Chopstick Pillows for the Table
Chopstick rests are a form of tableware. They have two purposes:
- to keep the chopsticks from being contaminated by the table surface before they are used, and
- to keep the chopsticks, once they have been used, from soiling the table surface.
Chopstick rests are used in China and Japan. They are known as —
- Chinese, kuaizi zuo 筷子座
- In Japanese, hashioki 箸置き
They are sometimes thought of as pillows for chopsticks. They are a useful and often quite attractive decorative note on the table top.
Chopstick rests are similar to chopstick-spoon rests. Such rests are more common in Chinese culture, as Japanese diners ordinarily do not use spoons to take soup. So they don’t need spoons with the traditional Japanese place setting.
When do you use them? In formal dinner service and in many restaurants, both Chinese and Japanese. But with Japanese they are more common and seen in daily use in the home a lot, not just on more formal occasions. 
Why use them? For the sanitary and esthetic reasons mentioned. But in addition, the use of chopstick rests in Japanese culture may be part of the inner-versus-outer concept that runs deep in Japanese society.
Wrapping Culture: In Japan this has been described as the Wrapping Culture, and extends to individual wrapping for a number of items seen in relation to food and daily life .
How do you use them? When you set the table —
- In Chinese table service, place them on the diner’s right side, to the right of the dishes and with the chopstick points toward the front, that is, upwards.
- In Japanese table service, typically on the front side of the dishes, with the chopsticks parallel to the table edge and the points towards the left 
Chopstick rests are commonly made of porcelain, but sometimes
They may even be made of precious or semiprecious materials, like jade or coral.
Chopstick rests are meant to be washed, just like chopsticks, after every use.
Etiquette: Table manners indicate that once the chopsticks have been used, the diner should rest them on the chopstick rest when these are provided.
Paper Pillows: When disposable chopsticks come in paper sleeves, some people like to fold the sleeves into temporary chopstick rests. There is even a place on the Internet with instructions on how to do this. More details are in the Wikipedia article on Chopstick Rests.
Collecting: Some people collect chopstick rests as there are a wide variety of colorful designs available.
Where to Get Them: Almost any store that sells Asian tableware will offer some chopstick rests. There are sites on the Internet offering them for sale.
Utsuwa no Yakata, the Japanese housewares chain, offers a wide range of items used in the Japanese kitchen, including chopstick rests..
For further information:
 “Chopstick rests,” article, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chopstick_rest
 Joy Hendry, Wrapping Culture: Politeness, Presentation, and Power in Japan and Other Societies (Clarendon: Oxford, 1993) — discussion of isolation and separation as themes in Japanese culture.http://books.google.com/books/about/Wrapping_Culture.html?id=7EMD2y_ALkQC
 Bun Nakajima, Japanese Etiquette – discussion of traditional etiquette of table settings and tableware. http://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Etiquette-bun-nakajima/dp/B0031ENQO4
 Utsuwa no Yakata http://www.tokiusa.com/store-locations.html