‘Lunchbox men’ learning to love fulfilling their own culinary tastes

Kyodo News

A new generation of men dubbed “bento danshi,” or lunchbox men, are discovering the delights of preparing their own meals.

The Loft store in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, set up a section this spring featuring bento boxes for such men, mainly in their late 20s and early 30s, that is proving popular with young businessmen, some of whom learned about the site through the Internet.

“These customers have special tastes when it comes to selecting lunchboxes, and those who love cooking are increasing,” said Naoko Yamada, a clerk there in charge of lunch sundries.

Internet-related service provider paperboy&co. has been featuring bento danshi on its Caramel shopping site since February, selling boxed-lunch goods and inviting bloggers to send photos of lunches they have prepared for themselves. The company says that when such photos are posted on the site, the number of hits soars.

The motive for the special feature was a company activity where workers eat their boxed lunches together. One employee wrote about bento on his blog, saying, “The writer will be pleased if someone replies with a comment,” and that statement basically sparked the special feature.

“I don’t make boxed lunches, but the feature has become enjoyable and I have learned how to cut onions without shedding tears,” said Shigeyuki Gyotoku, 30, who works at paperboy&co.

Gyotoku said he has become addicted to home cooking and has developed a taste for seasoning. His primary resources are “What Did You Eat Yesterday?” — a “manga” by Fumi Yoshinaga about the dietary life of two men living together — and the TV Tokyo cooking show “Taichi × Kentaro Danshi Gohan” (“Men’s Meals”) featuring Taichi Kokubun of the pop group Tokio and cooking teacher Kentaro.

Taichi and Kentaro, who are both in their 30s, along with the show’s staff select fare depending on the season and their own particular tastes. The show is popular with men and on its first anniversary in April publisher M. Co. released the recipe book “Taichi × Kentaro Danshi Gohan no Hon,” which is selling well.

For many men in their late 20s and early 30s, domestic science (home economics) was compulsory in high school and cooking is now becoming a part of their everyday lives.

Grocery stores are trying to milk the new fad by setting up sections for boxed lunches designed for men.