Yamachiku Sustainable Bamboo Chopsticks

Founded in 1963 in Kumamoto Prefecture, Yamachiku is known throughout Japan for creating thoughtfully designed, sustainable bamboo chopsticks. At every stage of the production process - from forestry to packaging - Yamachiku relies on the expertise of skilled artisans who turn locally harvested moso bamboo into colorful tableware. In addition to its role as a traditional material for chopsticks, bamboo is a sustainable and renewable resource, owing to its fast growth and abundance in the Kumamoto region.

"Moso is the thickest bamboo in Japan," according to the company's experts. "With it, you can make not only thin chopsticks, but also thick chopsticks. Generally, thick wooden chopsticks are very heavy, but thick bamboo chopsticks are light. The focus is usually on the 'thin and flexible' aspect, but 'thick yet light' is also a feature of bamboo chopsticks."

Alongside their mission to popularize sustainable chopsticks, Yamachiku has taken on another role: protector of satoyama, the small agrarian communities that were once abundant along the edges of Japan's forested mountain ranges. Because they rely on farming and forestry to survive, satoyama were hurt by the chopstick industry's shift from sustainable bamboo to petroleum-based plastics.

As Yamachiku thrives, their need for a constant supply of bamboo has helped buoy small towns in Kumamoto by boosting demand for the materials those satoyama produce - and the more popular sustainable bamboo chopsticks become, the better off those communities will be.