Posts Tagged ‘bento’

Pulsations (12.6.13)

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Here’s a new batch of Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order . . .

Restaurant combines delicious sushi with live performances by J-pop idols (from RocketNews24): “On average, each of [the members of the idol group] works in the restaurant three days a week, and on Mondays and Wednesdays, they’re always here to take care of our guests. One of the girls hates sushi, though.”

IT knit sweaters by Shogo Kishino (from designboom): You know that time you met that guy what’s-his-name and he had some hair and like . . . a face? There’s also what’s-her-face and their hazily remembered animal friends, all in pixel art on sweaters.

Noramoji | Fonts made out of retro Japanese storefronts (from Spoon & Tamago): Buying these unique fonts supports the small business owners whose signs they are adapted from.

Tokyo Disney Sea with a bottle of vodka (from Ikimasho!): Justin goes further than journaling his visit to the theme park by rating all the rides he and his friends went on.

Stop-Motion Animator Spent Four Years Making His Dream Come True (from Kotaku): “I’m putting out [Junk Head 1] and if people are interested in the sequel and are willing to donate the funds necessary to make it, I’ll make it.”

Video Pulse

‘Tis the season to be packing Santa character bento. e-obento’s tutorial shows you how, step-by-step.

2012: Food and drink trends in Japan

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Whether it be moldy salt, lunch in a cup or frozen soup on a stick, the thriving Japanese food scene spawned a diverse array of surprising culinary wonders this year. Behind the fads, a pragmatic consciousness about healthy eating and a desire to economize were major factors affecting food and drink trends during 2012.

Eating out

According to Nikkei Trendy, the poor economy and the aging population have dealt blows to the high end of the restaurant trade. Enter the low-cost posh restaurant. Massively successful in 2012, a chain of restaurants run by Value Create is serving up top-end French and Italian food designed by “super chefs” in a bistro environment. There are now five “Ore no Itarian” (My Italian) and four “Ore no Furenchi” (My French) restaurants in the Ginza area. Meals cost around  ¥3,000 to  ¥4,000 per head, a huge saving compared to the ¥30,000 per head charged at the poshest restaurants. Nikkei Trendy says that other high-end restaurants are cutting costs and following suit.

A new casual restaurant called Tanita Shokudo turned up on Jiyu Kokuminsha’s 50 top buzzwords of 2012. Run by Tanita, a company that manufactures scales, this hugely popular restaurant in the Marunouchi area of Tokyo serves up the same menu — and nutritional advice — as the company’s own cafeteria to health-conscious customers. This year has also seen a revival of interest in restaurants serving yakuzen (Chinese medicinal) cuisine. Some of these restaurants also advise customers on what dishes might have a beneficial effect on their health. This is a trend we feel might spread in 2013.

Keeping trim

The inevitable diet fad surfaced in 2012 with the appearance of the tomato boom. It was kicked off by the publication of a study that appeared to indicate consuming large amounts of tomato juice would help alleviate metabolic syndrome. Though the trend has slowed somewhat, just as the notorious banana boom did, tomato sales stayed higher for longer than your typical fad.

Continuing on a health tip, one of the most successful new beverages to emerge in 2012 was a health drink — at least according to the Japanese government. Endorsed as the Japanese equivalent of a FOSHU (food for specified health use) by Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency, Mets Cola sold so well that its manufacturer, Kirin, met its annual sales target in just two weeks. Popular with health-conscious men and women in their 30s to 40s, the cola contains an ingredient that helps reduce the absorption of fat. Other tokuho (health) drinks that deliver the fizzy pop experience without the calories have also been popular. The trend looks set to continue with more and more products gaining accreditation.

Spicing things up

Another versatile ingredient that’s still trending is koji salt. Combined with salt, koji, a domesticated fungus used in the production of miso, soy sauce and sake, can be used as a marinade that increases the umami (savory) flavors of meat or fish. It also turned up flavoring packaged foods like potato chips and drizzled on salads and grilled vegetables as a dressing at trendy restaurants. Following salt koji’s huge success, salty yogurt also enjoyed a mini boom with a number of cookery books utilizing this rather odd ingredient. Both savory sauces can be homemade, meshing with the trend toward cheaply producing food at home.

Taking it with you

Hot on the heels of the phenomenon of bento danshi (guys who bring a packed lunch to work), home-made lunch boxes continued to be popular in 2012. This time it was women who were behind a trend to pack their lunch into plastic tumblers. Colorful, versatile and fun, the trend for tumbler bento was also great for keeping portion sizes under control and was popular with dieters as well as the budget-conscious.

Keeping things interesting

As well as economizing, the Japanese food and beverage industry continues to innovate, producing a range of weird and wonderful new products. Among our favorites this year were Gari Gari Kun corn soup on a stick and frozen beer suds. In keeping with that, we’d like to raise a glass of the recently released limited-edition Coffee Porter hot beer coffee (got that?) and wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year — a year which will no doubt be filled with delicious new treats.

 

It all stacks up: tumbler bento

Friday, July 20th, 2012

The latest trend in lunch boxes does away with the box all together. Slender, attractive and easy to put together, the “tumbler bento” is the new shape of lunch on the run. The idea, which is finding favor with career women, is to pop your lunch into an insulated coffee cup before dashing out to work in the morning. The cup keeps your lunch cool (or warm) and saves space in your bag.

According to Get News, the trend was kickstarted by a story featuring model Shizuka Kondo in the May issue of women’s magazine CanCam. The charm points? Sloppy ingredients won’t spill; it fits easily into a bag; hot meals retain their heat better; cool meals stay cool; and if you skip breakfast you can always stick in your cornflakes before dashing out of the house and eat them at your desk with fresh milk. Another tumbler trick: Throw in some dry pasta in the morning and pour in hot water, and it’s cooked by lunch time.

