Why “Bentō“?

In Japan, a bentō 弁当 is a meal on the go. They are sold in supermarkets, convenience stores, and bentō-only specialty shops all over Japan. People on the way to school or work buy them for lunch. People buy them on the way home to eat for dinner. Travellers buy them at the train station (sometimes even right there on the platform) to eat on the way to wherever.

Bentō have a little bit of everything. Check out the one in the photo here:

A typical bentō you'd find at a supermarket.

A typical bentō you’d find at a supermarket.

Looks like there’s a little salad, fried food (chicken, shrimp, minced fish(?)), rice, salmon, pickled, and some other random vegetables. There you go: a little bit of everything.

Why “Tōhoku”?

“Tōhoku” is where I am currently living in Japan. “Tōhoku” isn’t too creative of a name. The characters for it are East [, 東] and North [hoku, 北]. Sure enough, it is north-east of [what at the time was] Japan. Since the end of the 19th century, Hokkaidō is really northern Japan, so we say Tōhoku is north-eastern Honshū (Japan’s main island).

What is in this blog bentō?

Life: I live in Japan. I’m an Assistant Professor at a national university. I have fun outdoors (think snow-covered mountains, festivals, beaches, outdoor hot springs) and indoors (think craft breweries, coffee shops, galleries, izakaya). There are many things people do in Japan that I wish we’d do in America. There are also a lot of things people do in Japan that drives me crazy and no one on this planet, in the 21st century should do/ still be doing. I will celebrate and/or criticize each as the occasion calls for.

Literature: I have an MA in Japanese literature, so I will be exploring Japan’s literary culture in these “pages.” Coming up soon will be topics such as Tōhoku literature (Dazai Osamu, Miyazawa Kenji, etc.), Matsuo Bashō (on whom I’m teaching a course on this spring), and Muromachi-era literature.

Eating: Japan in general has great food! Menus tend to change according to the season and according to which fish, vegetables, fruits, etc. are in-season. At the regional level, there are foods that are particular to certain areas, which encourages a type of food tourism. I avoid chain restaurants as much as possible and like to eat at little, local places.

Drinking: Tōhoku is historically known for its great saké! If you understand what’s important for growing grapes for wine, then you’ll understand what’s needed to make delicious saké.  Tōhoku has those things: fresh water from snowmelt, special soil, just the right temperature (for cultivating yeast, staving off bad bacteria, etc.), and of course, rice. In the last decade or so local, craft beer has also boomed in the region. Finally, in Tōhoku’s more populated areas the is no lack of good coffee either.

~You will not need chopsticks to consume the information on my blog.~


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