Among various arts and cultures in Japan, bento is one of typical Japanese traditional cultures. Bento is a boxed lunch. Children who go to kindergarten and elementary school usually bring bento in their daily life. Boxed lunch in Japan is called “Bento”. Therefore recently many foreigners call this “Bento Box”. I am not talking about box itself but lunch which is put in lunch box or lunch container. Kids usually do not know what kind of menu it is until they open it at lunch time.
Before talking about currently prevailing bento culture in Japan, I would like to explain a little bit more about what BENTO is. Wikipedia simply explains about bento as follows: Bento is a single portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento holds rice, fish or meat, with pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container. Bento are readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, bento shops, railway stations and department stores. Japanese homemakers often spend time and energy on a carefully prepared lunch box for their spouse, child, or themselves.
By reading above explanation about bento, I hope you now have a clear picture about bento which is quite common and popular in the daily life of Japanese people.
Recently the menu of bento has become very colorful and it currently uses a variety of ingredients. Judging from the variety of food used for bento and compared with old fashioned bento which used to prevail until 30 to 40 years ago, it is obvious that not only children but also general people in Japan are now living a very luxurious life when it comes to food.
When we were children, our parents often talked about the shortage of food which took place during and after the World War II. According to my parents, children often went to school with bento which has only a couple of ingredient such as steamed rice (white color) and a single piece of pickled plum (usually red color in Japan) that is put in the center of rice so that it looks like the national flag of Japan. It is a very humble lunch compared with the current bento in the 21st century. When Japan was seriously running out of food just after the war, even eating rice was impossible. During such severe period of time, they could not bring even a humble bento to school.
At the moment, we have plenty of food available. And they are spending their valuable time and energy for making luxurious bento. Especially bento for children who go to kindergarten and elementary school, parents always pay special attention not only to the number of ingredients but also the color coordination as well as its design so that bento will look pretty nice and attractive. Kids usually have no idea what kind of food is in the bento box until they open it at lunch time.
Recently we can find what is called “Kyaraben” or character bento . This is a new word made from the term of “character” and “bento”. Kyaraben is decorated to look like Japanese popular animation characters, characters from comic books (manga) or video game characters. One of typical Kyaraben is Hello Kitty Bento which features well known Hello Kitty loved by many kids all over the world. People who want to make this type of bento can use a kit which is designed to make this bento easily. They are sold in Japan and in the United States as well.
Information source: Wikipedia , You Tube and other websites.
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