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WIT Life #23: Oyaji Bentos

WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Interpreter/Translator/Writer Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken, 2000-03).  Recently she’s been watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese and sharing some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.

One segment of today’s news went into a lunchroom where a group of men sat around with their bentos. The announcer assumed that they had been made for them by their beloved wives (愛妻弁当), but it turned out the men had made them themselves. They profiled several of these groundbreaking pioneers, all in their 30s.

One bachelor had been cooking for himself the past year, explaining that each morning he simply put together leftovers from the night before to make his lunch. However, he confessed that he would like to “find someone who could do this for me.” Another single bento-maker revealed his secret to be freezing extra rice in meal-size portions and defrosting it when necessary, as well as relying on recipe sites. He had previously bought all of his meals from conbini, leading to daily food costs anywhere from 1500-2000 yen. However, by cooking for himself the cost per meal went down to 200-300 yen, and these seemingly small savings add up over time.

The final subject was a 36-year old married man who rises daily at 6 to make lunch for himself and his wife while she is still sleeping. He takes pictures of all his creations with his keitai and posts them on his “Oyaji Bento” blog. His readers are both male and female, and his claim of making these bentos for only 250 yen each offers them useful money-saving tips. His wife woke up and received her bento from her husband, waving goodbye to him as she headed out the door to work and he sent her off from the hallway. He shared, “I am so happy when my wife comes home with an empty bento bako (box).”


Perhaps the time is not too far off when the phrase 愛夫弁当 (bento made by beloved husband) will come into vogue in Japan. Bento bako designers are certainly taking this changing tide into account. In order to appeal to these male bento-makers, sleek and kakkoii bento bako have come to replace your standard kawaii Kitty-chan fare. Some of the new options are black and silver and have a sporty feel, and sales so far are said to be up 30%.

In other exciting news, for the first time in five years a Japanese movie has received an Oscar nomination. Yojiro Takita’s Okuribito (Departures) received a nod in the Foreign Language Film category. Described as “a moving and often humorous drama of human dignity and family bonds,” it is expected to be released here in the States this summer. The only other Japanese nominee is Tsumiki no Ie, an animated short by Kato Kunio.

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