An ordinary bento store by Japanese standards is gaining popularity with international tourists.
In Japan, you can easily pick up a bento lunch box at supermarkets and convenience stores, but sometimes you can come across small shops entirely dedicated to them. One such shop has recently attracted attention amongst users on English-language forum Reddit, so our reporter Seiji Nakazawa decided to stop to see if it really was as good as they said it was.
▼ The store is located along the Senju Honcho shopping street in Tokyo’s Kitasenju.
One of the Redditors who recommended the place simply shared an image of the shop with the words, “Why I love Japan“. In the photo, the store looked a little run-down, with rusted old carts at the front that reminded Seiji of the old mom-and-pop shops he’d seen in the countryside. However, this store was located in Tokyo, and when he arrived, he saw that it really did have a rustic charm.
▼ The store’s name is “Sozai Kazama“, with “sozai” meaning “side dishes”
The store looked just as it did in the photo on Reddit, but when he approached the cart that had “お弁当” (“obento”) written on it, along with the super cheap price of 330 yen (US$2.23), he was surprised to find it was empty.
Calling out to the clerk about it, they told him they would be filling the cart soon, and true to their word, a few minutes later, at around 10 a.m., they began filling the cart with a variety of bento boxes. There were four to five types of bento, such as pork cutlet bento, fried meat dumpling bento, and fried chicken bento, all for 330 yen, and they would be sold not only at lunchtime but right up until 8 p.m.
Seiji purchased a chicken cutlet bento, and when he ate it, the chicken was plump and he discovered a serving of Napolitan pasta hidden beneath it.
Other tasty morsels in the box included fried lotus root, pickles and stir-fried vegetables, as well as a whole lot of rice.
The chicken cutlet tasted like something you’d get in a 330 yen lunch box — it wasn’t write-home fantastic but it wasn’t bad either. A good, standard cutlet that was generously sized, making it pretty good value for 330 yen.
The bento was good, but if Seiji were to recommend a bento shop online, he’d choose something that was far tastier. However, sometimes a bit of perspective makes all the difference, and when he looked at the comments again, he saw the main reason why people were raving about the store — the price.
Some of the comments included:
“In America, where I live, this’d be $13.99 (2,066 yen).”
“In Canada, this’d be $16.99 (about 1,826 yen).”
“Here in Australia it’d be $10 (947 yen)’.’
Seiji was shocked to learn that a bento like this would be so expensive overseas, but upon learning that, he realised this humble bento really wasn’t so bad after all. Judging by Japanese standards, a bento like this would be convenient for locals but it wouldn’t necessarily be worth travelling for, but if you come from a place where people would pay nearly seven times more for the experience, then this little bento is an absolute bargain.
So yet again, Seiji’s perspective on Japan was altered thanks to the people on Reddit. It just goes to show that when you view your humdrum, everyday life through the eyes of a visitor, you really can find a little dash of magic in everything, from backstreet vendors to pizza joints and capsule hotels. Who knows where they’ll take Seiji to next!
Sozai Kazama / 惣菜かざま
Address: Tokyo-to, Adachi-ku, Senju 1-22-9
Open: 9:00 a.m.-8:30 p.m.