Anyone who is familiar with Japanese culture knows about the packaged lunch known as “bento.” A bento can be found homemade or bought from a supermarket, convenience store, or restaurant that specializes in bento. One particular subset of bento is known as ekiben, or, the “station bento.”

As its name implies, you can buy a station bento on the platforms of major train stations across Japan. The station bento is beloved by travelers in Japan because they use ingredients famous or native to the region that you buy them, letting you experience the taste of an area even if you are just passing through. However, there is just one shortcoming to the station bento – it’s cold.

Luckily, thanks to the leading researchers in the field of bento technology, this is no longer the case!

If you take the Shinkansen line through the Tōhoku region of eastern Japan, you can buy a cutting-edge Grilled Beef Tongue Bento for 1000 yen (US$13). What sets this bento apart from other store bought lunches is that by simply pulling a cord it will become a piping hot meal in minutes.

Some readers may be put off by the name, but don’t worry. Beef tongue in Japan is nearly identical to most other cuts of beef. In fact if you were to eat beef tongue in Japan you probably wouldn’t notice what it was unless someone told you. That is, of course, if it’s hot. Cold beef tongue tastes something like the sole of a shoe.

By following the instructions, all you need to do is put it on a flat, even surface and then pull the cord out that’s tucked inside the box. In less than a minute you’ll probably see steam and/or smoke coming out of the box.

Five minutes later you can take off the lid and protective paper to see a faint puff of steam and presto! Your beef tongue bento is ready to eat, complete with hot juicy beef and fluffy rice. The hot juicy meat is especially amazing. Imagine any premade lunch you’ve ever eaten and ask yourself if it’s ever had hot juicy meat. It’s also well-seasoned – not too much but not too little either.

If pressed to make a complaint, it would be that there could be more vegetables. Also the heating effect lasts for about 30 minutes, which can be a double-edged sword. If you’re a slow eater or doing work while eating it’s great to keep your food warm to the last bite. On the other hand, if you’re a fast eater you might find yourself stuck with a hot bowl that you don’t know what to do with.

Overall, this is without a doubt a miracle of modern science. If you’re wondering how it works, well, I don’t know, and I think I don’t want to know. All I care about is the bliss I feel having a warm meal in my belly during a cold day. We at RocketNews24 salute the brilliant minds who worked tirelessly to develop the self-cooking bento.

▼Underneath the food, the mysterious “heating unit” is held.

[ Read in Japanese ]