Even if you have only a mild interest in Japan, chances are you've heard of 弁当 bentō. These single-serving packed meals with their (often) neatly arranged compartments of food are ubiquitous in Japanese daily life. Parents often make them for kids to take to school and adults often buy pre-made bento lunches at work. Moreover, train travelers can enjoy delicious versions of these packaged meals featuring regional specialties, known as 駅弁 eki-ben.

However, for all their convenience, there's one aspect of commercial bento box lunches that has become more problematic in recent years as most nations strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations, and that's the waste generated from the boxes.

Headquartered in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Jishōtei Co., Ltd. 自笑亭株式会社 has a new concept to address this problem, in addition to providing other convenient merits. The food and bento manufacturer, which has been in business since the end of the Edo period in the Ansei era (1615-1868), launched a new product line called おに弁 Oniben, a portmanteau of おにぎり onigiri, meaning "rice ball," and 弁当 bentō.

In Oniben, high-quality steamed rice is formed into small open-faced bento box shapes and the delicious ingredients, usually found inside an onigiri, are placed inside.

Merits of Oniben

  • The entire bento box (rice) can be eaten with one hand like a burrito.
  • The simple packaging means that only a small amount of trash is generated.
  • Complies with the new Law on Recycling Plastic Materials (which went into effect on April 1st, 2022) as well as SDGs.
  • Easy to eat anywhere, such as for a quick lunch, outdoors, during leisure activities, or at events.

In addition to being sold at room temperature, Oniben can also be frozen using a quick-freezing method, thereby enabling distribution and sales as a frozen food product also suited to long-term storage.

In their promotional campaign, Jishōtei tapped the comic manzai duo パックンマックン Pack'n Mack'n, the most famous member of which is US-born and Harvard-educated comedian, voice actor, DJ, entertainer and TV commentator Patrick Harlan, who goes by the stage name Pakkun. The duo also contributed ideas for some of the varieties in the Oniben lineup.


There are a total of 12 varieties available, including these five which were co-developed with Pack'n Mack'n:

  • パックンマックンコラボ「おに弁」 Pakkun's hometown Colorado BBQ and Jishōtei's famous short-neck clams Oniben: 350 JPY
  • うなぎ「おに弁」 Eel Oniben: Grilled eel from Shizuoka Prefecture with secret sauce: 500 JPY
  • しらす&三ケ日牛「おに弁」 Whitebait and Mikkabi Beef Oniben: Featuring deliciously fried and seasoned whitebait from the Enshū-nada Sea: 350 JPY
  • 三ケ日牛しぐれ「おに弁」 Mikkabi Beef Shigure Oniben: Delicious Japanese beef raised in the Mikkabi region of Shizuoka Prefecture is stewed and seasoned in the savory and sweet しぐれ煮 shigure-ni style with soy sauce, ginger and mirin: 350 JPY
  • 焼きサバ「おに弁」 Grilled mackerel Oniben: Deliciously seasoned mackerel grilled on skewers: 350 JPY

All prices listed above include tax.

Oniben can be purchased at Jishōtei shops in JR Hamamatsu Station, the head office, and other locations in the Hamamatsu City area.

For more information, visit the company's official website here.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.