Nestlé have recently launched a cute new site called “Bento Danshi Park” (Lunch Box Boys’ Park) that allows visitors to take a peek inside the carefully prepared lunch boxes of the nation’s salarymen. Feeding off the bento danshi trend that exploded last year, the site allows male users to upload photos of their packed lunches, which are then rated by other users.
The trend began with a string of media reports that stated modern men were more likely to bring a packed lunch to work for economic and health reasons. Proving that this wasn’t all hot air, BP Net reported that Tokyu Hands saw a significant rise sales of bento boxes specifically designed for men and that publishing companies also done well with recipe books for simple bento lunches. For example, last spring the publication of “Bokuben” (My Lunch Box) by Matsuki Kamizawa (Goma Books), a how-to book aimed at male readers, proved to be a big hit.
A homemade bento, prepared with the right ingredients, can cost as little as ¥200, and some male workers have managed to slash their daily budgets even further by joining the new tribe of “suitou danshi” – men who take drinks to work in a thermos.
Many men, however, have reportedly been drawn to making bento simply out of a desire to learn how to cook. Attractive and healthy bento were matched with herbivorous men (yet another media catchphrase used to describe Japan’s version of the metrosexual) and Nestlé’s site is clearly aimed at that niche market. And what’s the link between bento and Nestlé, you might rightly ask? Turns out that it’s all to promote more soshokukei danshi (herbivorous men) eating airy Aero chocoloate.
At the time of writing, however, the top-ranked box lunch on Bento Danshi Park was a simple Chinese-style fried rice, accompanied by a piece of fried chicken, which perhaps indicates the site is frequented by guys who rate speed and economy over acquiring complicated culinary skills. Maybe the campaign isn’t exactly hitting the herbivore target after all.
One of the coolest innovations to accompany the trend is the rise of the vertically stacking lunch box, which is specifically designed to fit into briefcases. The theory being that flat-bottomed lunch boxes will just get upended if they’re put in alongside documents. This one from Metaphys is particularly cool and shows that the simplest bento can still be eaten with style.