I think I understand when you would use 箸にも棒にもかからない, referring to someone who is hopeless - but what situation does the phrase describe?
Is there a story behind it? What is happening with chopsticks and sticks?

  • 2
    箸を使って取り上げたものか棒を使って取り上げたものかさえ迷うような酷いもの、ということから 出典:教草女房形気 Feb 24, 2016 at 21:01

2 Answers 2


According to this site... http://kotowaza.avaloky.com/pv_hob26_01.html

Suppose you're trying to pick something up by hooking it up. You tried a short chopstick. You tried a long stick. But no avail, it can't be caught with them - it just doesn't seem to work!

This is the story behind this phrase. It depicts the outcome that is so bad that it can be of no use.


“箸にも棒にもかからない” literally meaning "can't be caught with chopsticks nor long sticks" is a popular Japanese idiom to describe an uncontrollable person, thing, or issue. We say “彼は箸にも棒にもかからない奴だ(人間だ),” meaning “He is totally untreatable (uncontrollably cunning, untrustful).

You can catch a small thing like a bean with your chopsticks. You can hold a big thing by using two long sticks. If you are not able to pinch, catch or hold a thing with either chopsticks or long sticks, it must be a thing difficult for you to handle, or the thing deadly out of your control. So it’s 箸にも棒にもかからない奴 (物、問題) – a person, object, thing, or issue which is out of your control, in other word, useless, hopeless, and mysterious.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .