Lunchbox (bentoo) (05)


Lunchbox (Lunch Box, boxed lunch, lunch in a box)
弁当(bentoo, bento, Japan)

***** Location: Japan, Hawaii
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Humanity


This entry started with a remark by "chibi" (pen-name for Dennis M. Holmes) :

Modern haiku is much like obentoo. "Eat with your eyes."

barriers and borders separate and hold
regional delicacies starting with rice

so ordered ... so precise

variations found in the e-fish-ency of fast food sometimes difficult to find where the gravy ends and the styrofoam begins

an analog
my haiku to

make mine umeboshi
I'll have a ball
I'm on a roll


This led to a series of haiku, see below.


The lunchbox, bentoo 弁当 is not a kigo, so we can use it as a non-seasonal topic for haiku.
But there is one kigo, where the lunchbox features, see below.



There are many types of lunchboxes in Japan.

The Aisai Bentoo 愛妻弁当, prepared by a loving wife.

the lunch she packed
reminds him that sometimes
a bland white so and so calls for
some spice

Frabjous Times
Originally published: 2004/12/08 19:13:53

.. .. .. .. ..

The Japanese Flag Bentoo (hi no maru bentoo 日の丸弁当)

We have a Japanese lunch box with just plain white rice and one red dried salty plum (umeboshi) in the middle, which is called hi no maru bentoo, lunchbox like the Japanese flag!

a handful of salt
and one cherry
my Japanese flag

Geert Verbeke

You can read more about this bentoo in my explanations here:


hand-carried lunchbox, te-bentoo 手弁当

lunchbox with Chinese food, chuuka bentoo 中華弁当

piping hot lunchbox, hokahoka bentoo ほかほか弁当
.... (This is now a foodchain in many busy districts.)



Short History of the Bentoo
by Natasha Hsieh

A Japanese bento, or packed lunch, is a reflection of Japanese history and aesthetics. The earliest records of packed lunches in Japan date back to around the fifth century, when outdoor laborers took food with them to eat on the job. The word “bento” was later coined in the 16th century by military commander Oda Nobunaga to describe the single-serving meal distributed to his military.
In the Edo Period,
bento departed from its functional roots and became an essential part of outdoor excursions and the theatre. Maku-no-uchi bento 幕の内弁当, literally bento “between curtains,” referred to the bento people ate during the intermission (maku-no-uchi) of day-long kabuki shows.
Edoites’ love
for the arts and theatre is reflected in the extravagant maku-no-uchi bento. Generally, a maku-no-uchi bento contains tidbits of seasonal flavors from the mountain, sea, and field. Rice, the staple in Japanese cuisine, is molded into bitesized rolls and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Then everything is artistically arranged in a lacquered wooden box with four quadrants, paying special consideration to the balance of color, size, and taste.
With the development
of the railway system at the end of the Meiji Period, maku-no-uchi bento left the theatre and entered train stations to be sold alongside other ekiben, or “train station (= eki) bento.” 駅弁
Ekiben features the specialty of the area in which the station is located; Chinese shumai (steamed dumpling) bento are often sold in Yokohama stations, and crab bento can be found in Hokkaido. Ekiben is now an indispensable part, as well as pleasure, of a train journey.

©2004 YOKE. All rights reserved.


Further Reading

by HATA  Kohei
Bilingual Essay

He concludes his essay thus:
According to a hoary old dictionary, the word bento was apparently coined in the age of Oda Nobunaga. It meant "organizing and distributing quantities of rice, stewed meat and vegetables, sake, side dishes, bowls, and trays according to the number of people present at outdoor dinners."
The compound was derived from ben zuru (managing, performing, carrying out) and to (allocation, distribution), in other words, dishing out rations.
One is relieved to find an explanation.


.. .. .. .. ..

