Another FUN food in Japan is Obento お弁当(Bento 弁当), which is also getting popular here in the U.S.
I had Obento several times during my last stay in Japan. Each time, it took me a while to choose from the huge selection of Obento.
Obento is a single-portion takeout or home packed meal, common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional Obento consists of rice, fi sh and/or meat, and pickled and/or cooked vegetables. Its served usually in a box-shaped container.
Obento is readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, Bento shops, train stations, supermarkets and department stores.
The origin of Obento can be traced back to late Kamakura Era (1185-1333).
In Meiji Era (1868-1912), the first Eki Ben 駅弁 (Eki Bento 駅弁当: train station Bento) was sold. There are several records that claim where Eki Ben was first sold, but it is believed that July 16th, 1885 at Utsunomiya Station was the first on record. The first one was a very simple form, containing two Onigiri おにぎり (rice balls) and a serving of Takuan (yellow pickled Japanese radish) wrapped in bamboo leaves.
Obento is very convenient, reasonable, nutritional and even entertaining since it’s an assortment of different kinds of foods.
These days, moms and wives in Japan are passionate about making appealingly arranged Obento “Kyara Ben” キャラ弁 (Character Bento キャラクター弁当) and even hold contests to choose the best one.
Kyara Ben is a style of elaborately arranged Obento which features food decorated to look like people, characters from popular media, animals, and plants. Originally, a decorated bento was intended to interest children in their food and to encourage a wider range of eating habits.