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.
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.
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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