I read a news that in 2012, 24% of Japanese salary men spent under 250 yen ($2.80) a day for lunch. With that kind of budget, you can only buy McDonald’s dollar menu or something similar. The news reported that some people even skip lunches to save money.
More Japanese are packing bento (lunch) recent years in order to save. Married men and children always bring lunch made by housewives, but even single people are packing lunches now.
Suddenly wide variety of fun and high-function bento bakos (lunch boxes) showed up in the market, targeting single people who started to pack lunch recently.
American idea of packed lunch is a simple peanut butter & jelly sandwich with an apple. But there are more things going on in Japanese lunch box. Picture on the left is an ordinary Japanese packed lunch, but it looks absolutely gorgeous in American standard.
Japanese bentos (packed lunches) are often made of white rice and leftover food of the day before. Usually 3~4 colorful items are packed. When ready-made frozen food are used in order to fill the gap in the bento box, Japanese housewives feel guilty for their laziness.
Other than ordinary lunch, some people make kyara-ben (bento that portrays well known characters or images using food) lunches particularly for children, so that they enjoy eating lunch. On the right photo, the panda bears’ body is white rice, and the face features are made of thinly cut nori.
I’ve never tried to make one of those, but it looks awfully intricate. Even more incredibly amazing collection of kyara-ben photos can be seen from here.