Most Japanese bento include rice, often pressed into easy-to-eat shapes. When that ubiquitous rice is coaxed into bite-sized cylinders, the meals become known as makunouchi (literally translated as “between the acts”) bento, a reference to their Edo-period origin as intermission eats for kabuki audiences.

Makunouchi bento remain popular today, with reasonably priced ones sold at nearly every convenience store and upscale versions available at depachika (basement-level food halls in department stores).

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