Updated: January 15, 2017
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3 Fascinating Aspects of Bento Culture

Pretty to look at and nice to eat, bento (boxed lunches) are so important in the lives of Japanese people that they are found everywhere. These 3 aspects of bento culture will enrich your Japan trips!

1. Kyara-ben (Character Bento)

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Kyara-ben are so cute that you can't bear to eat them!
Unlike the usual bento, kyara-ben (character bento) takes it to the next level by using food to depict irresistibly adorable animals and popular anime characters. So quail eggs are used to represent animals like chicks and piglets while sesame seeds and nori seaweed are used to form the eyes and mouth. Truly an exercise in creativity!

Homemakers make kyara-ben with lots of love for their husbands as a way of appreciating their hard work or for their children so as to motivate them to eat the foods they don't like. Maybe you don't have a Japanese wife or girlfriend, but if you visit theme cafes like Snoopy Café or PomPomPurin Café, you can savor these colorful lunches!

2. Conbini Bento (Convenience Store Bento)

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Spoilt for choice for bento at a convenience store
Wish to stretch your dollar further while travelling? Japan is a country that can definitely address your budget needs. Pay a visit to any convenience store, and you will be swarmed with a comprehensive range of conbini bento (boxed lunches from convenience stores).

Featuring everything from appetizing Japanese-style pasta and yakisoba (fried buckwheat noodles) to rice paired with seasonal vegetables and then some, the conbini bento is sure to provide a umami boost that will fill up your stomach, without leaving a dent in your wallet!

3. Ekiben (Train Station Bento)

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Multitude of mouthwatering bento at a train station
Ekiben shops are found at all major JR train and shikansen stations. Eating ekiben is a great way to savor local delicacies as the meals often showcase ingredients and cooking styles exclusive to a particular prefecture. What better way to understand gourmet culture of the places you are visiting than to tuck into a delicious ekiben? Here are a couple of Japan's best-loved ekiben:

Matsusaka-gyu Monogatari (Tale of Matsusaka Beef)

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Said to contain the best-quality beef in Japan
Do you want to eat beef that comes from cattle that are raised on beer and massaged with shochu? This gives rise to tender beef that is marbled with juicy fats! This Matsusaka-gyu Monogatari is available at Matsusaka Station in Mie Prefecture.

Ikameshi (Squid Stuffed with Rice)

Mori ikameshi https://goo.gl/TYG5u2
Provides epic sensations for squid lovers
Hokkaido is famed for its succulent, tasty seafood and if you visit Mori Station, you will be able to purchase ikameshi bento. Containing two huge pieces of squid stuffed with rice, this bento packs a punch with its rush of flavorful dashi broth!
In all, Japan's rich and dynamic bento culture will spice up and tantalize your trip. Bon voyage!

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