Have you ever heard of the word “Bento”？ It is a traditional “lunch box”, originating from Japan. When it comes to lunch boxes, many foreigners may think of a simple, convenient portable meal. However, Bento is more than just a portable meal, it largely reflects the food culture of Japan. Ekiben, which literally means “station bento” and Kyaraben, which is a shortened name for “character bento”, are the most notable and widely known among all types of Japanese bento.
Ekiben is always sold at train stations or on train, but each of them are not available everywhere as they often are limited to certain parts of Japan! It thus presents the local culture of a given region in Japan. And that is what makes it so attractive to foreign travelers.
Kyaraben is usually hand-made by Japanese mothers. They put Japanese manga or animate icons into their beloved-ones’ bento, in order to ensure a balanced diet for their families – especially the children.
In fact, not only the content in the bento, but also the boxes themselves are part of the Japanese culture. There really is a lot to learn if you want to fully grasp the true meaning of “Bento” for Japanese people.