BENTO BOX

Bento has a tradition that has lasted for centuries in Japan. They allowed Japanese from wealthy backgrounds to eat their tasty cooked dishes when they were on the go. Today, however, bento boxes can be found in all Japanese restaurants.

The different bento boxes contain fish, meat, rice, tamago, small snacks and vegetables. But also algae and edamame should never be missing. For longer breaks there are stackable bento boxes. Japanese mothers use their bento box as a culinary challenge: there are real bento box making contests. Typical are Pandas and Hello Kitty: with rice and nori many stories are told.
During the Second World War the distinction between rich and poor was evident throughout Japan due to the boom in exports and fruitless crops. The poor were hungry, but the rich could afford the more expensive items, including aluminum bento boxes. This prompted schools to ban lunch boxes as they indicated the student's wealth or not. But in the Eighties the interest was reborn thanks to the minimarkets where to find the ready boxes and the arrival on the market of the microwave oven.
They also differ according to the place of sale and use

Ekiben: sold in train stations, it is often prepared with local specialties, just think that there are over six thousand varieties. 

Kyaraben: The dishes featured in this bento represent elaborate characters from Japanese pop culture, such as Hello Kitty and Pokemon. 

Makunouchi: refined box, also as regards the content, in a traditional style and consumed in the theater. 

Noriben: it is the most classic and includes less than four ingredients. 

Hinomaru: White rice with Umeboshi plum in the center, reminiscent of the Japanese flag. 

Koraku: big, meant to be shared. Commonly used during Hanami, the cherry blossom season.

Preparing a bento is not a game, especially if the target is children. It is in fact considered an act of love as well as triggering a real competition between mothers (and wives). The box can also be used to send an angry message; Bento Shikaeshi (literally: box of revenge) is packaged with unattractive foods such as rice and raw eggs or frozen foods. But there is also the Aisai box, that of love.
Every January since 1967 at the Keio Department Store, located in Tokyo near the west exit of Shinjuku station, the Ekiben Festival takes place: it is an opportunity to find, and try, over 300 different types of Bento to eat on the train .

In the prefecture of Tottori there is instead a luxury restaurant that has prepared the most expensive bento in the world (about 2800 dollars, certified by the Guinness Book of Records) based on Wagyu meat.

Finally, there are some photos of Freddie Mercury who in 1988, while leaving Nagoya during the Hot Space Japan Tour, enjoying an Ekiben by train.
As for the content, it should be colorful (you start eating with your eyes) and well balanced: 30% carbohydrates (rice and other cereals, but also pasta), 20% protein (animals, but also vegetables such as legumes or tofu), 40% of vegetables and 10% of fruit that is practical to eat, such as apples or citrus fruits. If you don't have a microwave available to reheat your lunch, just opt ​​for good preparations, even cold ones: cereal salads, soaked meat, hard-boiled eggs and baked vegetables are just an example.
When preparing the bento, in fact, the goal is not only to feed in the most correct and balanced way possible, but to create a sort of work of art with an extremely scenographic aspect and which - if possible - does not disfigure the its owner. No matter how long Japanese mothers and wives may spend in preparing the bento, the important thing is that the result has two fundamental characteristics: beauty and comfort.

Most often the bentos are customized in the Kyaraben style (which means bento of the characters) - the food is arranged in such a way as to depict the most popular manga and anime characters - or in the Oekakiben variant (bento-portrait), in which the ingredients take appearance of people, animals, landscapes or flowers.

So if you have children or grandchildren you can try making them a bento box for a snack or breakfast.

DARUMA DOLLS

They are called Daruma (達磨) dolls of the Okiagari-kobōshi type. They are particular Japanese dolls that, due to their shape and texture, tend to go back straight every time they are pushed to one side. Whenever they are knocked down, they always come back to their feet. All time. Here you are. The secret is to do just like them.
The doll’s eyes are white: this is because tradition has it that the owner draws a first eye with black ink when making a wish or setting a goal. The second eye, on the other hand, will be drawn upon the fulfillment of the desire or the achievement of one’s goal.
You draw one eye making a wish, when it has come true you draw another eye. Many ask me “The bigger the more it works?”. Yes, it’s true. This tends to be the case. To me, whoever took the big one came back soon to tell me that he had already put a second eye. But I would recommend choosing the one that has more harmony, a more sympathetic one. Because Daruma is a companion until your dream is fulfilled.
In Japan, daruma dolls are probably one of the most bought objects as a good luck charm … they are figures without arms or legs and represent Bodhidharma, founder of the Zen tradition. The daruma is a motivational tool to achieve your goals, every time you look at the drawn eye and the missing one, it is a reminder of what you have promised to achieve. It must remind us that we must pursue and put all of ourselves into what we do, only with effort and perseverance can we achieve what we want. Always give your best and never lose sight of focus, in the face of obstacles, get up and continue always. The daruma doll is also used by companies that have to achieve an important goal, displayed where employees can see it as a reminder of the business goal.
How you can use it? Get a daruma.
Decide what is the goal you want to achieve with determination.
Draw one of the two eyes, symbolizing your commitment to achieving the goal.
Put the daruma in a visible place in your home or office, where you can look at it to remind you of the goal.
When the goal has been achieved, draw the second eye as a sign of thanks.
Behind the daruma write the goal you have achieved.
Once you have reached your goal, it’s time to get yourself another daruma and set yourself a new goal.
According to legend, the monk Bodhidharma founder of the Zen tradition from which the daruma takes its name, after meditating for ten years without moving, lost the use of his arms and legs. During meditation in a moment of weakness, the concentration of meditation waned and he fell asleep. When he awoke from shame he tore off his eyelids and threw them to the ground. Immediately afterwards, leaves sprouted that were able to ward off sleep, so the tea plant was born.

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