suitable for dishwashers and microwaves. Putting them in such appliances may damage the chopsticks and shorten their lifespan.
We hope our handcrafted lacquered chopsticks will be added to your daily tablewares.