Muji started selling lunchbox meals while we weren’t looking, so we sent our resident gourmand Mr. Sato off to try one.

Mr. Sato has a hypothesis, and that hypothesis is that there’s a tremendous amount of people out there suffering just like he is. Suffering from what, you ask? Why, suffering from the scourge of every working civilian’s midday hour: “What do I get for lunch today?”

School kids don’t know how good they have it! They either bring a homemade bento or wolf down whatever the school cafeteria dishes out. Working adults, though, must decide between convenience store meals and fast food and family restaurants and who knows what else.

Mr. Sato, desperate to forfeit his agency in picking a midday meal, was overjoyed to discover that famous generic-brand retailer Mujirushi Ryohin (Muji) has started to sell bento lunches out of select stores.

▼ The lunch contents vary by day, and promise classic ingredients without artificial flavorings.

Muji has been making moves in the food market for a while now, and even has its own cafés like the one in Ginza, which serves delicious fresh bread. The Ginza store was also one of the first Muji stores to sell lunch boxes. As of October 2019 an increased number of stores are beginning to sell unbranded lunches, which is how Mr. Sato came to encounter them in Shinjuku.

▼ The basement floor of Muji Shinjuku is where you can find these revolving daily lunches.

Upon entering the store you’ll come across a large showcase of the day’s lunches, just ahead of the entrance to the café. Muji also stocks cheesecake, chocolate cake, and baked custard pudding, if you fancy a sweet treat to accompany your lunch.

Each day brings a different lunch to Muji’s shelves. On the day that Mr. Sato visited, Muji was stocking a horse-mackerel fish bento. If he came back another day, perhaps they’d be serving savory chicken and rice, or beef sukiyaki, or clam-cooked rice. There was even a calendar up on the wall to make sure you didn’t miss your favorite.

▼ Whatever the day, whatever the flavor, a lunch box costs 750 yen (US$7.12) including tax.

Muji prides itself on its lack of pride. By foregoing the bells and whistles and trendy gimmicks of other brands, their goods are often more affordable and higher quality in comparison.

Even so, the lunch that Mr. Sato had purchased was mouth-watering to look at. Rich colors, plump and appetizing vegetables, and a decadent chunk of tamagoyaki just waiting to be guzzled up.

The lunchbox contained the promised main feature, ground horse-mackerel mixed into a starchy thick sauce made from mackerel and sweet vinegar all sat atop a bed of fluffy rice. Fried vegetables — kinpira burdock and daikon radish — made up the sides. The bright yellow egg from the tamagoyaki and the lurid orange carrots, cut into decorative shapes, added even more vibrance to the dish.

▼ But how did it taste?

Lightly seasoned but brimming with care and attention to detail, the lunch Mr. Sato bought showcased each ingredient beautifully and left him feeling satisfied without being overindulgent. And Mr. Sato, who is deeply intimate with the concept of overindulgence, thought it not only tasted great but was probably in-line with the sort of thing he should be eating.

▼ But as we said, there aren’t that many Muji stores offering these lunchboxes. What a shame.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, he did buy a baked custard pudding. Mr. Sato is only human, after all.

If you happen to be nearby to a Muji offering lunchboxes, why not take a chance on one? It’s a healthier investment than the similarly-priced Giga Big Mac!

Store information
Café and Meal Muji, Shinjuku Store
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-15-15 Shinjuku Piccadilly B1/2F
東京都新宿区新宿3-15-15 新宿ピカデリーB1・2F
Open: 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (March 2 to 13 hours: 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.)
Open seven days a week (at management’s discretion)

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