Bento (packed lunches)
Update: 29 December 2016
An introduction to bento, colorful assorted portable meals of rice and several side dishes in an easy to carry container.
The Beginnings of Bento
Bento originated from onigiri (rice balls), and dried cooked rice. Back in the day, when Japan was experiencing a depression, there were many bento that only had rice and pickled plum without any side dishes. These days, they have developed to become colorful and beautiful, as well as being nutritionally balanced.
The Bento of Japanese Households
In Japan, it is common for mothers to make bento for their children and family. In addition to a daily lunch bento, during events, luxurious bento may be made with more side dishes and with larger portions. Recently some people have been making elaborate bento, recreating characters and pictures with the ingredients in order to please children.
Ekiben (a lunch box sold at the station) Drawing Out the Sentiment of Travelers
Ekiben are bento sold at the station or inside the train for passengers to eat on the train. They are often made with famous local ingredients. There used to be uriko (sales staff) selling bento on the platform, but nowadays they are sold at stores such as station stands.
Where To Buy Bento in Japan
You can buy bento easily at a supermarket or convenience store in Japan. Commercially sold bento are made so that they are delicious even when eaten cold. Also, some shops cook the bento for you after taking your order, and these shops are highly sought out in central Tokyo.
The Latest Bento News
In Japan, it's not just bento food that has evolved, but their boxes as well. You can choose your lunch box depending on your needs, from elegantly-designed lunch boxes to thermal lunch boxes.
*This information is from the time of this article's publication.