Japan’s “Makunouchi Bento” originated from the box lunch of watching a movie

Bento can be seen everywhere in Japan. It is an important part of Japanese food culture. Whether it is traveling, flower viewing party, work or school, it is indispensable to deal with bento. Among the bento, the most common is the “makunachi bento”.

There are rice balls sprinkled with black sesame seeds, tamagoyaki, kamaboko, grilled fish, etc., and in addition, fried, boiled, and marinated foods such as fried chicken, fried shrimp, grilled or boiled fish, boiled Taro, boiled pumpkin, pickled radish, pickled cabbage, etc. Finally, place these foods in a bento box that is squared with a cross. The ingredients used vary depending on the season. Depending on the ingredients used, the Makunouchi bento also has many names.

Starting from Tokyo, the author bought a box of Makunachi bento with the words “Special Makunouchi Gozen” printed on the platform of the Tokaido Shinkansen (pictured). Judging from the propaganda of the manufacturers, they did not focus on advertising the “cultural origin” of the bento, but simply stated that the ingredients in this lunch box are some from the Kanto region, some from the Tokai region, and some from the East China Sea. taken from the Kansai region. A small box lunch can be a taste bud trip.

After some research, the author learned that in the Edo period, under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate, Japan had a stable political situation, economic development, and rich cultural life of citizens. Especially during the reign of the fifth-generation general Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the emergence of Yuanlu culture led to the prosperity of leisure and entertainment activities such as drama watching and flower viewing. When Noh and Kabuki are being staged, between several plays, the “delivery boy” will bring in the stage, a convenient meal for the actors in front of the stage, the staff behind the scenes, and the audience – the curtain inside the bento, It also came into being. The intermission time is short, and the overflowing staff are in a state of wearing a girl. Therefore, it is easy to swallow, easy to digest, and does not stain clothes and makeup. It has become an indispensable feature of the curtain.

It is written in the “Book of Chastity”, which is known as the “Encyclopedia of the Late Edo Period in Japan”, that the earliest place where Makunouchi bento was produced was a shop called Manju in Fangcho. The bento at that time consisted only of making rice balls with some seasonal fruits, vegetables and fish. In Japanese, “Fangcho” means “Flower Street”.

Gradually, this kind of bento went out of the “curtain” and became a souvenir when visiting patients, relatives and friends, and gradually standardized and mass-produced. In 1872, the railway linking Tokyo Shimbashi and Yokohama Sakuragicho was officially opened to traffic. The Makunouchi bento also entered the station platform and the train carriage. In 1889, Makuouchi bento was sold at Himeji Station in Hyogo Prefecture. Many people think that this is the ancestor of the Japanese station bento. But there are also people who insist that as early as 1867, station bentos in the shape of simple rice balls have appeared. There are different opinions about who is the earliest Japanese zakhan bento. It is worth noting that the company in Hyogo Prefecture that introduced the Makunai bento to the station started out with a small bento, and has experienced hundreds of years of ups and downs with the development of the railway.

In the 1960s, as Japan’s economy took off, bentos were all the rage within the kaiseki style inspired by exquisite kaiseki cuisine. Available in supermarkets and convenience stores. Housewives use it to entertain guests, which not only reduces the burden, but also saves face.

The times have changed, and the Makunai Bento has long been no longer the exclusive bento of the “inner” of the “maku”. After the outbreak of the new crown pneumonia, the famous Kabuki-za with a history of more than 130 years has sold Makunachi bento to ordinary consumers with the return to tradition as a selling point. Depending on the ingredients used in the bento, the price is set between 1,624 yen and 5,724 yen.

After I finished eating, I looked at the word “royal meal” in this “specially made imperial meal within the curtain”, which is quite worth pondering. In China, “Yu Shan” represents the highest standard of court cuisine. In Japan, “Gozen” can refer to all delicious meals, including lunches between performances and on the go. Disagree with the same word, and the same text with different origins. Two simple words are like a mirror, reflecting the similarities and differences between Chinese and Japanese cultures.

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