What I find even stranger than the continual reminder that I use chopsticks well, is the sincere surprise that comes with the compliment. It seems as though people are genuinely impressed that I am able to eat with hashi without having to impale my food on the ends or use them to scrape food off a raised plate directly into my mouth. I hear it so often, that I have come to believe that I am some sort of foreigner miracle and that perhaps I do indeed have a style and skill surpassing that of any other foreigner to have ever come to Japan.

This is probably not true, but I have at least come up with the perfect response.

Inspired by The Karate Kid, I tell anyone who compliments me on my chopstick abilities that I am so talented, indeed, that I can even catch flies. This comment, followed by a faked attempt at capturing any flies (real or imaginary) in the vicinity, always causes smiles if not laughter and puts everyone at ease. Although I find the Japanese to be very formal and strict, such small attempts at humour in everyday situations have done wonders for my slow yet steady acceptance into this strange yet wonderful society.

わたしは おはし で はえ を つかまえれます

Watashi wa o-hasi de hae o tsukamaeremasu

On several occasions I have even added this short sentence into the countless self introductions I have made. The students and staff at one of my elementary schools just about lost the plot when I used that one line wonder on my first day in front of the entire school in between my hobbies are and I like sushi.