Lawson Store 100’s premium-priced meal is still a bento bargain.

In Japan, there’s something they call “one-coin” pricing, meaning that you can buy something for 500 yen (US$4.55) or less, since the 500-yen coin is Japan’s largest. Because of that, a lot of places will brag about their 500-yen “one-coin bento” boxed lunches, and while those are often pretty good deals, they’re nowhere near this bargain: the 200-yen (US$1.82) bento.

You can find this ultra-affordable bento at Lawson Store 100, a sub-brand of the Lawson convenience store chain. As the name implies, most of the things at Lawson Store 100 are priced at just 100 yen, making this bento actually one of their premium items, but it’s still much, much cheaper than the boxed lunches you’ll find anywhere else.

Our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazwa picked one up to try for himself, and swiftly brought it back to SoraNew24 headquarters for taste testing. According to its label, it’s a Wiener Bento, and sure enough, an array of sausages stretches out across half the container, with white rice sprinkled with black sesame seeds on the other side.

Foodies in Japan usually place a lot of importance on presentation, but Seiji had to admit that the esthetics aren’t exactly artful here. And yet, looking at the 200-yen bento still put a smile on his face. The simple, straightforward layout, coupled with the dynamic splash of ketchup across the sausages, reminded him of something a busy parent might make for their child before sending them off for school for the day. Not every mom or dad has the time in the morning to spend crafting a character bento, especially in a household with two working parents, but the simplicity of the Wiener Bento was like a message that said “I don’t have time to make anything fancy for you, but I still want you to have a tasty meal, so I threw together what I could in the time I had.”

The flavor, too, is tasty but free of any sort of pretension. This is a bento that knows exactly what it is, and rather than try to trick you into believing it’s a gourmet meal, is content to be good, honest grub.

That’s not to say it’s completely without surprises, though. As Seiji picked up one of the sausages, he discovered that underneath it was…

a bed of pasta, which mixes with the ketchup for a sensation similar to Napolitan, a simple spaghetti variant that’s one of Japan’s favorite old-school comfort foods.

Again, this felt to Seiji like a loving gesture from a busy parent. “Sorry I couldn’t put anything fancier than some sausages in your bento. I still wanted you to have some variety too, so here’s some pasta to go with it!” he could imagine whoever put it together saying.

They often say that in life, you get what you pay for, and this bento is definitely a humble one. It doesn’t even have a lid, other than a thin layer of plastic wrap. At the same time, though, that humility gives it an undeniable charm, and when you add in the incredible value it represents, it’s a definite deal. And if you somehow need an even cheaper convenience store meal, there’re always those 100-yen pasta dishes.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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