Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Japanese Leftovers



At lunch with a friend last week, I reached for a discarded straw cover without thinking about it. Within a few minutes I had turned it into the little object above. Then I went to work on the blue napkin wrapper, which was trickier because one end of it was coated with an adhesive on the order of an industrial-strength Post-It® note.

I picked up this habit when I lived in Japan, and I moved back roughly 15 years ago, so I've been folding bits of paper into knots for something like 20 years. I can't recall where or when I started, or who taught it to me. If I'm in an Asian restaurant, I'll make a chopstick rest out of the paper sleeve they come in, but I'll also make these if there are more scraps of paper on the table.

Why do I turn strips of paper into tidy little knots? It's not as if I'm a nervous person and need something to occupy my hands. I never take them with me, so as soon as I make them they become useless bits of stuff, destined for enormous restaurant trash cans.

It's a Japanese leftover, an amusement, and a mystery.

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