Photo: SoraNews24
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Japanese convenience store will now ask customers who ask for a fork to use chopsticks instead

40 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

In Japan, companies are so committed to customer service that they don’t just say the customer is always right, they say “The customer is god.” But starting next month, if you walk into a branch of convenience store FamilyMart and ask for a fork, they’ll be happy to give you a pair of chopsticks instead.

▼ Awareness posters for the new policy

Screen-Shot-2022-09-25-at-17.01.49.png
Photo: FamilyMart

This isn’t part of a commitment to traditional Japanese culture, but the latest example of an increased modern consciousness of environmental issues. In 2020 FamilyMart, along with the rest of Japan’s major convenience store chains, began charging customers for plastic shopping bags, in an effort to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags instead. 

FamilyMart is now looking to further reduce the amount of plastic trash its operations generate by switching from providing customers with plastic forks to offering them wooden chopsticks instead. With roughly 16,600 FamilyMart branches in Japan, the chain says that this new policy will reduce plastic waste by 250 metric tons a year.

▼ FamilyMart switched to forks with holes in their handles a while back to decrease the amount of plastic used, but want to go farther with its waste reduction.

Screen-Shot-2022-09-25-at-17.03.15.png

Unlike in some other countries, where convenience stores are primarily a place to buy snacks and drinks, many people in Japan regularly by meals at convenience stores, especially busy urban office workers and blue collar workers in industries such as construction or transportation who may not have many restaurants near their workplaces.

In addition to bento boxed lunches and rice bowls, pasta dishes are also big sellers at convenience stores, and most Japanese people use forks when eating them. While chopsticks work fine for ramen or other Asian noodle dishes, they can be tricky to use with Western-style pasta like spaghetti, since the heavier sauces make for a bigger mess if they’re slurped, and it’s a lot easier to eat the noodles in bites when you can wrap them around the prongs of a fork.

Still, there’s at least one pasta restaurant chain in Japan where chopsticks are the default, so it can be done. In addition, FamilyMart won’t be completely banishing forks from its stores, Adults living in Japan generally have no difficulties using chopsticks, young children sometimes struggle with them while they’re still developing their fine motor skills, and some adults with physical disabilities find it easier to use a fork.

FamilyMart also acknowledges that customers from overseas, who didn’t grow up using chopsticks, may also be unable to eat with them, and so forks will still be provided, upon request, to customers in those three demographics.

Family Mart’s new policy goes into effect on October 4.

Source: Family Mart via Yahoo! Japan News/Shokuhin Shimbun via Jin

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© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

40 Comments
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How about just selling the food without the disposable utensils?

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

How about making a disposable spork or spoon and fork?

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

Or with wooden forks?

They’re available here from take away shops, knife/fork/spoon..

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Bamboo spoons and forks. Even better, bring your own. I have a set of hashi in my day bag.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Will they compliment me on my jouzu use of them too?

5 ( +14 / -9 )

Why not just switch to biodegradable utensils like some other chains here?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Will they compliment me on my jouzu use of them too?

hashi, jouzu desu neee

..

lmao

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

How about just selling the food without the disposable utensils?

Fewer customers would buy your food if not offered some means to eat it besides fingers. How about a restaurant with no utensils offered?

Even better, bring your own.

Maybe if you are bringing the food back to your workplace that idea is ok, but do you want to tuck any kind of eating utensil into your pockets? I would want to wash them before using them and then what about after using them? Yuck.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Cost cutting to the max. Didn't bother reading the article when I saw the pic of the connection to the planet and environment in the graphic. As if they care. If they did, they'd get rid of the huge amount of plastic in the packaging and not even offer plastic bags at all. FamilyMart: More customers would happily flock to your stores because they would feel secure in knowing you actually care. But you don't do you?

8 ( +10 / -2 )

If that joke anyhow saves the environment they deserve a prize, let’s say a Golden Fork.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

So there we have it folks, Famima doesn't give a fork.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Why not make wooden forks?

Because they will come mostly from/Vietnam/Russia as well, just like the chopsticks do. Up to 70 years to grow a tree for your wooden fork! Why don't FM etc just up forks/chopsticks at all, and show they really care about the environment!??

Or as a customer, never accept a plastic bag, fork, chopsticks NOT MATTER WHAT THEY ARE MADE FROM. And try taking your own bowl/utensils when getting Oden (which is delicious, by the way) but watch the staff freak out and not know what to do.

This is just more environmental posturing on both sides.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

And the chopsticks are nicely packed in plastic?

3 ( +7 / -4 )

This person writing this article have not researched the subject, Japanese refer to these eating implanments as hashi, which are unique. Chinese use those that are thicker at the end compared to hashi. Hashi have thinner taper which enables the user to pick between bones the delicate flesh of fish which is largely consume by the Japanese. The difference is similar to comparing a pair thong to tweezers.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Most stores provide hashi wrapped in paper.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Provide wooden forks then. Must use less wood than 2 chopsticks. I’m already given wooden spoons by shops, so why not forks.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Excellent, very well done Family Mart..

If you don't like it and want to eat with western utensils, there are more countries..

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

this new policy will reduce plastic waste by 250 metric tons a year.

....while increasing the amount of wood waste by 250 metric tons a year.

I'm not really sure I understand the environmental benefit of this.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

rainydayToday  12:38 pm JST

this new policy will reduce plastic waste by 250 metric tons a year.

