Bento: the art of the unusual food experience

NIt was lunchtime on the Shinkansen between Tokyo and Hiroshima img_20161014_145040and the immaculately dressed food hostess was passing. I had heard that they sell bento boxes on the trains, so I asked the lady what was on offer. She handed me 4 cards, each with a different option. One consisted primarily of braised beef tongue, for which I wasn’t particularly in the mood (next time I am in the mood, I’ll let you know … but don’t hold your breath). The other 3 were similar, so I went for the least expensive – the Tokaido Shinkensen box at JPY1,000 (about £7.80). The box said that it was full of food typical of locations along our route. Nice touch, I thought.

This is the open box.


It certainly is disconcerting offering up food to your mouth with no sense of what taste awaits you. And so, with a mixture of ‘can do’ spirit and trepidation, I attacked the contents.

Some of it was obvious, so the breaded prawn, green pepper and carrots were soon dispatched. The first surprise was the pale grey item on the centre right. I thought it might be a slice of boiled potato, but it was in fact sweet and fishy. After the initial surprise, the remainder was seen off. Similar surprises included the white round item underneath the prawn tail, which turned out to be potato when I guessed it was a scallop, the items in the top middle of the left hand section – whelks not mushrooms and the brie-like item, next to the rice, which turned out to be sweetened tofu.

Very little of it I disliked and it was amazing quality and value when compared to any rail food that I’ve tried before. As well as the aforementioned items, I also got octopus, teriyaki fish, sweet potato and a fishcake. But I genuinely can’t remember I was fooled by food so much. With almost a week left of our Japanese leg, I’m guessing it won’t be the last time.

We did our Japan adventure independently as part of a round the world trip. If escorted tours are more your thing, this trip with Titan Tours covers a similar itinerary:

Titan Travel – Japan

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