Japanese mums get stressed about making Obento

April 23, 2013 Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

lunch hinomaru bentoA few day ago I saw an article about lunch in Japan. It´s quite common that school children and salarymen (サラリーマン) take their lunch box to school or work, because there are no lunch service at school or no dining at work, or simply they don´t want to spend money on lunch. The argument of this article was the wife only stuff the lunchbox with rice and nothing more. The wife´s excuse was that the husband could get side dish from supermarkets or Depa-chika (デパ地下/ the food section of department stores) where some food samples are distributed.

bento konbini

People showed sympathy to this man, some called the wife "evil". I don´t know if she was evil but I don´t blame the person who left this comment. If any of you have ever been to Japan and seen or tried a lunchbox in Japan, you may know it. Usually in a lunch box, there is some rice and a half of the box is filled with side dish. Something like this.

Even Konbini sells this rich Obento (お弁当/lunchbox), it´s understanding that people thought stuffing only rice was a lack of love.


bento takoBut actually, making a lunch especially children is exaggerated from my point of view. It´s normal that mothers want their children to eat variety of food and a lot. During all my school life, from nursery school to high school, I took lunch with me from home. Very occasionally I bought some sandwich from a bakery or a Konbini. I was just happy if my mum would make octopus shape sausages or a rabbit shape apple.




Since my father worked from home, 90% of my Obento were made by my father. Since he was much older than other mothers and his priority of food was nutrition, the presentation of Obento was completely ignored. While other classmates had colourful appetizing lunch, my lunch was all brownish with grilled fish and veggies cooked with soy sauce.

bento fish rice

One day at lunch time, I opened my lunch box and before seeing what was inside, it smelled. The kids sitting close to me moarned "eek, stinks". I couldn´t blame them, it stunk. I quickly shut my lunchbox and opened it again but only a centimeter to see what was inside. It was rice and a grilled fish on top, nothing more.

It was like this photo but without any colour dish on the left. The worst part was it was cold… I didn´t have a courage to open it and eat in front of the classmates. And that was when I decided to make my own lunch. I was probably 13 or 14.

obento 1


What I see in the Japanese people´s blogs, mums work so hard to make pretty lunch that their children can proudly open in front of the classmates. But at the sametime it looks to me, quite stressful.


This is quite average. It can be some leftover from the night before.  



But this is not enough anymore, it´s too normal. They have to be like these. Totoro rice and cat rice.

bento totoro bento cat


Then some are gone little farther. The Simpsons and some Anime characters. These Obento are called Kyara-ben (キャラ弁/ character Bento). Also called Obento Art. Obento has now reached an art level.

bento simpsons bento anime



Now this is gone too far for me. NIVEA cream imitated lunch. How long do they take to do this? What time do mums need to wake up to make such lunchbox? I mean it´s great and amazing. Some mothers even go to a class to learn how to make pretty lunch.

I remember TV series in the States that the mums prepared peanuts butter and jam sandwiches for kids to take school. Both are so extreme.






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