When I go on vacation I have a somewhat different mindset than most travelers.
Sure, I want to have a good time. I want to relax, see some interesting sites, eat some great food, and so on. But when I’m traveling a question is always nagging me: will I be able to find some new hashioki for my collection?
For the record, I’ve been pretty successful. I’ve purchased hashioki on trips to Amsterdam, London, Boston, Dallas, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Las Vegas, New York, and other places. So I had high hopes for adding to my collection on my trip to Australia this month.
I was moderately successful; I found five new pieces. But the story of my quest for hashioki in Australia provides some insight into what it’s like to be an obsessive collector.
Shortly after my arrival in Melbourne my daughter told me about a local shop called Made in Japan that had some hashioki posted on their website. We made a trip to their branch at Queen Victoria Market, which is a wonderful collection of food and merchandise stalls, on my first day in town. But when we got to the market that particular stall was closed.
So I emailed them. They wrote back, and told me their Queen Victoria Market stall was only open on weekends. So when Saturday came I returned to the market… and the nice guy manning the stall told me this satellite location carried only a limited inventory, meaning no chopstick rests.
So I emailed the manager of Made in Japan’s main store in South Melbourne to confirm that they stocked hashioki there, and we made a trip there. Bingo! I bought four charming rests, including a gourd with a textured surface, a dark indented pebble shape with the subtle cherry blossom deign, and a turquoise Fukurokujin, or god for happiness, with his high forehead and staff in his hand, and a thumbprint with a matte surface and splash of shiny green glaze.
I also purchased this blue and white hashioki at Melbourne’s Chinese Museum, a wonderful museum that documents the history of Chinese immigration to Australia. The only problem is: I’m not sure what this hashioki portrays. The man in the museum shop didn’t know either. I would like to think that it represents a platypus, the duck-billed mammal that is native to Australia. But the tail looks too skinny, and doesn’t remotely resemble the broad paddle tail of a platypus. So I suspect this piece is meant to represent a boar, one of the signs of the Chinese zodiac. Since hashioki are generally created as “casual art,” the animal or flower or object they are supposed to represent is often frustratingly murky.
I am sorry to say I could not find a kangaroo hashioki while I was in Australia. But maybe that’s appropriate, because although we were told that Australia was “overrun” with kangaroos, we only saw them once during the three weeks we were there, and those kangaroos were sleeping behind a bush in an animal preserve. They didn’t look like they were interested in modeling for chopstick rests, or at all anxious for the cameras of a visiting tourists either.