A new trend is hitting the bento boxes of Japan right now and we are scared. Young children and hardworking spouses across the nation are sitting down at lunch time only to be visually assaulted by what they call “sausage people.” To most, these little weiners cut up to resemble a person seem harmless and most message boards in Japan praise the invention, with virtual screeches of the Japanese equivalent of “OMG, it’s so cute!” Well we have a newsflash for you, Japan. These sausage people, or “so-se-jin,” an adorable play on words of the Japanese word for “sausage” (so-se-ji) and “people” (jin), are down right terrifying. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at this photo compilation of sausage people found on sites across the web. Just be warned, you’ll never look at a sausage the same way again.
While in America the stereotypical school kid lunch of a sandwich, apple, and some crackers can easily be tossed in a paper sack, things are a bit trickier in Japan. Japanese parents packing a lunch for their child usually include rice and a number of side dishes, which all need to be placed in sturdy containers so they don’t get crushed or spill during the trip to school, all of which then get placed inside a single, larger container called a bento box.
But why settle for a bento box when you could have a bento ball, especially a Pokémon bento ball?
Kyaraben, short for “character bento”, are insanely popular in Asia and Japan in particular. Young mothers, and some fathers too no doubt, spend hours crafting special lunch boxes, using all manner of foodstuffs to create shapes, faces and designs, and there are even entire books and monthly magazines containing hundreds of ideas. Over the years, we’ve seen lunch boxes based everything from Nivea hand cream to video game smash Metal Gear Solid, but it’s easy to forget that the practice of dressing up a packed lunch has, in fact, been around for quite some time.
- Fran Wrigley
Feb 24, 2014
The cutesy home-made lunches that lucky Japanese children take to school are famous worldwide. For the time-pushed or culinarily challenged among us, though, store-bought bento (boxed lunches) can offer great value for money. Convenience store bento, which are hugely popular all over Japan, contain all kinds of delicious goodies like fish, meat, stewed vegetables and pickles, along with rice. When one bento-loving Japanese university student threw caution to the wind and sunk her entire lunch into her miso soup, she discovered that the resulting soupy concoction was even more tasty than she could have imagined! Thus, convenience store bento soup was born!
Here at RocketNews24 we love to try out rice-augmenting recipes and other wacky food combinations, so when a writer from our Japanese sister site heard about this amazing invention, made by heating the entire contents of a convenience store lunchbox in a pot of miso soup, she just had to give it a try! Let’s see how she got on.
North American anime distributor Funimation confirmed on Thursday that it acquired the streaming rights to the Ben-To anime. The company will begin streaming the anime with English subtitles to subscribers on Tuesday, February 11, followed by free streaming on February 28.
Funimation describes the story based on Asaura‘s “school serious/gag action” light novel series:
Every day an epic struggle rages in grocery stores across Japan—the battle for half-priced bento boxes! Once the discount stickers go on, ravenous brawlers start throwing punches in a knockdown, drag-out war over who gets to take home the cheap eats…
There are only three reasons one could possibly fathom going to any establishment that’s known in American English as a “dive”: Cheap beer, cheap beer, and greasy burgers.
Now apparently you can add a fourth reason: Cheap, delicious bento lunch boxes, thanks to whispered-about bento shop, Kitchen Dive. With just a handful of locations around Tokyo, we’d never actually seen one in the flesh before and almost thought they were some apocryphal legend; some cruel prank older, wiser salarymen were playing on the newbies, maybe (“Oh yeah, there’s a shop selling 200 yen bento. Right around the corner. Caaaan’t miss it.”).
Finally, we spotted an honest-to-goodness, 24-hour Kitchen Dive in the unassuming Kameido area of Tokyo and the 100 yen coins in our pockets practically flew out of their own accord.
Tuesday is known as New Bento Day at major convenience stores across Japan. As we’ve highlighted before, convenience stores in the country put a lot of effort into their ready-to-eat creations. What’s more is they cycle through new flavors on a weekly basis. This can be a double-edged sword as your favorite dish can disappear tragically fast, but you can also count on something equally good coming along as well.
As regular consumers of convenience store bento, the editorial department of RocketNews24 Japan has come together and ranked the top 5 new additions to 7-Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart for the week of 14 January, 2014. Please refer to it for your own convenient dining pleasure.
Imagine if your mom made you meals that became famous all over the world… you’d probably belong to the Clean Plate Club, right?
Malaysian food artist and mother of two Samantha Lee began by making Japanese lunch boxes (bento) in 2008 to encourage her elder daughter to eat independently. Bento boxes may be stylishly arranged and decorated to look like popular movie, TV or video game characters (kyaraben) or people, animals or buildings (oekakiben). There is some amazing bento art out there, but soon Lee was taking it to a new level on a daily basis.
Despite her lack of formal training, Lee’s creativity found an outlet in the incredibly detailed, cute and nutritious meals she painstakingly put together for her two girls, using only run-of-the-mill household tools like scissors and knives. She describes herself as “an ordinary, regular and average mom, crazy about making a mess in the kitchen.” Although she’s keeping her feet on the ground, her star has risen quickly in the international media in recent months, from Belgium to the Ukraine and all over the world. She now works as a kids party planner, doing sewing, crafting, baking and doodling in her spare time.
