ORIGIN Bento, Kitchen ORIGIN and Other Stores
The "Origin" brand is operated by the company Origin Toshu, Co. There are several brands, including for instance the Kitchen Origin one pictured above. Stores vary slightly in their content, but they are many staples and they are essentially pretty similar in concept in that they are freestyle restaurants that specialize in bento boxes. Bento boxes sold there are pretty cheap, averaging in price about ¥500.
This is the store front of the Origin Bento store brand.
What To Get?
The obvious answer to this is to try anything that tickles your fancy, but for some pretty sure choices that Japanese people love, here are our recommendations!
Salmon Bento: the ultimate classic
You are guaranteed to see this one during all season and sold at all hours. The salmon bento is probably the most popular of all in Japan. The piece of salmon is usually very simply salted and comes with an assortment of "dango" (mincemeat balls), steamed vegetables flavoured with a soy-based sauce, and pickles. This combination is actually a popular breakfast in Japan.
Mackerel Bento: big piece of fish packed with protein and healthy oils
Mackerel is called "saba" in Japan, and the saba bento is also very high in popularity. It's mostly eaten for lunch or dinner. The mackerel fish is quite oily and rich in protein, so it's a good choice if you are quite hungry and looking for something filling and healthy.
Katsukare: the ultimate Japanese comfort food!
This one is a must try when you just want to indulge in something rich with a deep savoury taste! Katsukare is actually a Japanese-style curry on which breaded deep fried cutlets (pork or chicken) are added as a topping. This one is usually sold pretty simply, with just a bed or rice, the curry sauce and the cutlets.
Karaage Chicken: deep-fried chicken Japanese-style!
The karaage bento is so irresistibly good and on the cheap side too. Karaage is without a doubt one of the most popular foods in Japan. It's also a quintessential cheap izakaya food. In bento boxes, it's usually served very simply with some rice and cabbage.
Unagi: the special summer bento
Unagi is a kind of Asian freshwater eel. You are likely to see this one sold only during the hot summer months because traditionally, the eel is seen as the best food to combat fatigue caused by the heat. Grilled to perfection after being dipped in a tare sauce, the outer part is slightly crispy and the inner part is really soft. This is a delicacy of sorts so it's quite pricey compared to the other bento boxes but definitely worth the try!
Roast Katsudon: When you need something VERY filling
This one consists of deep-fried pork cutlets on which a beaten egg is poured. The egg topping has a savoury, and slightly sweet flavour and is not overcooked. On top of that, the dish is seasoned with a soy-based fruity sauce. The combination is beyond words - it's just so filling and satisfying! This is the one you reach for when you've worked up an appetite.
Origin Bento is a good choice for a cheap and satisfying Japanese meal that you can eat in the park or at home! Some places have a few counter seats too, and most stores are open 24h. Give them a try, they're virtually at every second street corners in major cities all over Japan.