In a hurry? Grab a bento!

sushibento

Bought this sushi bento for 500 yen at the basement floor of a department store in Ikebukuro.

Everyone in Japan, particularly those in the big cities, is always on the run. There’s no time to order, wait, and sit down to eat in a restaurant. This is where the mighty bento 弁当 (or obento お弁当, as it is referred to in the shops) saves the day.

Bento means lunchbox, and Japan has a wide range of delicious and healthy, not to mention awfully nice-looking, lunchboxes. Just looking at them makes my mouth water. Thinking about them (like now!) makes me hungry. (#^.^#)

A wide variety of bento is mostly found in the basement area of department stores (like Parco, Tobu, Seibu, Marui, etc). Convenience shops (7-11, Family Mart, Sunkus, etc.) also carry them for those who are too busy and tired to make their own lunch or dinner. And these are also found in some stalls in big train stations like Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ikebukuro, to name a few. Prices range from ¥500 to ¥3,000+ a box.

beefsteakbento

Beef steak bento. Heavenly.

heatdevice

The heating device underneath the bento.

There is this one particular bento that I found intriguing. It has its own, should I say, “heating device” which is located underneath the tray containing the food. Found this one in a bento stall within Tokyo Station, very close to the Shinkansen (bullet train) gates. I thought this type of bento is cool because I can heat it up anytime I want to.

ekiben

Pull the string to activate the heating device.

I’m so sorry I was not able to get my own photo of the interesting contraption, my hunger and excitement just took over my mind! But here is a wonderful photo from Trends in Japan that clearly illustrates how this bento works. Just pull the string, wait for about 5-10 minutes, and voila! You got yourself a warm and delicious bento. Do visit Trends in Japan for a more detailed and informative read on Ekiben 駅弁 = 駅 eki (station) 弁 ben (from bento).

Shop clerks  in convenience stores would normally offer to warm your bento before going – well, except for sushi and salad bento. You would hear, “温めますか?” (Atatamemasuka?) “Would you like [me] to heat it [for you]?” If you’d like it warm, then a “yes please” should do it. But for that Japanese experience a “はい、お願いします” (Hai, onegaishimasu) with a slight bow of the head, is best. This phrase is very useful when shopping around Japan as the locals use it as well. If it’s too long to remember, a simple “hai” would do. But be careful as you might end up getting something you actually didn’t want! (^o^;)

I’d be happy to hear your stories, queries about bento or otherwise. Hit me up in the comments section below! (* ̄▽ ̄)ノ~~ ♪

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23 thoughts on “In a hurry? Grab a bento!

      • It’s fairly easy to find sushi, but good sushi restaurants are few and far between. The nearest good sushi place is 1 – 1/2 hours away, so I have to make certain that I pack a cooler with ice in it for the trip back! When I go for sushi, I get enough to last the whole weekend…but it’s usually gone in a day, LOL
        😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOL – very nearly! When I worked at an office in Portland, Oregon, there was a little sushi restaurant right across the street from the office…I was there at least twice a week for lunch, sometimes three! They had a very nice place; you could sit and eat your selections, or make your own bento-to-go. I miss being able to do that; that’s the downside of not living in the city.
        🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. YUM! I love bento boxes — my local mall sells some and while they’re not particularly authentic (and the portions are HUGE), it’s absolutely delicious and I love ordering it. Now I’m hungry!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I see a lot of bento here that are huge for me – a lot of tiny little portions of veggies, pickled veggies, and meat. So I choose the smaller ones, like the sushi bento because I know I can finish off everything. (*´艸`)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. That’s amazing! What a great idea. Do you find many vegetarian bento boxes?
    I really like how you use Japanese in your posts, it’s very informative and useful to anyone who’s thinking about visiting. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! 🙂 I’ll continue inserting some Japanese here and there.
      About vegetarian bento, they do exist but not a lot. Most bento boxes include fish and vegetables, or some meat and vegetables. So far, I’ve seen cold noodles and vegetables bento boxes, western style salad, and maki in convenience stores.
      I would say vegetarian bento would be easy to find in the basement area of department stores. Some special bento shops offer vegetarian selections. My guess is that it’s hard to keep them on the shelves for a long time. Each bento has a time stamp (sort of) and when it’s a couple of hours away from expiring it has to go on sale. Otherwise, it would be taken off the shelf. They have high food safety standards, in my opinion.
      However, there are a lot of delicious vegetarian food, usually served fresh — because the Japanese love fish and fresh vegetables. But I heard some Japanese doesn’t like sushi. 😀
      I’ll write a more detailed post on bento next time. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thanks for this info, really interesting. I didn’t manage to find any veggie bento when I visited and lived on inari and plum onigiri from 7-11. Japan is fascinating – look forward to hearing more!

        Liked by 1 person

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