Bento, derived from the Chinese letters 便當 back in Southern Song Dynasty , means convenience. It is a box filled with food you take with you to school or work to eat.
I love bentos/lunch boxes in Japan. I love the pretty decorations, and the variety of food offered. I know most people would probably buy the bento from the train stations, but I got something better for you. If you want to be wowed by the quality, the variety, and the design of the bento in Japan, you have to go to the food court in department stores of Japan.
At Shinjuku, there is a shopping mall called Takashimaya, it is very close to the train station, and offers a food court at their B1 (basement) level. Food ranges from Japanese sweets to Western cakes, Japanese traditional bentos to Chinese bento. Department store’s food court is a competitive field where each bento stand tries to out-sale another. During special seasons like Christmas and New Year, the competition gets even more fierce by the production of limited edition bentos.
My head was spinning with joy when I see so many counters offers different varieties of bento. If you like seafood, they have ones just for the seafood (with lots of raw fish filled to the top), if you like hand rolls, they got those too, if you like tempura, yep they have it all. It took me an hour just to walk around and take everything into my head so I can calmly decide on a bento I want. I was so excited by the colorful displays, and how everything looks so yummy.Why don’t we have these in America’s shopping malls??? (sobs)
I finally chose the limited edition autumn bento that was recommended by one of the counter that day. It has tempura, water boiled veggies, fish, egg, tofu, rich cake, and seasoned rice with mushrooms on it. My gawd if they offer those during my college days, I know I would eat properly everyday no problem (and probably still not gain weight either since it is healthy).
Another thing I recommend in Takashimaya’s food court is Maisen sandwiches. Maisen is famous for their fried pork cutlet, tonkatsu. However, I found the sandwiches they have are very interesting, and easy to bring with for eating on the go~
Whispers: They sell Maisen sandwich box on the N’ex Train from Narita Airport to Tokyo also!
I bought the Maisen tonkatsu sandwich box. The bread is soft and puffy, meat is perfect with no weird pieces, the sauce is not too salty or sweet, and together, everything balanced out. It is very easy to eat those anywhere because they are cut to the perfect portions so you can easily eat those with your fingers and without the mess. (still, everyone has different taste buds, so this is purely my personal opinion).
(I think I ate like 4-5 times that day…..x_X I am not going to weigh myself for a while)
So when you are about to embark on a shopping trip in Shinjuku in the morning, or about to head back to the hotel for the day, be sure to stop by Takashimaya Department Store’s basement level for some bentos!
Have you bento yet?