....while increasing the amount of wood waste by 250 metric tons a year.

I'm not really sure I understand the environmental benefit of this.

If it's all just burnt I'm not sure what the benefit is either but if wood waste escapes into the environment it certainly isn't as bad as plastic.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Up to 70 years to grow a tree for your wooden fork! 

Soft wood like Paulownia grows in 5-6 years. Used extensively here for Kimono cupboards and other items.

Tree farmers typically earn $40,000 an acre harvesting biomass paulownia empress trees every 10 years.

"The Thuja Green Giant is an evergreen tree that can grow in Zones 5 to 9 at a rate of 3 to 5 feet per year. After three years it can reach 15 to 20 feet and, at its mature height, it stands at 30 to 40 feet fall. The Thuja Green Giant Tree is not only fast-growing but also incredibly resilient. It is drought tolerant, disease and insect-resistant, and very adaptable. It grows in a uniform shape and height without having to be pruned or sheared, making it a low-maintenance and popular option for homeowners."

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Seems fair to provide hashi only. Try asking for hashi in an American establishment. Oddly, somehow, I've always disliked the word 'chopsticks'...sounds almost racist in some way.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Yes...! Fine....!! But.....!!! How many ! beautiful trees !! to be sacrificed 'killed' to provide the chopsticks?

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Charge 50 yen for the disposable chopsticks and watch their usage plummet as well.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

This is good news, but wooden chopsticks are not environmentally friendly, either, and look - they come wrapped in what? Yeah, more plastic.

We can do better.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Agree wooden forks would be more convenient for the customer, use less material than the chopsticks and use a renewable resource. But as others have said what about the rest of the plastic?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you don't like it and want to eat with western utensils, there are more countries..

That has nothing to do with Japan. If you don’t like what Family Mart is doing then go to a different combini that will offer you the utensils you want.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

FamilyMart also acknowledges that customers from overseas, who didn’t grow up using chopsticks, may also be unable to eat with them, and so forks will still be provided, upon request, to customers in those three demographics.

That's not discriminatory at all...

Why not provide wooden utensils - sporks, forks, spoons, chopsticks etc. - and let any customer, local or otherwise, choose what they want to use?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

This is one of the most ridiculous excuses I've seen to try to reduce costs.

Those cheapso chopsticks are way cheaper than plastic forks, and if they really cared about "the environment" they would just change their forks to wooden ones, but that would cost even more money, so as many corporations do nowadays, they claim that measures they take that are just to reduce costs and also lower the customer experience are for (insert progresive cause here).

Just because of this, even though I usually don't care what I'm given, I'm going to tell them always to bring me a fork.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Plastic forks? No.

Wood chopsticks? No.

Eat with hands? YES!!!

Because hands are nature's fork & chopsticks?

YES ! YES ! ! YES ! ! ! YES! ! ! ! !

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Or with wooden forks?

They’re available here from take away shops, knife/fork/spoon..

Was about to say exactly the same. I guess the policy is a temporary solution for wooden forks etc. whose production and distribution have yet to be ready.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Alright. I'll just keep asking for two sets of chopsticks every time I go until they run out.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Up to 70 years to grow a tree for your wooden fork!

This nonsense was going around when I first arrived in Japan all those years ago. Softwood trees are quick growing cash crop. If they weren't grown, it would be for some other crop, like soya.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

tora

Sep. 27 10:03 am JST

Actually today more and more chopsticks and disposable utensils are made from bamboo (technically not a tree but grass).

Bamboo grow to their full size in a single growing season ( usually 3 months or sow in spring) so those 20~30 cm wide 20m high bamboo plants you see along the roads in Japan could be cut and next summer a new growth would be there the same size and height!

That is why today bamboo flooring is gaining popularity for cost and quality as an alternative to hardwood that takes decades to grow and softwoods that are too soft to be good flooring.

The same for chopstick and wood utensils bamboo is the future as it grows fast and cheap.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is just another knee-jerk reaction to pressure by I'll educated so-called environmental experts.

History is something that few today care about.

Why are we now trying to eliminate plastic and plastic bags? How did they become the norm?

Well look back at the late 70s and early 80s the predecessors of today's environmentalists remanded we stop using paper and paper bags, remember "save the trees" this despite the industry pointing out that the paper came from farmed trees like poplar trees.

And so store using paper bags became targeted so we got plastic, now here we are doing the reverse.

Hysteria over sitting down and thinking things out logically.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I wonder why good info get 6 thumb down ??? The woke community

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

For all the people who say that the chopsticks (or eventually a wooden fork) is still wrapped in plastic... Yeah, got any other ideas?

Paper wrappings aren't as secure to avoid contamination, the paper wrappings also doesn't last as long so whatever it is that you're making you'll wrap it in plastic. In some countries it is mandated by law, probably also on Japan.

I know it sounds overkill and a waste, but remember the huge salmonella thing? Yeah, let's not repeat that.

And also bringing your own utensils... Really? Everyone goes around with a purse to put used utensils in? I kinda doubt it...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I'd like to see them advertise this as their "Fork Off!" campaign.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Roy Sophveason

"I'd like to see them advertise this as their "Fork Off!" campaign."

Now there's a name for a second-hand cutlery store.

I'm still hoping for one that sells second-hand jackets.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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