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If you watch a lot of samurai movies or TV shows, you might have noticed that a toothpick is about as common a costume accessory as a set of paired swords. The reason isn’t because samurai were particularly fastidious about dental hygiene, though. Many fictional samurai stories re set in the Edo period, when the end of Japan’s centuries of civil war caused the warrior class’ power and prestige to begin slowly but surely eroding.

The samurai were a prideful bunch, though, and were loath to admit the new societal reality that swordsman had suddenly become a far less lucrative profession. So even if they couldn’t afford to regularly fill their stomachs, many would still lodge a toothpick between their teeth to give the impression that they’d just polished off a lavish meal fit for a man of high rank.

Of course, it takes more than just a toothpick to transform yourself into a samurai. You’ll also need to talk the talk, which is why these traditionally made Japanese toothpicks come individually wrapped with period-correct samurai phrases, and even helpful English translations and pronunciation guides.

In Japan, it’s not uncommon to find workshops that have been making lacquerware, dolls, or paper in the same style for generations. But the country only has one dedicated toothpick maker, Tokyo’s Sarurya, which has been selling toothpicks for more than 300 years, or long enough that when the shop first opened the city was still called Edo.

Appropriately enough for a store that’s been around so long, Saruya’s newest product has a playfully historic aspect. Called Samurai Toothpicks, each wooden sliver comes individually wrapped, with each wrapper containing an old-school Japanese phrase from the days when a top-knot was the go-to hairstyle for men.

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Saruya is hoping the Samurai Toothpicks appeal not just to Japanese customers with something stuck between their teeth, but also to foreign shoppers with a taste for Japanese history and culture. The Japanese text is accompanied by its Romanized version for easy pronunciation, plus the English translation. In addition to korenite gomen, other phrases include iza mairou (“Let’s go”) and tanomou (“May I come in?”).

It’s not just the language that’s traditional, though, but the toothpicks’ construction as well. Made from spicebush, the picks are of the same style as those used to eat Japanese sweets during tea ceremonies. The material gives them a speckled greenish black color and makes them flexible yet sturdy, and even imparts a pleasant aroma to the toothpicks.

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1,026 yen (US$8.20) gets you two packs of 20 picks each. Customers can choose whether they’d like the whole bundle enclosed in the green ronin, red master swordsman, or orange loyal servant design.

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If you’re looking for a way to make learning a foreign language interesting, or just a post-meal conversation piece, you can order the Samurai Toothpicks directly from Saruya here and pick up some Japanese while you pick your teeth.

Shop information
Saruya / さるや
Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-12-5
Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Closed Sundays and holidays

Source: Japaaan
Top images: Saruya (edited by RocketNews24)
Insert images: Saruya