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[Tsutsumu] Japanese Bento: “Wrapping” a Portable, Creative Meal

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Today’s blog is all about Japanese Bento !

Twenty years ago, Japanese children living abroad hated their lunch time when seeing rice balls wrapped in seaweed with small portions of Japanese cuisines packed in a lunch box, Japanese Bento, to be eaten with chopsticks. Who of those Japanese children would have thought that term Japanese Bento would become popular outside of Japan?

Japanese Bento, is a packed, portable meal meant to provide nutritious meal despite being away from home. Traditional Japanese Bento consists of rice, fish and or meat side dish, and Japanese pickles (often times pickled plum). Japanese Bento became familiar to the culture because season-loving Japanese wanted to enjoy and admire the varying bounty of seasonable ingredients while being absorbed in the scenery. 

Because Japanese Bento serves as a way to cater a meal, each bento from different homes has their own homely taste and style. Recently, there is a trend for mothers to create highly creative bento, or kyara-ben. Kyara means character, “ben” is short for bento. Mother’s daily routine became culinary creation. Many mothers would then take photos of the kyara-ben to post on their blogs. There are books which introduces these kyara-ben. Also, trains are using eki-ben (“eki” means station) to promote stations, train lines and nearby area by abundantly using local ingredient or cuisine. Sometimes, bento-bako, bako meaning box, themselves are pottery or bamboo-woven boxes to create culinary experience. To add, bento-bako also has a significant role for Japanese Bento. Since they will be used frequently, many people like to buy a box which best suits the size of your stomach and your preference for its appearance.  

Small as they may be, bento is packed with nutrition, creativity and locality. Why not pack yourself a bento tomorrow? It may turn into your new hobby. 

**More articles on tsutsumu to follow!