What is Bento? Learn More About This Convenient Japanese Meal

What is Bento? Learn More About This Convenient Japanese Meal

August 19, 2022
3 min read
authentic japanese food

Bento is more than a Japanese lunchbox. It’s a whole category of food that usually includes rice, meat, and vegetables. It’s served in a bento box: a special container or dish with dividers that beautifully separate different parts of the meal.

Throughout Japan, this meal is available at convenience stores, specialty bento shops, and even train stations. No wonder the word “bento” comes from a Chinese word for “convenience”.

Curious to learn more about this authentic Japanese food? Read on for history and common variations.

When did people start enjoying bento?

Around the 5th century, many Japanese people started packing meals to take to work work. Farmers and fishers, for example, did not have time to go home and eat. In these early bento boxes, people often carried hoshii (prepared by boiling and then drying rice), onigiri (rice balls), potatoes, and regional staples.

Later, during the Edo period 1603-1867), more people embraced bento culture and took boxes with them on travels and sightseeing excursions. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), trains were introduced to Japan and bento boxes could be purchased at stations across the country.

While bento boxes declined in popularity after WWII, they were embraced in the 1980s along with microwave ovens, TV dinners, and convenience stores. Western nations had been introduced to the delights of bento by immigrants, and people around the world were experiencing the pleasure of authentic Japanese food. Unique variations on classic bento dishes were born or reborn.

Today, bento boxes are so beloved that the Japanese government even hosts bento-making contests.

Popular Variations

There are many different types of bento boxes, but some of the most popular ones include:

Ekiben

Eki means “train station”, so you can guess where this type of bento is most popular. These lunch boxes are sold both on the platform and on the train. The ingredients in the box usually reflect the specialties of the area.

Kyaraben

These are favored by children and anime and/or manga lovers– the rice and other dishes are shaped to look like popular characters. Kyaraben can also include scenery that suggests a holiday or season.

Koraku

The word translates to “picnic lunchbox” and they’re made for sharing. Koraku is especially popular during cherry blossom season and festivals. It usually includes dishes that reflect the special occasion through design and ingredients.

Makunouchi

This type of bento was first served as a meal between acts for actors and audience members in Kabuki theater. Now found in department stores and supermarkets, the bento has two sections, one with rice and the other containing all side dishes.

Try Torisho’s Bento Box

Torisho has crafted the perfect bento box to satisfy all your cravings. Choose the style of chicken you want (nanban, momo, mune, momo + mune). And enjoy our sides:

  • White Rice,
  • Cabbage Slaw,
  • Potato Salad,
  • Edamame,
  • and Miso Soup.

Take your convenient meal to the office, to the park, or home to enjoy with loved ones.

Bento boxes are a delicious and authentic Japanese dish that is perfect for a balanced lunch or dinner. Instead of searching for “bento near me”, just stop by at Torisho Beach. To get it right at your order, order delivery.
Come experience the joy of fried chicken, and tag us in your meals @torisho.ca.