I have resisted acquiring a chopstick rest shaped like a lion (raion in Japanese) for many years. Lions are not indigenous to Japan, after all. There is a creature known as a shishi, which is a guardian statue that sometimes appears outside Buddhist temples, but this is a mythological creature imported from China, and not really a lion. (I intend to write more about shishi in a future post about Okinawa.) We may eat buffalo and even elk at our house occasionally, but we never eat lion – so why would I want to own a hashioki that depicts a lion?
And then our grandson was born: our grandson whose name is Leo.
So I recently acquired this hashioki shaped like the face of an adorable lion. I am saving it for times when our grandson comes to visit. I thought about buying two so he could have one at his house, too, but his mother told me that when 2 ½-year-old Leo insisted on eating lunch with chopsticks recently it took him 90 minutes to finish the meal. If he had a chopstick rest, and decided to rest the tips of his chopsticks on the hashioki between bites, eating could easily take twice as long. Your welcome, Leo’s parents.
There is something a bit sad about this lion hashioki. I purchased it at Soko Hardware, a family owned hardware store in the Japantown neighborhood in San Francisco. I’ve been making treks to Japantown for over 15 years. But on this visit I could see that the number of stores, the inventory levels in those stores, and the number of shoppers in this neighborhood were much diminished. I am sorry to see this resource, and this little slice of Japanese culture, fading away.