The traditional bento shop collaborates with two comedians to prepare eco-friendly mini lunches.
Japan is a country full of delicious food, but the humble bento is so often overlooked by tourists. Bentos are lunch boxes usually divided into compartments containing rice or noodles, a main course of meat, and pickles or salad. Bentos can be homemade, but every convenience store in Japan has a section of delicious bentos ready to take home.
But as much as we love bentos (and we really do), we have to agree that they could not being the most eco-friendly way to enjoy a meal. Not only do most bentos come with a pair of disposable chopsticks, but the plastic wrapper containing the meal isn’t particularly eco-friendly.
With this in mind, bento company Jishowtay, from Shizuoka Prefecture, has found a new solution to avoid unnecessary waste. Jishowtay has been in business since the late Edo period, during the Ansei era (1615-1868), but despite their long history in the business, they have now found a new way to enjoy bento while drastically reducing plastic . waste — the Oni Ben.
— 自笑亭【公式】 (@jishowtay1854) June 8, 2022
The OniBen – made up of words onigiri (rice ball) and bento box — is a unique and more eco-friendly way to enjoy a meal on the go, as the plastic trays that normally hold food have been replaced with rice ‘trays’. This is in line with a law passed in Japan earlier this year, which required companies to review their use of single-use plastics, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Although OniBen are still wrapped in a single sheet of plastic, the amount of plastic needed is significantly less than a normal bento.
But it’s not just single-use plastic that’s being reduced; disposable chopsticks aren’t necessary at all either. The rice bento “boxes” are perfectly proportioned for you can hold and eat your meal with one handlike a burrito.
▼ The fact that you can hold all of your bento in the palm of your hand means that you won’t risk people sneaking your food away either.
OniBen are available in twelve different flavors including curry, grilled mackerel, yakisoba and fried shrimp. Among the twelve, five flavors were created in collaboration with the comic duo manzai Pakkun Makkun, consisting of Makoto Yoshida and Patrick Harlan. The collaboration was born after Pakkun Makkun became interested in Jishowtay and its long history, when the comedy duo performed a concert in Shizuoka.
▼ Pakkun Makkun in action
One of the most striking flavors of OniBen that the comedic couple contributed to is the ‘Combo Pakkun Makkun‘ – an OniBen that offers barbecue from Colarado, Harlan’s hometown, with Manila clams.
While OniBen are a bit small to make up a full meal like regular bentos, their price (from 250 yen [US$1.81] at 500 yen[US$3.63]) means you can buy two or three for about the same price as a regular-sized, quality bento box. OniBen are available for purchase at the Jishowtay store in Hamamatsu Station, as well as other Jishowtay stores in Hamamatsu City.
We can’t wait to get our hands on an OniBen or two the next time we’re in Shizuoka, but for now we’re just praying that our old friends at Kitchen Dive decide to turn their bentos into OniBen too – imagine how much rice would be needed to house this huge spaghetti bento!