The idea was picked up by morning TV show “Sukkiri!” which ran a segment on tumbler bento featuring enthusiastic women who’d embraced the idea. Another reason the idea is attractive is that, if you like, it allows you to be secretive about the contents of your lunch box. On the other hand, if you go for a transparent tumbler, you can show off your lunch to decorative effect with layers of rice interspersed with layers of veggies and meat. The whole thing looks a little bit like a parfait. Apparently the ideal way to eat it is with a dainty long parfait spoon.

While the kyaraben (character bento) trend still seems to be going strong with competitive housewives who’ve got the time to sculpt their children’s food to resemble cartoon characters, the tumbler bento could appeal to busy career women who are short on time but still want to show off their cooking chops. Another plus is that they’re a useful way for dieters to keep an eye on how much they’re consuming.

Check out the video above for a quick guide in English to making your own tumbler lunch. Warning: Contains rice mixed with pasta. If the very thought of that turns your stomach, please step slowly away from the keyboard.

Pulsations (08.20.10)

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • Comiket 78: Day 3 (from Tokyo Scum Brigade): Chronicling the third day of Comiket 78 and featuring elaborate costumes that require true devotion in the intense summer heat.
  • Matsuri da! (114): Angels with Dirty Faces (from Ampontan): Something only the most impish of kids would enjoy.
  • The Line (from Kirainet.com): Another addition to Tokyo’s endless collection of lines.
  • Abandoned Ginza (from Mike’s Blender): Ever wondered what a post-apocalyptic Ginza might look like? Here’s a slightly spooky first look . . .
  • Comparing bento box materials (from Just Bento): For those who want lunchtime perfection.

Bento boys rock the lunch box

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Bento boxes for men now stack vertically

Bento boxes for men now stack vertically

Nestlé have recently launched a cute new site called “Bento Danshi Park” (Lunch Box Boys’ Park) that allows visitors to take a peek inside the carefully prepared lunch boxes of the nation’s salarymen. Feeding off the bento danshi trend that exploded last year, the site allows male users to upload photos of their packed lunches, which are then rated by other users.

The trend began with a string of media reports that stated modern men were more likely to bring a packed lunch to work for economic and health reasons. Proving that this wasn’t all hot air, BP Net reported that Tokyu Hands saw a significant rise sales of bento boxes specifically designed for men and that publishing companies also done well with recipe books for simple bento lunches. For example, last spring the publication of “Bokuben” (My Lunch Box) by Matsuki Kamizawa (Goma Books), a how-to book aimed at male readers, proved to be a big hit.

A homemade bento, prepared with the right ingredients, can cost as little as ¥200, and some male workers have managed to slash their daily budgets even further by joining the new tribe of “suitou danshi” – men who take drinks to work in a thermos.

Many men, however, have reportedly been drawn to making bento simply out of a desire to learn how to cook. Attractive and healthy bento were matched with herbivorous men (yet another media catchphrase used to describe Japan’s version of the metrosexual) and Nestlé’s site is clearly aimed at that niche market. And what’s the link between bento and Nestlé, you might rightly ask? Turns out that it’s all to promote more soshokukei danshi (herbivorous men) eating airy Aero chocoloate.

At the time of writing, however, the top-ranked box lunch on Bento Danshi Park was a simple Chinese-style fried rice, accompanied by a piece of fried chicken, which perhaps indicates the site is frequented by guys who rate speed and economy over acquiring complicated culinary skills. Maybe the campaign isn’t exactly hitting the herbivore target after all.

One of the coolest innovations to accompany the trend is the rise of the vertically stacking lunch box, which is specifically designed to fit into briefcases. The theory being that flat-bottomed lunch boxes will just get upended if they’re put in alongside documents. This one from Metaphys is particularly cool and shows that the simplest bento can still be eaten with style.

Bento packaged for the global spotlight

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

How to make an Astro Boy charabento, as show in "Face Food Recipes" and available from Mark Batty Publisher. (Christopher D. Salyers photo)

How to make an Astro Boy kyarabento, as shown in "Face Food Recipes," available from Mark Batty Publisher. (Christopher D. Salyers photo)

The recession and a growing interest in cost-cutting ingenuity have resulted in an unprecedented amount of bento coverage in the international press. From The Guardian to The Washington Post, major newspapers are spilling plenty of ink over this humble yet refined Japanese tradition.

It’s easy to see why. Bento provide an extremely photogenic platform to explain larger cultural and economic realities for the beleaguered working classes, who in an effort to save money choose the DIY approach to lunch. However, in the New York Times’ opinion blog, “Room for Debate,” several well-known creative minds move beyond proletariat concerns to wax philosophic on the nature of bento and how they represent Japanese society.

John Maeda links traditional boxed lunches to the Japanese “less is more” principal, while Muji creative director Kenya Hara argues that bento preparation is an act of focusing on the beautiful and simple in an ugly, chaotic world. Denis Dutton highlights the love and care placed in a bento’s creation, while Nick Currie (aka Momus) sees bento as a triumph of aesthetics over efficiency.

It would be more than a stretch to call the interest in bento a new trend in Japan. After all, people have making boxed lunches for centuries, and even the buzz around bento boys (弁当男子), those working men who – “gasp!” – prepare their own lunches to save money, goes back at least a few years. But now the kyaraben version of bento are arguably becoming a global art form, with kyaraben contests, budding kyaraben Facebook and Flickr groups, and yes, a Kyaraben iPhone application.

Bonus links:

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