Japanese students face chopstick test

It's no secret that the Japanese are obsessed with education but in addition to the usual reading, writing and arithmetic some students will soon be tested on their ability to use... chopsticks.

12 Jan 2007

Applicants to a private high school for girls in Sasebo in southern Nagasaki Prefecture will be asked to hold and move various small objects including beans and marbles with chopsticks as part of the entrance exam.

"This is simply one factor to assess whether these girls can handle chopsticks correctly, which is really the most basic element in education," said Katushi Hisata, the vice principal of Hisata Gakuen Girls' High School.

"It's surprising to see how many children don't know how to hold chopsticks correctly, which is a part of the Japanese culture's beauty," he told AFP by telephone, adding that only 20 percent of elementary students use chopsticks correctly.

The westernization of Japan's eating habits means that use of the knife and fork is increasingly common, while a growing number of children with working parents eat alone, leaving them less well versed in chopstick etiquette.

The school's vice principal accused celebrities appearing on television food and cookery shows of using chopsticks wrongly.

The school, built in 1902, has space for 40 students in each grade, and has traditional classes in tea ceremony, kimono-fitting, etiquette and cooking as part of the wider curriculum.

"We are aware that this kind of exam won't make students jump up and come running to us, because this is unlike normal high schools that advertise success rates of students entering prestigious universities," Hisata said.

"But we do know that education is not only about having brains, but also etiquette," he added.

Image: JAPAN, Tokyo: Japanese customers enjoy bowls of "gyudon", a beef and rice dish commonly referred to as beef bowls, at a Yoshinoya fast food restaurant in Tokyo, 18 September 2006.

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