When this high-school kid opened up the last hand-made bento lunch of his high school life, he found a note from his mother with a sweet and surprising message…
From Pikachu to Totoro, these onigiri rice balls are as cute as they are delicious-looking!
There’s a new take-out place in Tokyo selling kangaroo bento boxed lunches, so we hopped on over to try them for ourselves.
If we had to pick one thing that represented how Japanese food maybe isn’t quite as healthy as generally perceived, it would probably have to be the bento lunchbox. Bento are readily available practically everywhere in Japan—when not being handmade for you by a parent or spouse, usually in the shape of Pokémon characters and the like—and are widely consumed by office workers and other day laborers as a cheap, convenient lunch.
Despite healthy origins back in the old days, bento—perhaps by design—have become increasingly unhealthy, with your standard box available from a retailer or food truck usually weighing in at a thousand calories (or frequently even more) and containing a bunch of fried food in addition to huge portions of rice.
But heck, when a filling, albeit cholesterol and calorie-packed bento sets you back only a measly 200 yen (US$1.50) over at discount supermarket Lamu, well, we’ll happily do the extra time on the treadmill.
Japanese often say that a good view makes a meal taste better, so it goes without saying that a cute-looking lunchbox would also enhance the contents inside. From meals served in Shinkansen-shaped containers or rabbit-faced boxes that can be reused as coin banks, to lunch boxes that play music or have collector’s items hidden inside, Japan’s ekiben take Japanese food to a whole new level.
Today we’d like to tell you about “Ekiben”, a little book by Aki Tomura which introduces the best and most unique train station lunch boxes in Japan. We’ve chosen just a few to highlight from this gorgeously photographed, pocket-size book. The word Ekiben is a combination of two Japanese words: eki (station) and bento (lunchbox), so make your next train trip a gourmet ride with these bento available at various JR stations—just waiting for you to buy, smile, and devour.
Let the fun begin!
Lunch-making parents in Japan have long been infusing their midday meals with fun characters designed to please the eye along with the taste buds. A common ingredient used for detail and decoration is the humble dried seaweed sheet called nori. The dark color makes it perfect for creating lines and patterns, and since it comes in a flat sheet you can cut out some fairly detailed shapes with a knife. If you quickly browse through some amazing character bento we’ve shared with you before, you’ll see the important role that seaweed plays in their design.
However, it’s not only good in a supporting role; world-renowned seaweed shop Kozen wants to elevate it to a star in the art world! Forget all the other ingredients you might find in a bento, “Nori Art” is all you need to turn your next meal into an unforgettable feast.
In just about every major train station in Japan, you’ll find a stand selling boxed lunches called ekiben. A combination of the words eki (“station”) and bento (“boxed lunch”), ekiben serve as a tasty, convenient meal for travelers to dine on as they watch the scenery slip by outside their window.
Given that trains are terrestrial transportation, and that Japan is an island nation, until now you’ve generally had to come to Japan in order to get your hands on authentic station bento. That’s changing soon, though, with the opening of an ekiben stand in a rail station in Paris.
Many foreigners who travel to Japan are relieved to find that it’s common for restaurants here to have a display window filled with plastic models of the food they serve, which is a huge help in getting around the language barrier. That’s not really why restaurants have them, though. After all, the potential number of foreign customers is a drop in the bucket compared to the native Japanese population that has no trouble reading the menu or placing an order.
The real reason for those plastic models is that they catch the eye and stimulate the appetite of passersby, be they foreign tourist, local resident, or adorable cat.
As we expect you already know, character lunch boxes or “chara-ben,” short for “character bento,” are all the rage in Japan. And their creators are rarely shy about sharing their awesome work, so you can find hundreds of examples of how to make lunch time more adorable on social media networks like Instagram and Twitter.
One of the biggest themes for chara-ben right now is Disney’s Tsum Tsum, a line of stuffed toys that has been adapted into a smartphone game by Line. There were so many great photos, we had to compile our favorite Tsum Tsum chara-ben shots from Instagram for you to check out. But don’t forget to grab a snack, because you’re definitely going to get hungry!
Maybe we’re just predisposed to thinking with our stomachs, but even with all the brightly colored pleated skirts and magical monster battles in Sailor Moon, we always find our attention drawn to the food that shows up in the hit anime series. So when we heard that the official Sailor Jupiter bento boxed lunch is now being offered by a Tokyo cafe, took a break from marathoning episodes of the magical girl saga to go and try it for ourselves.
The art of bento making is one that truly forces the creator to plan out every single move ahead. You can’t just plate and then decorate; you need a game-plan right from the start. Plus, it’s not just about presentation – the food has to taste good too. There are plenty of amazing bento artists in Japan (basically any creative mom) but the craft is slowly making its way off the island nation.
A passionate chef from Singapore has been wowing us with her creative and stunning bento that are practically too good-looking to eat. But, any good chef knows that we eat with our eyes first, which means we have been absolutely devouring her cute food.
