You have likely heard of the word bento box before, which refers to a single portion meal that is packed for takeaway. In fact, the Japanese concept of bento boxes has been adapted all around the world, even appearing in children’s school bags as a style of lunch box. Bento boxes differ in that each section of the meal is portioned into a separate compartment.
Traditional Bento Boxes
While it may seem like a modern trend, the concept of the bento box actually has a lengthy history and has been around for centuries in Japan. In the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) the first bento-esque style lunch appeared. It was useful for storing cooked rice while traveling long distances and eating it later. This concept quickly became popular and added a great deal of convenience. In fact, the word bento translates to “convenient”.
Traditionally, Japanese Bento Boxes will hold noodles or rice, some kind of meat or fish, and a vegetable component which can be a salad, cooked or pickled vegetables. The traditional ratio of food is 4:3:2:1 which refers to each item inside the bento box. 4 represents the rice, 3 is the side dish, 2 refers to the vegetables and 1 is the pickle. Oftentimes, bento boxes will also include small fruit or dessert as well. Frequently miso soup is served with a bento box.
Bento Box in Japan
The concept of bento boxes is congruent with convenience, as a bento box is often a quick, affordable takeaway option which can be purchased from convenience stores, railways stations, bento shops, and even department stores. In Japan, the bento boxes are packages in can range, some offered in disposable plastic and others in high-quality wooden lacquerware. It is common for children in Japan to also receive a bento box for lunch, as it is durable and easy to travel with. The food inside the bento box is often small, bite-sized food that is already prepared and does not need to be heated or cooked to be eaten. Also, the ideal bento box should sit easily on a lap or with ease while traveling.
It is worth exploring the different types of bento boxes while traveling in Japan. There are many to choose from, and they are often packed fresh each day with good quality ingredients. Another appealing aspect of bento boxes in Japan is that they are quite beautiful and are often nicely designed and decorated. Bento boxes range in size, price and the contents inside. Be sure to check out a few different bento boxes to compare and enjoy the convenient experience of takeout while busy exploring all the many sites and attractions in Japan.