Nihonbashi Saruya is the only specialty store in Japan for yoji (Japanese picks). Established about 300 years ago, it has continuously supplied picks to Japanese people since the Edo era.
In Japan, mass-produced picks made of Japanese white birch are the most popular. However, long ago, picks were made from many different types of trees, including willow, white willow, and deutzia. Saruya picks are made from kuromoji tree wood, which is prized for its flexibility and aromatic scent. Even now, craftsmen hand-carve these picks, one by one.
The store master, Ryota Yamamoto, explains, “Many fans just refer to these picks as kuromoji rather than kuromoji yoji. There’s an attractive quality about kuromoji that can’t be found in any other kind of yoji.
“Let me tell you this,” he continues. “Here’s why we pay so much attention to a small detail like a pick. We believe it shows the spirit of iki.”
Iki is an aesthetic ideal of Japanese commoners regarding what’s chic, cool, and sophisticated in fashion and attitude. While inexpensive, convenient mass-produced yoji may be “good enough” for use, people continue to value cool details. Saruya picks play a role in passing on the iki legacy of style.
However, Nihonbashi Saruya doesn’t just stick to traditional values. This store develops new products while paying scrupulous attention to packaging. Kuromoji picks are used by premier restaurants and are also popular gifts. For example, Samurai Yoji picks may intrigue international visitors. The wrappers display short Edo era samurai expressions in Japanese like Matarei (“Please wait!”) and Korenite gomen (“Goodbye now!”) with English translations. These picks are inexpensive, and they make ideal gifts.