But what about when you want to eat like one of the sailor scouts? Well that’s something we at RocketNews24 have been wondering ourselves, so we decided to try making one of Sailor Jupiter’s legendary bento boxes. How did it turn out? Let’s just say we ran into some interesting characters along the way….
We’ve all been there. You run down to the convenience store during your lunch break, buy a delicious bento box, then dash back up to the office lunchroom, anxious to indulge in your cheap yet hearty meal. But then you open it up only to discover that you’ve been carrying it sideways the whole time, and everything has spilled over to one side, causing a jumbled, mixed-up mess.
It appears as though Taiwan has found the answer to this catastrophic problem: bags that make it impossible for a bento lunch to turn sideways, or any other direction that would spoil its deliciousness. How does it work? Watch the video and prepare to be amazed.
If you’ve been to Japan, you may have been told about the two most common table etiquette faux pas, both related to funerals and death. If you’re not very familiar with Japanese customs, these gaffes are way too easy to commit because on the surface, nothing seems obviously wrong with them.
Since we at RocketNews24 believe that unraveling the mysteries of Japanese culture is part of the fun of traveling and even living in Japan, in this article we’re going to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no gaijin has gone before: We’re going to reveal the meaning behind the mother of all lunch boxes: the funeral bento. It’s big, it’s bulky, it’s boisterous, and it’s drop-dead gorgeous.
This veritable feast in a box contains a seven-course meal which is big enough to share with the deceased. Yep, that’s right. Join us while we eat with the dead. Read on!
As a kid growing up in the 80s, I had imagined that by the year 2015, we’d either be waging war against an army of unstoppable killing machines of our own creation or zipping to work by hoverboard (or perhaps in phallus-shaped train pods) while enjoying eggs ‘n’ bacon in tablet form. Alas, science has let me down on both fronts, with the closest thing I have in my life to robot warfare being Apple constantly bugging me to sign in to the Cloud or Facebook suddenly deciding that we all have to download a totally separate smartphone app just to receive private messages.
But at least we can now let machines make our bento lunches look pretty while we’re busy ironing a shirt or looking for the keys to our stupid, dead dinosaur-fuelled cars. Say hello to Lunchbot.
Alongside Kit Kat bars, carbonated beverages, and potato chips, ice cream is one food Japanese flavor engineers love to monkey with. In the past we’ve seen frozen desserts flavored with great tastes such as scallops, vegetables, and pork.
This time we caught word of a little shop in Shin-Osaka Station offering travelers the cold and creamy taste of chicken ramen-flavored ice cream. So we hopped a train over to check it out and grab a self-heating chiki-bento while we were at it.
Since March is the month for graduations in Japan, the final part of this series will focus on the character bento mom’s “Countdown to Graduation” bentos made for her younger daughter in high school, along with another round of familiar characters! (If you missed the past two posts, you can find them here and here).
As the telltale cherry blossoms get ready to bloom, and as young folks all around Japan prepare to close a chapter in their lives so that they can embark upon a new one, Kaori cooks up lunches that are full of not only protein and attitude but also parental advice for the future! We’ll also share some information on her book, her last thoughts regarding the immense project, and—wait, is that a token of appreciation from her laconic yet demanding daughter?!
Do you remember last month’s piece which chronicled single mom Kaori’s three-year character bento spree? On the surface the project seemed to be about harassing her kyaraben-hating teenage daughter, but we learned that in the end, it was an incredible (not to mention eye-catching!) feat of parental love and dedication.
In Part 2 of this series, we’re going to put the spotlight on more of Kaori’s entertaining creations in tandem with some of her thoughts. And next week in Part 3, we’ll wrap up with the mom’s reaction to her long-awaited book, her “Countdown to Graduation” bentos, and a surprise from her daughter. So, before we get to this devoted mom’s moving, seaweedy words of wisdom and love, let the drool-fest begin! And keep your eyes peeled, you may even find your favorite character!
There are two advantages to the large variety of foodstuffs that go into a typical bento, or Japanese boxed lunch. Not only do they provide a diverse collection of flavors and vital nutrients, they also give aesthetically minded chefs plenty of options for arranging them in an expressive manner.
Of course, “expressive” can end up meaning very different things depending on what the bento-maker wants to express. In happy times, the result might be fun and playful chara-ben, boxed lunches that resemble popular fictional characters. But on the other end of the spectrum lie shikaeshi bento, “boxed lunches of revenge” that are as spiteful as they are creative.
On March 14, the new extension of the Nagano Shinkansen line will open, connecting Toyama and Ishikawa Prefectures to Tokyo. This is exciting news for Chubu region locals and Tokyoites alike, as the trip from the northern central prefectures to Tokyo will take a mere 2.5 hours, so everyone is preparing for some fun day trips!
What’s the best part of Shinkansen day trips (other than effortlessly speeding through beautiful Japanese countryside)? Ekiben! Ekiben are lunch boxes sold in train stations, specifically to be taken on long train rides. One of our Tokyo-based writers visited a famous ekiben shop, which sells over 170 bento box options and ate the top three kinds. Do they deserve their rankings at the top?