Tag Archives: Japan

Meal packaging: Sage Jubako

23 Nov

No, no, it’s not finished yet, the topic of food carriers, of mobile food, of lunchboxes, stacked and single-story. Today’s presentation is high art.

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I was working on the bento entry and came across real tiered or stacked Japanese food carriers, a bento being a “ground floor only” carrier (translate: lunchbox). The stacked food carriers are known as Sage Jubako (or just Jubako), which, I gather, translates to “nesting boxes”.

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Growing up in a European culture we learned about the (European) Renaissance, specifically Italy, as a period of particular cultural blossoming and flowering. So now I discovered that these Jubako are a product of the Japanese Renaissance in the Edo Period.

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Edo is the old name for Tokyo. During the Edo Period, which was around about 1603/1615-1868, depending on your source, the Japanese voluntarily isolated themselves under the shogun(s) starting with Tokugawa Ieyasu. There’s a lovely little interactive tour site here and much contextual information on the period here.

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It seems, from various internet sources, not least a myriad of art galleries, museum exhibitions, antique dealers and auction houses, that the Japanese used increasing wealth and leisure time for picnic pursuits and these lovely jubako were crafted.

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The portable picnic sets almost always consisted of a few small food plates, some sake bottles and stacked boxes for the food, all in a large carrier.

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The Victoria & Albert Museum in London has a teachers’ resource page for Art & Design with suggestions to Design and Make a Japanese-style Container. The Metropolitan Museum has an Edo Art page here.

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Looking at the art from the Edo Period, you can discover picnics – and sometimes the food carriers too! – featured fairly prominently. See works in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts here, in the Brooklyn Museum here and in the Harvard Art Museums here, also in the Japanese Art Open Database here, and in the Marquand Library of Art and Archeology here.

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There’s a more modern photo set of a picnic with jubako here on Naz Sahin’s site. I’ve got the same edition of Mediaeval Cuisine of the Islamic World featured amongst the wonderful panoply of great books on her site, just recently when in Granada at the Alhambra!

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And here, dear Peeps, is my most astounding gem found on the intertubes while ‘curating’ for this post: An essay on Japan’s Sustainable Society in the Edo Period !! The author is Eisuke Ishikawa, a lecturer at Musashino Art University.

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Meal Packaging: Bento

22 Nov

Culinary art in a lunchbox – that’s how one site describes bento, the Japanese tradition of packed, mobile meals. Whole sites are devoted to this tradition and the web abounds in obento. Lets start with some kawaii (cute) bento.

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As you can imagine, a lot of that goes to school in packed lunches. There are all manner of helpful accessories such as cutters, picks, cups, separating sheets and things you haven’t dreamed of. Indeed, there’s even an app to help you find bento recipes. Moreover, there are loads of how-tos such as at this flickr site.

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But the bento tradition is not just for children’s meals, it’s also the term for packed lunches at work, such as in the scene below, …

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… or really at any time. And it goes back a long way. Take the Shokado Bento: a square – often lacquered – box separated into four (or more) compartments. Apparently this dates back to the early 17th century, says Fukui Craft.

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You can make bento yourself at home, and, if you’re ambitious you can enter the International Bento Contest (see the 2013 winners here). Or you can buy it at many stores and even from vending machines. The future may even hold a computer filling bento boxes, as at the International Robot Exhibition 2013 in Tokyo here.

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Travelling? There’s a special name for railway bentos: Ekiben (from ‘eki’ = train + ‘ben’ short for bento). The following pic is the display poster of ekibens on offer at the Tokyo’s Ekiben Matsuri (train bento festival store).

IMG_4976_kleinTo me the lacquered lunch box versions are particularly beautiful. There’s a huge variety for sale out there, with one, two or more tiers, square, oblong, round or flower-shaped, traditional, modern or cute, with or without carrying bags, bands, handles and chopstick holders. Take a squizz at casabento, for example.
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