Bento in Japan

Bento Japan

Bento boxes are sold in every department store, grocery store and convenience store in Japan. It’s one of the most common items around, especially when there’s a konbini on every street corner. They’re priced very competitively too, but of course there are more premium versions which costs even more than a sit-down meal. We got ours at a huge multi-level shopping mall called Sapporo Factory.

Bento God of Discounts

I’ve actually watched an anime called Ben-To so I know that the best bento box that’s still unsold will get a special sticker. There’s also someone that comes out every day to put a discount sticker on the overdue products. This is the person that comes out at Sapporo Factory. They call her the “God of Discounts”. We waited until she did her thing to see if we could get discounted bento. HAHAHAHA. The ones we wanted didn’t get a discount though, it was only for certain items.

Japanese Bento

This is my bento. It costs 518 yen (about RM 22) and has 9 different containers. I believe this is what they call makunouchi bento (幕の内) which is a meal with everything. I love how everything is separated in Japan. They don’t mix stuff together so the taste will not combine – each item is separated by design, either using a separator (a fake plastic green leaf) or in a different part of the container.

Sapporo Bento

It has three (3) types of rice – plain Japanese white rice with ume (plum), soy sauce rice, and multi-grain rice. The six (6) different sides are steamed vegetables (middle – this is the best tasting one, surprisingly), tsukemono (pickled items), iwashi shoyuyaki (sardines sauteed in soy sauce – very nice too), tonkatsu (Japanese fried pork cutlet – hidden under the tamago/egg), and several other things I couldn’t identify but tasted delicious. smirk

Salmon Bento

This is what my better half chose for her bento. Hers is 406 yen (around RM 16) even though it’s smaller coz it has more meat. There’s a HUGE square of nori (dried seaweed) separating the rice from the sides. It has a generous slice of salmon, a pumpkin tempura, a pork tonkatsu, a piece of karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and some other condiments, including a piece of tamagoyaki (sweet Japanese rolled egg omelet) for dessert. I tried it and it was very nice.

Sapporo Factory Bento

I actually put on more than a couple of pounds in Hokkaido. I wanted to try so many different things so we had multiple meals per day. I told my dear, “We must try their bento boxes” and I learned that there are two kinds, the ones I wrote about here and the ones that’s only sold for long distance trips like on shinkansen called ekiben which we also had in Otaru. I’ll write more about the special ekiben soon coz it’s a separate topic. :)

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16 thoughts on “Bento in Japan

  1. One thing I really have to admit about Japanese cuisine is that it is not just about great food, it is an art – the presentation is amazing, so very beautiful! Stunning!

    • Yeah, the presentation is very beautiful! :)

      I think a lot of it has to do with the taboo of mixing food together. You’ll never see them do it like us with chap fan. They separate all the different tasting food, either by containers or by the fake green plastic things. They believe rice should be rice and stuff should be stuff and never shall the two mix (except in curry rice).

    • Yeah, they have beautiful plating skills! :)

      We had a kaiseki dinner the first day, and every small bowl/plate/serving receptacle was arranged nicely and properly. Each item inside had thought to it and everything from the pace to the items was dictated carefully e.g. sashimi to steamed to fried. It’s amazing! They really respect food and the process.

    • Thanks Libby! :)

      I would have gone with the fish too but I was attracted by the 9 box bento. It had 9 different small compartments, 3 of rice, all different types (white, soy and grains) and 6 of sides. It looked great and tasted just as good as it looked.

  2. I have bought a bento in the Kyoto train station to eat on the shinkansen. It is a beautiful box. I am salivating as I look at both your delicious bento.

    • Wow! That must have been an ekiben! :)

      Ekiben are different from regular bentos. They’re made specially for train/shinkansen travel and comes in a sturdier box, usually lacquer or something that looks like it. It also usually features food from the place/station e.g. in Otaru, my ekiben was full of uni (OMG!!!!) and ikura (salmon roe) coz Otaru is famous for that. It was so delicious, best 1,580 yen I ever spent.

      RM 65 may be quite a lot to spend on a bento but it was an ekiben and that’s usually more expensive. And it was soooo delicious.

  3. On my way hone, in June, I connect through Narita. I’ll try to get one of these to take to my daughter-she’ll love it.

    • Yeah, it’s a nice things to get from Japan. :)

      I’m not sure if you’ll be able to fly long distance with it though, they generally require refrigeration. Another good souvenir is Kit Kats (surprisingly). Japan has a lot of limited edition and region-specific ones that Kit Kat lovers (like myself) can’t wait to collect and eat.

  4. This was my work day lunch for 2 years! There’s a lady who comes in to our office daily and sells each bento box for 500 yen.

    Speaking of the God of Discounts, there’s a supermarket near my place last time that sold their sushi at HALF PRICE around 7-8pm daily. All the neighbourhood aunties will be there waiting for the worker to paste the sticker. The moment the sticker is pasted, the box is snatched! These aunties have really deft hands.

    • Nice! 500 yen is a good price for a bento! :)

      My most expensive one was 1,580 yen for an ekiben in Otaru. It’s the ones you buy before you board a long train or shinkansen. It’s the Otaru special with uni, ikura and egg and it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. I really wish that I could eat it again. I wouldn’t mind eating it every day!

      That’s awesome! 50% off is quite a lot. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay very long at Sapporo Factory so this was just the first round of discounts at about 4 pm. I’m sure people can’t wait to get their hands on the freshly discounted bentos, though I’ve never witnessed it myself, it was the central plot line for Ben-To. I’ll do it too if I were a student.

  5. Someone told me that in different cities of Japan, the timing for discounts on the bento boxes would differ. My friend who used to work in Tokyo had the habit to buy after 7pm sharp when the price dropped. Weeks ago I was in Kyoto and waited like a vulture at the supermarket nearby my hotel. Oh God, the discounts only came after 8pm! By 9pm it was 50%. It made me so greedy.

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