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Bento – Japanese lunchboxes


Japan is a busy society where even the youngest stay outside the home over lunch from kindergarten days on. Preparing a lunch box with a variety of ingredients is thus an important part of Japanese everday’s culture and cuisine. Traditionally, homemakers prepare bentō (弁当) – the term was imported from an old Chinese term meaning “convenient” or “convenience” – not only for the kids, but also for the spouse or even for themselves. But nowadays, buying them at a bentō-ya, a special bentō shop, is also very common.
A typical bentō is prepared in one or two stacked boxes, which range from mass produced plastic boxes to handcrafted laquerware boxes. To provide a balanced diet, especially for the youngest ones who need a little motivation to eat their vegetables, all ingredients are lovingly aranged in the compartments of the lunchbox. Cooked rice is never missing, other ingredients are shake (broiled salmon), tamagoyaki (sliced rolled egg), kara-age (fried chicken), small sausages (for the children often cut and fried to resemble an octopus), tsukemono (vegetables pickled in salt, brine or a bed of rice bran), or umeboshi (Japanese salt plums). But the variety doesn’t end there, as the homemakers and bentō-ya try to create ever new variations and highlights.
The classical bentō is the maku-no-uchi bentō, which means “bentō between the curtains”, since it was originally served during the intermissions of Noh and Kabuki theater performances, dating back to the Edo Period (1603 to 1867).
From this bentō, the classical appearance in the rectangle wooden boxes with dividers originate, but there are several other bentō styles like chūka bentō, a Chinese style bentō, or the modern kyaraben (Character bentō), where the food often is decorated like popular characters from Anime or Manga comics. It is quite a “Japanese experience” to find those little kitchen tools which, for instance, press the cooked rice in the shape of a “Hello Kitty”-head (the eyes are then perhaps made of black sesame seeds and the whiskers are made of small nori slices).
Ekiben are bentō which are sold at train stations for the hungry traveler, and they vary from region to region or are even very characteristic for a region, like the kamameshi bentō in the Nagano prefecture. Some people think Ekiben are worth the journey alone!
Bentō are an intimate part of the Japanese culture, since this is what the mother gives their children to take with them when they stay away from home for a whole day for the first time. Many Japanese think that eating bentō helps diving deep into Japanese culture in a very pleasant way – so why don’t try it out for yourself?

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Japanese cutlery – a craftmanship with a long tradition

The making of cutlery is a centuries-old craftsmanship in Japan, closely related to the tradition of Samurai sword-making. Japanese kitchen knives are referred to as “Hōchō”, and they are famous for the sharpness and durability. Some types achieve a hardness of up to 68 HRC (rockwell hardness)!

Japanese cooks regard their set of Hōchō as their most important kitchen tools and would never let anybody else use these knives, often even not for sharpening them.

There are several types for the different kinds of ingredients like fish, meat, or vegetables. The probably best known Hōchō is the “Santoku” knife, which means “(a knife for) the three virtues”, where these virtues are fish, meat, and vegetables.

But many ingredients demand special knives, like the “Deba Bōchō”, which is a special knive for fish filleting, or the “Nakiri / Usuba Hōchō”, which are used for vegetables. The “Tako Hiki” or the “Yanagiba-Hōchō” are used for the slicing of fish, like octopus. Based on the Western chefs’ knives is the so-called “Gyūtō”, a knife for cutting meat. The “Petty” is a small knife used for fruit-peeling and similar purposes.

Hōchō are made of so-called “Aogami” (blue-paper) or “Shirogami” (white-paper) steel – this name comes from the color of the paper this steel was originally delivered in. Both contain carbon, where Aogami contains tungsten and chrome as alloying elements which makes it harder and more durable, whereas Shirogami doesn’t contain alloying elements and is easier to sharpen.

Both kinds of steel are not stainless and demand a good deal of care. It is recommended to keep the blades dry and store the knives after use in newspaper or (perfume-free) paper tissue.

As for the forging styles, there are the “kasumi” knives, which use two different materials, whereas the “honyaki” knives use one material. This makes the latter sharper, but less forgiving. Today, many knives are “kasumi” knives, as they are made of two or three layers of different hardness and offer a good balance between durability and ease of care.

Maybe you would like to try out the famous sharpness, precision and durability of original Japanese Hōchō? For those who make their first steps – or rather their first cuts – with Japanese cutlery, the choice of a Santoku and maybe a Petty can be recommended. But please take care of your fingers, as these knives are incredibly sharp!

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Do you know “Uchiwa(うちわ)”???

“Uchiwa(うちわ)” is a Japanese fan.
It used to be used to get rid of flies and mosquitos but now it is used to cool you down.
Also, Japanese use it for food. To cool down the rice, this way, the rice will become shiny and looks good!

There are fasionable uchiwa too!

★fasionable cotton uchiwa★

Recenly, in Japan, you can get Uchiwa for free because “Uchiwa(うちわ)” is used for advertisement too! On the side there are advertisement written.
Would you like to try one?

★1,000 original round fans★

Are there something like Uchiwa in your country too???


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Introduction for KABAZAIKU(Crafts from Cherry Bark)

For those who are interested in KABAZAIKU, or those who love KABAZAIKU, REMIOjapan has a KABAZAIKU(Crafts from Cherry Bark) in our site!
It is only an introduction of KABAZAIKU, so it may not be enough for people who know it too much!
But we would be happy if you could learn the KABAZAIKU charms.

We talk about…
What is KABAZAIKU(Crafts by Cherry Bark)?
History of KABAZAIKU
How do you make KAZABAIKU?
Interview of KABAZAIKU Artist


+++++For those who are studying Japanese++++++++

We talk about…
What is KABAZAIKU(Crafts by Cherry Bark)?
History of KABAZAIKU
How do you make KAZABAIKU?
Interview of KABAZAIKU Artist