The origin of Bento Boxes

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The word bento is originated from the Japanese language which means lunch box.

A sneak peek into Bento Box history tells us they are very common in Japan. Bento box was originated in the fifth century, and became trendy around the world in the past decade.

Bento boxes can be easily found on the streets anywhere in Japan, and available in most countries that embrace Japanese cuisine.

During the fifth century, Japanese man used to carry compact meals so called Bento when going fishing and hunting. Through that period Bento boxes contained white rice, millets and potatoes.

During the Edo Period (1603-1868) the way food was presented and consumed experienced significant modification, resulting in the popularity of the bento box. From that point, Bento boxes had been found in different variations of content. People would take bento boxes to the theatre and traveller would carry them wrapped on their waist, also called ‘koshibento’. The food then consisted of rice with sesame seeds and side dishes, wrapped in bamboo boxes.

Through the period, bento boxes consumptions grew amongst special celebrations. These bento meals were especially prepared for tea ceremonies and for special guests.

Dried meals also known as hoshi-ii became very popular during the Kamakura period (1185 - 1333), Bentos were then carried in a small bag, and it contained cooked and dried rice while wooden boxes become available around the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568 – 1600).

Bento boxes became widely available around train stations during the Meiji Period (1968-1912) when the same became introduced to the Japanese history. Through the same period Bento Boxes became popular in Europe however, they contained sandwiches.

Aluminium boxes became popular during Taisho Period (1912 - 1926) and were considered luxury items. The distinction between rich and poor became move evident during the World War causing Bento Boxes to be banned in schools decreasing their popularity.

Fast forward a few years, Bento boxes again have gained popularity around the 80’s, where they were made of polystyrene and plastic and were microwave safe allowing parent to reheat the boxes.

Today, bento boxes are found in different shapes, forms and materials. They are available in many different location across the globe and became very popular traditional Japanese meal.



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