沖縄赤黄箸: 沖縄 is Okinawa, 赤 aka is “red,” 黄 ki is “yellow,” and 箸 hashi is chopsticks. So this means Okinawa red-yellow colored traditional chopsticks.

Chopsticks are know as hashi 箸 in Japanese, but in Okinawa they are called umeshi うめーし (you may also see the romanization as ume-shi or umeeshi due to the long “eh” sound).

The red part of the umeshi is to represent the sun, and is painted in lacquer, used as a handgrip.

The yellow part of the umeshi is to represent the moon, and is dyed/colored by rubbing it with turmeric (known as ukon ウコン in Japanese, ucchin うっちん in Okinawan), which is traditionally believed have antibacterial or sterilizing properties.

These umeshi are still found in local restaurants and shokudo, but are becoming less common as people move towards the disposable hashi. I recently received 2 pairs as a gift; my initial thought was a bit, hmm, odd choice in hashi (sort of plain, no fancy pattern like you often see with Japanese hashi) but then I realized the tradition and culture behind these umeshi and was very grateful to receive such a kind gesture and gift with special meaning. Now I admit these have become my favorite pair.

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