KUMAMOTO – When you have finished your meal, you can eat your chopsticks!
A group in Kumamoto Prefecture promoting the wider use of tatami has developed “edible chopsticks” with the flavor of rushes, a material to make the traditional mats, in cooperation with a confectionery maker.
The Kumamoto Igsa and Tatami Conference plans to begin selling the product later this month over the internet.
“We hope this will lead to a revival of tatami culture and the expansion of demand for rushes produced in the prefecture,” said an official at the conference in charge of the product.
Each baked confectionery chopstick, made by Marushige Inc. based in Hekinan, Aichi Prefecture, is 20 cm long and 1 cm thick, and tastes mildly sweet and bitter with a subtle rush flavor.
After being mixed with rush powder, dough made from wheat and eggs is baked slowly at a low temperature, making its texture similar to hardtack. Even if soaked in soup, it does not soften.
Rush is said to have antibacterial effects, and in olden times was grown in rice fields and taken as an herbal medicine, the conference said.
The conference also said that a pair of the edible chopsticks contains about the same amount of dietary fiber as a bowl of salad.
Farm ministry statistics show the Yatsushiro region in southern Kumamoto Prefecture accounts for more than 90 percent of domestic rushes used to make tatami.
Domestically grown rushes, however, are facing weaker demand due to the spread of cheaper tatami made in China and tatami made from chemical fibers, as well as the Westernization of lifestyles.
“I would like to propose a new use for rushes,” said Manabu Fukushima, a 39-year-old attendee at the conference.
A set of 10 of the novelty chopsticks will be sold for ¥1,930 on the website.