Check out her latest creations, including a step-by-step pictorial guide to crafting your own!
- Philip Kendall
Sep 10, 2013
Regular readers will no doubt know that we at RocketNews24 love few things more than a good character design bento lunchbox, or kyaraben for short. There are whole sections in book shops and libraries here in Japan dedicated to the art of crafting beautiful packed lunches using an array of techniques to transform something as plain as rice and a handful of toppings into characters and objects that will make their diner grin from ear to ear. And this new batch, published earlier today by Japan’s Naver Matome, shows us just how far creative cooks, mothers, husbands and wives are prepared to go to spruce up what can often be the day’s least exciting meal. Put down your Lunchables and check these out.
Ekiben, or “station bento,” can be found on train station platforms across Japan, conveniently packed for travelers too busy to prepare their own meal. They usually come in plastic or styrofoam containers wrapped with a decorative paper cover. But this ekiben is a little different. Found in Kochi Prefecture, this on-the-go bento is packaged in clear plastic wrap to display the goods inside, and what seems like merely a fish sitting in a white supermarket tray is actually sushi. Let’s take a closer look at this bizarre whole fish sushi ekiben.
- Master Blaster
Mar 25, 2013
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Tokyo Station as well as Grand Central Station, New York: two titans of transportation who have served their respective metropolises proud.
To honor this centennial, Grand Central hosted “Japan Week” which drew crowds to the already crowded terminal. Hearing of this, RocketNews24 sent a reporter to investigate the centerpiece of Japan Week; the ekiben counter!
- Michelle Lynn Dinh
Jan 22, 2013
According to a 2012 survey of 2,000 Shinsei Bank employees, the average worker now spends 510 yen (US $5.79) on lunch every day. That’s down from 710 yen (US $8.06) in 2001 and 600 yen (US $6.81) in 2007. That’s a 30% decrease in twelve years.
Nikkan Spa, a popular magazine in Japan, conducted its own survey and found an even bleaker outcome. In a survey of 100 salarymen (office workers) and public servants in their 30s and 40s, a surprising 64 percent of workers admitted that they spend 500 yen (US $5.67) or less on lunch. An even more astonishing 24 percent of workers get by on just 250 yen (US $2.84) a day.
A measly 250 yen (US $2.84) won’t even buy a beef bowl at Sukiya, famed to be the cheapest lunch around. If these salarymen can’t even afford the cheapest meals available for purchase, what exactly are they eating? Let’s take a peek inside the slimmed-down lunchboxes of Japan’s typical worker.
You could be fooled into thinking that this is some enormous new add-on for the current Playstation 3 console, but what you’re actually looking at here is a multi-layered wooden bentō lunchbox sculpted and assembled by a master craftsman for Sony Japan.
Presented to staff at Square Enix and Konami in celebration of 25 years of Final Fantasy and Metal Gear games, these stunning lunchboxes are designed to look identical to Sony’s home console, featuring everything from the ridged top to the tiny silver Playstation logo on the front, all the while leaving plenty of room inside for a delicious lunch.
These things are so beautiful that it almost makes us want to trade in our plastic Playstation 3 for a wooden one…
- Philip Kendall
Dec 19, 2012
“Hideo-kun! What do you want in your lunchbox for school tomorrow? Ham and cheese? Peanut butter and jelly? Or how about Solid Snaaaaaaaake!”
The image you see before you, ladies and gentlemen, is genuine, 100% completely edible food. We’ve seen colourful character bentō lunchboxes before, but this is something else.
As part of its 25 years of Metal Gear and Final Fantasy celebrations, Japanese game developer Konami has had a set of truly amazing lunchboxes made for a photo event. Featuring characters from both of the long-running series, the lunchboxes are so detailed that they almost look like waxworks. No matter how many times we look at these things, we can’t quite get over the fact that it’s actually food.
Plastic shopping bags are one of those things that haven’t been improved on since… ever? Sure there have been attempts to improve their biodegradability, but that’s hardly the limit to their inherent weaknesses.
This is especially well-known in Japan where premade soups and bentos fly off the shelves of supermarkets and convenience stores like premade hotcakes. Using a traditional plastic bag to carry a curry rice bento always gets tilted onto its side so that it ends up looking like a crime scene when you get it home. You’re luck if the curry actually stays inside the container.
Lunch Vehicle may be the answer to this problem, taking plastic bags to the next level with its innovative design which has been influenced by tried and tested heavy industry techniques.
A lone salaryman walks in to a room with bento in hand and sits down at a table to enjoy his lunch in privacy. He unties the knot holding together the bandana bundle to reveal a small brown bento box and chopsticks case. Finally, the man removes the lid from the bento to unveil a mouth-watering assortment of…colored yarn?
What follows is some hardcore lunchtime needlework.
We’ve covered the phenomenon of charabens in the past ranging from the extremely cute to the downright bizarre. However, as with any art form, the horror genre cannot be left out. Inspired by some photos of horror bentos found online a reporter from the website Pouch, Hotaru Yamakawa, has decided to make her own series of 3 horror bentos and help you make your own.
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