The Origin And Changing Emotions Of Bento Culture

I believe that everyone is not unfamiliar with bento boxes. Maybe many of us rarely come into contact with them in our lives, but they are often mentioned in various Japanese film and television works and books. Japanese bento boxes have a place in the ranks of Japanese foreign cultural propaganda.

The word originated in the Southern Song Dynasty, and was once written as “bian dao”, which means “convenient things, convenience”. After it was introduced into Japan, it was transmitted back to China by the Japanese “bentou”.

The earliest bento was the food that the ancients carried when they went out, farmed and hunted

In the Nara period, when the Japanese army was ordered to lead an expedition to the east, the soldiers carried sun-dried rice to satisfy their hunger, which was the prototype of the bento. In the early Edo period, the bento was still very simple, just a few rice balls and pickles. However, with the emergence of entertainment projects such as Kabuki and Kyogen, the people were also allowed to travel freely, which promoted the development of bento, and many new varieties appeared.

For example, “Interlude Bento”, as the name suggests, is a lunch box eaten between watching shows. In order to meet the needs of the audience of Kabuki and other shows, this ecological bento box can be placed on the knee. The main food is “egg rolls, grilled fish and fish plate”, the food is all cut into small pieces that can be eaten in one bite, ensuring that the audience can end their meal during the intermission. This kind of “lunch box”, which still exists in modern times, is a major feature of the old theater. Of course, there are also theaters where many people go to the lunch box.

Edo period bento box

The appearance of the samjin account system also greatly promoted the development of bento. The wives of each daimyo lived in Edo Castle, the husbands worked elsewhere, and the meals were packed in bento boxes and delivered by servants. There were a lot of interesting things during the period. The servants could not directly enter the office, and had to be handed over to the daimyo by the little monk. The salary of the little monk was very bad, so he naturally wanted the daimyo to give him some money. But Da Ming was very stingy. In order to get revenge, the little monk would pretend to forget about the bento from time to time. Da Ming couldn’t put up a face to ask questions, so he could only pretend not to be hungry and stand in the courtyard to enjoy the flowers.

The bento box of the Ming Dynasty

The first station bento was sold in 1885 at the White Wooden House Hotel at Utsunomiya Station. Since then, it has been out of control, and such bentos have begun to appear in various stations in Japan. At the same time, there are many kinds. Local specialties. For example, the squid rice bento in Hokkaido, and the Tottori Kitaro Furusashi rice. Yamaguchi Prefecture Fugu Sushi Bento and Kyushu Shinkansen Sakura Bento, etc.

In fact, it is easy to find that the appearance of each type of bento is in line with the changes of its era. Because of the expedition and war, the simplest but also the most convenient and easy-to-keep dry rice bento appeared. Because we are going to play entertainment, there is an intermission lunch box. Because I have to travel by car, I have a station bento. In the eyes of many people, bento is a kind of culture in Japan, and indeed it is, a culture that condenses the characteristics of the times into the bento box.

Whether bento and bento are the same food has always been controversial. From the perspective of the raw materials, the simple bento is naturally incomparable with the “Yamaguchi Fugu sushi bento”. From the appearance, the foam or plastic lunch box and the exquisite ecological bento box are randomly placed and different in style. Compared with the platter, it is not on the same level at all.

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