"Bento boys" make their own lunch in tough times

Fri Apr 24, 2009 11:28am EDT
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By Yuriko Nakao

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Tough times are pushing Japanese businessmen into making their own boxed lunches, or bento, instead of eating out each day at a restaurant.

Traditionally, Japanese men are rarely seen in the kitchen, leaving it to their partner or mother to make their meals and eating out if there were no females around to cook for them.

But with Japan deep in recession, men are getting domesticated and making their own bento -- compartmentalized boxes with a mix of rice, vegetables and meat dishes.

Ironically, marketing campaigns are targeting the frugal men to spend the cash they save in new ways, such as a flashy new $25 lunch box with matching chopsticks or cooking classes.

Kenichi Machida, a 34-year-old businessman, swaps his suit for an apron as he hones his skills at weekly classes.

"There's of course the feeling of accomplishment when you come home and make your own lunch. More than anything, it's quite economical and you can save money," he told Reuters after a lesson in making a guacamole and taco dish.

Male competitiveness is also creeping in.

Men working at a Tokyo Internet company are getting up before dawn to work on their lunches, then compare notes over lunch at a bento club meeting.   Continued...

<p>An employee of an Internet company, paperboy&amp;co., shows his homemade boxed lunch during a lunch break in Tokyo April 15, 2009. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao</p>