In Japan, a broken bowl or mug isn't necessarily destined for the nearest trash bin. Through the art of kintsugi, the shards are glued back together with a gold seal that calls attention to the cracks—the general idea being that flaws make something even more beautiful.
In a similar vein, many splintered baseball bats are also given a new lease on life in Japan. Bats that end up being broken by professional players are often turned into kattobashi: "a mash-up of the Japanese word for chopsticks and a baseball chant that translates as 'get a big hit,'" The New York Times explains. That's right—sports mementos that would typically be sold for upwards of $50 in the U.S. are turned into reusable chopsticks in Japan.
Each season, roughly 10,000 wooden bats are transformed into those ubiquitous eating utensils in an effort to cut down on waste and help preserve a threatened species of ash tree called the aodamo. Some bats are made from this material, although the practice is less common nowadays because the trees aren't readily available. Today, most are made from imported maple and white ash.
Sports teams in Japan weren't always so eco-conscious, though. The broken bats used to be burned or given away until chief executive Hyogoo Uratani of the Hyozaemon chopsticks company came along. With help from a friend who had been a pro baseball player, they convinced 12 teams to start recycling their bats. It's a mutually beneficial deal, with Hyozaemon paying a licensing fee to the teams, and the Nippon Professional Baseball organization donating funds each year to the nonprofit Aodamo Preservation Society.
They're also fun memorabilia to have on hand. A saw is used to break down the bats into smaller pieces, which are sanded into the shape of chopsticks. Team logos are imprinted on the wider part up top, and lastly they're coated in lacquer. For the ultimate baseball fan, it's a way to incorporate team pride into every aspect of daily life—even breakfast.