Japan's bento box — so much more than just a packed lunch

dw.com -- Jul 28
From its humble beginnings in the 12th century, the bento box has come a long way to being a healthy and filling midday meal that is both cheap to make and often a miniature work of art.

The packed lunch has been the staple midday meal for school pupils and workers around the world for hundreds of years, but the Japanese version — the bento — is far more than simply a light meal to get you through the day.

The Japanese were first preparing bento-boxed lunches in the 12th century, but in the intervening years they have elevated the meal to one that is both healthy and portable, as well as being easy on the pocket and often a work of culinary art.

Japan's fascination with taking a meal on a journey started in the Kamakura period, when cooked and dried rice balls were first wrapped in bamboo leaves and taken into the fields by workers.

Within a few hundred years, elaborately designed, lacquered boxes were made specifically for foods and were taken by the upper classes in society to "hanami" cherry-blossom-viewing parties or to tea ceremonies.