Water splitting chopsticks are not a waste! What kind of work is forestry?

Effective use of chopsticks scrap

“Domestic” or “Chinese” split chopsticks

In recent years, about 20 billion sets of chopsticks are consumed annually in Japan, of which more than 90% are imported from China (from the Forest Service, White Paper on Forests and Forestry 2012). However, if you look closely at chia chopsticks at supermarkets, you can see that “domestic split chopsticks” are a bit more expensive than those made in China.

It is said that the shaped chopsticks we use were born in the Meiji era. A former teacher at Terakoya in Yoshino, Nara Prefecture, came up with the idea of ​​effectively using fragments of Yoshino cedar, which could be used as material for barrels.

The square section indicated by the red arrow is used as wood for the construction.

Even today, domestically produced split chopsticks are made from scrap by cutting wood into squares from logs and thin wood (kanbatsuzai). In Japan, trees are rarely cut to make chopsticks. What is thin veneer?

What is thin veneer?

Have you ever heard the word “thin wood”? If the trees are too dense, the forest will be obscured by branches, leaves, and sunlight. If not cared for, the forest will be dark, less well ventilated, and the number of pests and diseases will increase. The mountains were devastated and the dense trees used for the construction did not sprout.

The proper pruning to prevent this from happening is called “thinning”. Thinning trees are “thinned wood”. “Pruning” is an important job of foresters.

What kind of work is forestry?

So what are other processes in forestry other than thinning? A typical forestry branch in Japan is the work of “tree production” in man-made “artificial forests”. Natural deforestation can keep up with the speed of human use of wood, increasing mountain baldness and causing frequent landslides. To prevent such a situation, forestry in “artificial forest” has become a job in Japan.

“Planting” means planting trees and harvesting them.

Plant tree

So how are trees grown? First, we start by planting seedlings.

Then an “undercut” is done to mow the growing grass so that the seedlings do not lose to the grass. If a creeper plant such as scrap or wisteria becomes entangled in the plant, “cut it”. Then, as the tree grows, “thinning” is done appropriately. To create knot-free logs, there is also a job called “pruning” in which branches and leaves fall off.

Even if you say you plant a tree, the big difference from agriculture is “year and month”. With rice, you can grow rice in the spring and harvest in the fall. However, it takes 40 to 100 years from seedling planting to harvest. In other words, most of the trees that we are harvesting now are planted by the “grandfather generation”.

Harvest the tree

Harvesting a tree means cutting down a large tree and taking it out of the forest. Cutting down trees that have reached their point of harvest is called the “main felling”.

The felled tree is “pruned” for the log by pruning. Next, “Tamagiri” is done to cut the log to the required length. The temporary cut logs are collected at “Doba” along the forest road.

Logs collected in the soil are loaded onto trucks and transported to timber markets and warehouses. Trees are very heavy and huge, so they require more advanced technology than you can imagine to cut down and transport.

In addition, tools such as chainsaw maintenance, heavy machinery maintenance and work path creation are included.

Chop chopsticks in water to protect the forest

About 70% of Japan’s land area is forest. About 40% of that is planted forests, and if not maintained by humans, the mountains will be destroyed. Forestry is an indispensable profession not only for the production of trees but also for maintaining beautiful forests.

Split chopsticks have a strong image of “disposable”. In fact, domestically produced chopsticks are made from scrap, which is said to be thrown away, as an “ecological product” that makes effective use of forest resources.

There is no limit to chopsticks, if we buy products made from veneer wood will also be an income source for forest workers. It leads to the protection of beautiful forests in Japan. When you buy chopsticks next time, check to see what kind of wood it is made from in which region. You will feel familiar with forestry from the chopsticks set and want to know more about forestry.

References: “The chopsticks to save the region and the earth” (Soumorisha), “Introduction to forestry from unimaginable knowledge” (Ie no Hikari Association)