The World Of Bento

Posted by Addah Aquino on

Everyone loves bento. The meals in boxes are fun, healthy and most importantly delicious and have easily made the jump from Japan across the ocean. They combine simplicity with convenience and are one of the most popular meals in Japanese cuisine. What once started as cooked rice transported in simple wooden boxes has long since turned into a cultural phenomenon. Now, you can get bentos at every convenience store, for every occasion and filled with any food you could think of. To show you the many faces of bento we have compiled a list of some of the most popular bento you can get in Japan. Enjoy our quick trip into the world of bento!

Ekiben

Ekiben In a country that is always on the move, being able to get food on the go is vital to stay nourished. That is why ekiben, literally “station bento”, have become very popular. These bento boxes can be bought at most Japanese stations and are usually eaten on the train while traveling from one point to another.  

Kyaraben

Kyaraben Kyaraben are the astonishing bento boxes you can see online that will make you want to move to Japan right now. The name is short for “character bento” and that is exactly what you will find inside these boxes: lots of food that is shaped to resemble animals, people or your favorite anime characters. Kyaraben are an art form in itself and often take lots time to be completed.  

Makunouchi Bento

Makenouchi Bento Our next bento is a more traditional version that is part of ancient Japanese history. Makunouchi translates to “between acts” and refers to the breaks during Noh and Kabuki performances. Spectators would use this time to eat a meal consisting of rice, pickled vegetables, fish and eggs to enjoy the second half of the play with a filled stomach.  

Oekakiben

Oekakiben You thought Kyaraben were impressive? Think again, because Oekakiben bring the art of bento making to a whole new level. The meals inside these boxes are arranged to look like paintings, usually of people or whole landscapes. To get these astounding effects, the chefs use colored rice, precisely cut vegetables and lots of patience and creativity. This bento is almost too beautiful to eat.  

Hinomaru Bento

Hinomaru Bento Hinomaru bentos are simple, maybe the simplest bento on this list, but they incorporate Japanese pride. Hinomaru is the name given to the flag of Japan, meaning “circle of the sun”. Inside these boxes you will find a bed of plain white rice with a single umeboshi, a pickled plum, resting in the middle of it. Hinomaru bentos might not be the most breathtaking bento version out there, but they are one of the few meals with lots of meaning attached to them.  

Kamameshi Bento

Kamemshi Bento Last but not least we have a local specialty with Kamameshi bentos which are sold at train stations in Nagano prefecture. Unlike other bento, all ingredients are mixed together and cooked in one pot. This clay or iron pot also replaces the typical box and can be kept as a souvenir after you are done with your meal. These unique bentos became so popular that railway stations all over Japan have started selling their own, local version of the Kamameshi bento.
Anyone craving a good bento right now? Bentos are way more than a cheap meal you can get at your local Asian restaurant. In Japan, they have been introduced to allow workers to eat homemade food on the go and today they are as popular as ever. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but if done correctly bentos offer a balanced and nutritious meal. Most importantly, bento boxes are a sign of love, from a mother to her child, a wife to her husband or a busy salaryman to his work. Which bento variation is your favorite? Let us know in the comment section down below.

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