Teens Photo Project

Bento, the Japanese Lunch Box

Place : Kyoto
Taken by : S. Y. (Doshisha International Junior/Senior High School)

I am a returnee from America to Japan, and there were many surprising things when I came back to my home country. One of the cultural traditions that amazed me was the culture of Bento. Bento is a Japanese word meaning lunch box, and it is very different from American lunch boxes. To many Japanese people Bento is very familiar. We make it at our home to save money and to eat healthy and safe food.

Japan's Bento culture has become popular, and now there are many new types of Bento boxes. The food inside started to change from this development, too. I would like to introduce about this, the Japan that you can see from lunches.

This is the most popular lunch box which has been sold from long time ago. In the past, they were mainly made from silver and other metal, but now they are mostly made out of plastic. This type is easy to put in food, so probably adults are the main users. Next to the lunch box, there is a slim white box; that's a chopstick box in which you can put your chopsticks.
Inside, half is white rice, and the other half is other food. Japanese mothers sometimes use the remainders of supper from the day before, and this lunch is made out of leftovers, too. Also, they use frozen food to fill the spaces, and it is very convenient.

This lunch box is a two-tiered lunch box which is popular among teenage girls and other women. There are larger and more gorgeous ones of these which are called Jubako, and we use them on special days. The lower layer is mostly filled with white rice, and the upper layer is mostly food.

This bento's rice is already seasoned with furikake, a seasoning dried food for sprinkling over rice. Some houses sprinkle it on when they make the lunch, and others bring it in a separate foil packet so the furikake will stay crispy. Eggs and sausages are used in many of them. Eggs can also be used to make tamagoyaki a Japanese-style omelette, and sausages are usually broiled.

This is a very slim lunch box which has become popular recently. It doesn't take up much space in your bag, so it became very popular. There are many types of these slim lunch boxes, and probably anyone can find a style that fits them. There's a place in the lid to put your chopsticks in, so you don't even need a separate chopstick box.

In this photo a brown food is taking up most of the space, and that is Karaage, deep-fried chicken. It is popular for people of all ages and loved by most people. Cherry tomatoes are used to give color to the lunch, and the green grass-looking thing is used to divide the foods.

Bento is a special part of Japanese culture, even if it's a daily object we use without thinking deeply. The lunch boxes have developed to be useful and beautiful. Because they became so useful, we now use them every day. Foods have to look beautiful because we first have fun by looking at it, not tasting it.
Maybe everyday objects show us what Japan is like and Japan's good points more then special things. We can probably find “Japan” in our daily lives so we should thank our country.

Child Research Net would like to thank the Doshisha International Junior/Senior High School and Satomi Yamada, student and author, for permitting reproduction of this article on the CRN web site.

Copyright (c) Child Research Net, All rights reserved.