After years of using her own style, our Japanese-born reporter finally does what her parents were trying to get her to do all along.

Our Japanese-language reporter Saya was born in Japan and has spent her whole life living here, a life which naturally involves feeding herself. So of course she knows how to use chopsticks…she just doesn’t use them the “right” way.

From an early age, her parents tried to correct her table manners, encouraging her to adopt the orthodox grip for Japan’s traditional eating utensils. Saya resisted, though, until she reached the age where no one can tell her what to do…except for Saya herself.

Though it’s been floating around for a while, Saya recently rewatched the YouTube video below, uploaded by a chopsticks store in Fukui Prefecture, which is titled The Correct Way to Hold Chopsticks. According to the video, and classical Japanese etiquette, the proper way to use them is like this:

Saya’s self-developed technique, though, is quite different. Among other things, she holds the top stick lower on her thumb than you’re supposed to, notching it into the joint where the digit’s tip bends.

▼ Saya Style

Figuring the “correct” way to hold chopsticks wouldn’t have gotten that name unless there was something to it, Saya decided to try it for a week and see if there’s any benefit to it.

▼ The start of Saya’s training (cue Rocky theme)

As per the video’s recommendation, after gripping her chopsticks correctly Saya practiced simply grabbing the air 20 times before each meal. Then, to get some sort of measurable performance parameter, she used her chopsticks to transfer 20 soybeans from one side of a divided plate to the other.

To establish a baseline, she first performed the test using the improper Saya Style, and the task took her 2 minutes and 11 seconds. Then she switched to the correct grip and did it again, and this time she was even slower, with a time of 2 minutes and 26 seconds.

Add in the physical discomfort of using the muscles in her fingers, hand, and wrist in a way that felt unfamiliar to her, and Saya started to wonder what the point was. However, even though moving the beans had taken her longer using the correct grip, she noticed that she was less likely to have a bean squirt out from between her chopsticks after managing to pick it up. The correct grip seemed to equalize the amount of pressure each stick exerted on the bean, and with rounded chopstick tips needing to grip a round morsel, the balanced force coming from above and below helped keep the bean secure.

Seeing the potential in the correct grip, Saya kept at it. Having to consciously tell herself to go against the muscle memory she’d developed over decades of putting food in her face was a tough hurdle, and even when she remembered to do that, physical fatigue would start to set in towards the end of the test, resulting in sloppier form and weaker grip.

▼ Plus there was the added pressure of having to perform in front of the judging eyes of her cat.

But on Day 2, Saya cut her correct grip time exactly in half, completing the test in 1 minute and 13 seconds, almost a full minute faster than she’d managed the day before with her Saya Style grip!

Her personal best came on Day 3, when she broke the one-minute barrier with a time of 54 seconds, and aside from her very first test, she never took more than a 1 minute 21 seconds, with her Day 7 time being a very respectable 1 minute 4 seconds.

▼ Saya’s time charts (Saya Style baseline in green, day-by-day correct grip results in blue)

It’s worth keeping in mind that Saya is far from the only Japanese person who doesn’t normally use the correct chopstick grip. It’s not like they made that video specifically for her and her alone, and even public broadcaster NHK recently referred to the grip shown in the video as merely the “traditional” way.

Still, there are sticklers for old-school etiquette who’ll be impressed if you use the grip, and even if you’re unconcerned with what anyone else thinks, it looks like the correct/traditional way to use chopsticks is also the fast way to use them.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he considers it a personal victory if he can get through a meal without dropping food on himself, regardless of what sort of utensils he’s using.

[ Read in Japanese ]