This is a ninja hashioki — by virtue of the fact that it came from a ninja themed restaurant in Tokyo.
Ninjas, of course, were the infamous special agents or mercenaries who came to prominence during the feudal period in Japan. They were spies, and some of them reportedly strayed into arson, sabotage or even assassination. The meaning of the kanji used to write ninja means “person who steals away,” and the ninjas were masters of stealth, camouflage, and the martial arts. They disguised themselves as monks or peddlers during the daytime, and dressed in black from head to toe to sneak around invisibly at night. At the Ninja Akasaka restaurant on the ground floor of Tokyo’s Capitol Tokyu Hotel they have been romanticized into a smiling wait staff who surreptitiously appear from behind sliding doors, serve foods such as breadsticks shaped like ninja throwing stars, and then perform magic tricks at the end of the meal.
This rustic hashioki from the restaurant appears to be made out of wood that has almost burnt into charcoal, but it is actually made from a ceramic material, which is a kind of subterfuge in itself. Still, I think it’s disappointing. A ninja hashioki should magically transform itself into a weapon, or shape shift into some kind of primitive espionage tool. At the very least a ninja hashioki should have a secret compartment, like this rather mundane imitation lacquer example purchased in a un-ninjalike department store that conceals a hidden compartment for toothpicks.
Then again, perhaps my ninja hashioki does have secret powers, because it certainly made a miscreant out of me. When we returned to our hotel after dinner that night this hashioki was hiding in the bottom of my handbag….