History of the Lunchbox
1 History
2 How to make a bento
3 Types of Bento
3.1 Other

Worldwide use


The word bento is Japanese for "lunch." And the term "mixed plate" is a beloved Hawaiian term for a plate bearing foods from multiple cultures.

The National Museum exhibition, From Bento to Mixed Plate: Americans of Japanese Ancestry in Multicultural Hawaii, explores how Japanese immigrants in Hawaii created new lives for themselves -- and became part of a colorful, dynamic, multicultural society.

Through a combination of videos, interactive educational activities and more than 400 artifacts and photographs, the exhibition tells a story of adaptation that began with the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in the late 1800s and continues with the vibrant and diverse generations that constitute today's Hawaii.


Things found on the way

Lunchboxes and Daruma San
by Gabi Greve

To eat one of the fresh prepacked lunchboxes with a local delicacy while riding a train is one of the joys of this country. But beware, or you will end up as one of my German friends.
He bought a delicious looking pink box with red ribbon wrapped around it, but when he opened it he looked bewildered.

"What is wrong?"I asked him.
"I thought I had bought a box of chocolates (Pralinen), but what is this? Dead fish and cold rice! Horrible! I lost all my appetite for sweets!"

What happened is a comon thing:
you take an image of your own culture and project it into an unknown culture. Pink and red ribbon equals chocolate box in Europe, but not in Japan!
So even while buying a simple lunchbox we have to learn about cultural differences. I always tell this story to make people aware of the problems of intercultural differences.
Japanese men wear a suit and necktie, but the heart inside is quite different!

... ... ...

The Spelling of BENTOO, learn about the Hepburn System
Bento, o-bento, o-bentoo, obento, oobentoo, bentou, bentoh ... which is correct?
by Gabi Greve


life is like a bentoo ... ever so often it's a pickle

Edmund Schwellenbach


life is like a bentoo ..
when it is finished,
thrown in the dust...

Gabi Greve


弁当の 新聞読むや 夏木立
bentoo no shinbun yomu ya natsu kodachi

lunchbox -
reading the newspaper
under summer trees

Nakamura Sakuo


> sumo san --
> for you, i bring
> a bentoo crate!

>> shane gilreath


o-sumoo no ganbare bentoo bikku ben

sumo wrestler
keep it up
Big Ben too

© Haiga by Nakamura Sakuo


catering company
with an attitude

Shanna Moore
Look at a phantastic collection of Lunchboxes from Hawaii.

Related words

***** First Lunchbox, bento hajime 弁当初め: kigo for late spring.

This is a lunchbox eaten at the memorial ceremony for .. Saint Hoonen .. (Hoonen Shoonin, Honen Shonin 法然上人) in April.


. Japanese Legends - 伝説 民話 昔話 – ABC-List .


..................................... Niigata 新潟県

. Grandmother selling fish .


- reference : Nichibun Yokai Database -
115 to collect


. ekiben 駅弁 station lunch box .

- #bentoo - #bento #lunchbox


Gabi Greve said...

Oh Gabi, this is so interesting!
I've never paid attention to lunch boxes before!
And I love Sakuo's haiga...
thanks for the smile!

:~) L.


Agreed, nicely done and a popular part of hawaiian cuisine too.

cheers, S.

.. .. ..

Thanks for your comments. The small things...


Anonymous said...

a good life
ends like an empty
bentoo box

gabi-san, seeing your ku i thought how i wish i could finish even part of the unfinished work within me -- i am afraid my life is more like a partially eaten bento in a refrigerator.

perhaps one of those foreign wives who wrote (and still write?)letters to the English language papers in japan could write a bentoo ku which would be seasonal for it would signal the start of the school year in japan

a cherry petal
does it save my otherwise
awful bento?

with apologies for an awfully artificial ku or two. rdg

Gabi Greve said...

Dubbahwallah dances
when the eater munches
from the dubbah lunches.

Aju Mukhopadhyay. India


RichM said...

Thanks for the citation of my cinquain on the Aisai Bentoo.