I consider myself fairly widely read in Asian literature, and I’m sorry to report there seem to be very few allusions to hashioki in published fiction.
In fact, I have only seen hashioki mentioned in three novels times. In The Salaryman’s Wife, the first book of a suspense novel series by Japanese-American author Sujata Massey, aspiring antiques dealer Rei Shimura purchases a wooden letter box with a small item rattling around inside. “I lifted the lid and found an inch-long polished piece of blue-and-white porcelain,”
Shimura relates. “I passed it around and everyone agreed it had to be a hashi-oki, a small ornamental piece used to place chopsticks on while dining.”(1) Shimura determines that the hashioki is not valuable, although she later sells the letterbox it came in for more than 50 times its purchase price.
In Hidden Buddhas, Liza Dalby’s novel about Shingon Buddhism, two of the main characters at one point spend the night at a ryokan in Kyoto. When the ryokan maid delivers dinner to their room “she set out two pairs of chopsticks with tiny ceramic pillows to rest the tips on…”(2) Having observed Dalby’s careful eye for detail in her non-fiction books, I assume the American anthropologist purposely used the word pillows to allude to the hashioki used in a place where people sleep.
More rewarding is the reference made to chopstick rests in Chinese-American author Amy Tan’s novel, The Kitchen God’s Wife. In the novel character reminisces about shipping for her wedding trousseau in China before World War II by recalling, “And just when I thought I was done with my shopping, the salesman showed me a small silver piece, shaped like a fish leaping up. And I knew right away I needed to have that too, because this little ornament was a place for resting your chopsticks, a way to stop eating for a few moments, to admire your table, to look at your guests, to congratulate yourself and say, How lucky am I.”(3)
It’s a shame that hashioki haven’t played a supporting, if not starring, role in more fiction. Maybe someday….
(1) Massey, Sujata. The Salaryman’s Wife. New York: Harper Paperbacks, 1997, p. 67.
(2) Dalby, Liza. Hidden Buddhas. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2009, p. 106.
(3) Tan, Amy. The Kitchen God’s Wife. New York: First Vintage Contemporaries, 1993, pp. 149-150.