Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's Bento), a manga about families, love and bento

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Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family’s Bento) is slice of life manga (comic) series by Nozomi Yanahara. It’s still being serialized in Comic Flapper magazine, but the first parts of the series have already been issued in paperback form too. (In case you didn’t know, that’s the way Japanese manga series are published - they’re serialized in a magazine first, then if they are deemed to have enough readers, they’re compiled and re-issued in paperback format.)

The Takasugi family is a rather unusual one. It consists of Harumi, a 30-something single guy and post-doctorate in geology who, at the start of the series, still can’t find a permanent job in his field and is getting by by doing arubaito or part time and temp jobs; and his orphaned 12 year old first cousin Kururi. Kururi’s mother Miya, Harumi’s aunt, was killed in an accident, naming Harumi as her daughter’s guardian in her will. He had never even met Kururi before, or even known of her existence due to a family rift in the past, making it quite an awkward situation for them both.

What helps them to overcome their difficulties and become a true family is bentos. Harumi takes up cooking for the first time so that he can make bentos for Kururi, making plenty of mistakes along the way. Kururi is a rather odd 12 year old, quiet and stubborn and antisocial, obsessed with sales and bargains at the local supermarkets and pinching pennies. But they both remember the bentos that Miya (Kururi’s mother and Harumi’s aunt) used to make for them, and how delicious it was. They also discover new bento flavors together, flavors that are of their new family. It’s not a manga about eating or cooking in the vein of Oishinbo - it’s really about how food, and specifically bentos, can bring people together. Bentos are the catalyst to Harumi and Kururi becoming a true family. (There’s also an ongoing joke about a classmate of Kururi’s, a boy, whose stepmother(?) keeps making cute charaben for him. He keeps getting teased about them every time he opens his box at lunchtime; what’s worse, apparently they look cute but don’t taste good! Kururi shares some of her plain but delicious bento with him once, and…)

I love these kinds of stories. It’s not the flashy kind of manga that gets translated to English, but if you can read Japanese or can find any fansubs around, take a look!

Have bentos (or packed lunches) affected your relationships?

Keeping with the theme of Takasugi-san chi no Obento, my question to you today is: have bentos, or packed lunches, brought you closer to someone? Or how about the opposite - has a bento, packed lunch, picnic, etc. been the catalyst for a relationship ending or being otherwise affected?

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And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

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Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

I made a bento for the guy I like, he was really happy to get it and enjoyed eating it. :)

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

Hi Maki,
Actually yes bentos have brought me closer to someone. Last year I started becoming friends with girls for the first time (Im a bit of a tomboy so I usually hang out with guys) I really didnt know what to talk with them about because with my guy friends we usually talk about video games and my girl friends werent very interested in that subject. Well last year was also when I got my first bento box so I started making alot more bentos. My girl friends were all interested in the kinds of foods I put in my bento, so we talked about bentos and how I made the food. It was the first conversation we had that I could actually participate in lol. Now I've become very close to those friends and we share my bentos whenever I bring them ^^

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

Hi Maki,
I have to say that my mother, my sisters and myself are really close so I couldn't say that packed lunches brought us as a family closer together or separated us. One thing I can say is that I associate the packed lunches from my childhood with developing individuality and socialising. Since my sisters and myself had all totally different tastes my mom made every lunch somehow individual. I didn't like meat a lot when it is cold so I got vegetables and other stuff I liked, my sisters liked big sandwiches. They were not totally different because my mother likes simple things but they were distinct. Besides our individual lunches were so delicious that we normally shared them at school with our schoolmates. So my mom even cared about us getting friends. :-D I think she didn't do that on purpose but when we told her that we could't eat much because our mates were so fond of our food, she remembered that and asked us the next time whether we wanted more to give it to our friends the next time she packed the same food.
Greetings from Germany.

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

Actually, this looks exactly like the sort of manga I love to read. Thank you so much for pointing it out!

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

I share pictures of my bentos on my Facebook page and so far, I am the only one of my friends or family making bentos. Everyone really responds well to the pictures though, and I get lots of comments. When a friend of mine who really loves the bento pictures I post became ill, I made him a special bento and gifted him the bento box packed with food inside as a get well present. He really loved it.

I hope that the bentos I make for my step daughter will become treasured memories as she gets older. Thanks for this post, Maki! I really liked reading about this manga.

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

Interestingly enough, yes, I think bentos have been a factor in improving my family relationships.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a feminist. I don't think it's necessarily the woman's JOB to be the household servant or anything like that. I don't think you have to love to cook to be a Good Wife and Mother.

However, let's be real. If you're an American woman doing bento, you probably LIKE to prepare food. As good for you as it can be, for an American woman, we're talking serious food hobby here.

Even so.

My husband says that he likes bento because it feels like he's getting a hug in the middle of the day. He looks forward to an attractive, tasty meal. It makes him feel cared for to know that that time and thought has gone into this little package at lunchtime each day. He's going through a challenging time and work and I know he finds it a morale boost.

I don't think that it's as consciously meaningful to my fifteen year old son. If I don't make a bento, he has to make his own lunch, and I know he prefers not to have to. But for him, I don't think bento will be much of a nostalgia thing or very sentimental until he's a great deal older.

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

I would answer yes. However, both of my girls prefer that I do not add cute baran or picks to their lunches anymore (they are 17 and 15) - sadness! My husband has never really cared about fancy bento lunches - as long as I pack a lunch for him he's happy. His other option would be school food - ha!

It has been fun for me to collect...and collect more...and more... bento stuff, but my goal has been for everyone to think through what they eat for meals and how visual appeal is a HUGE part of making eating healthy enjoyable.

I am so thankful for this site and for the other guys and gals who post their pics on flickr.! I can't get enough!

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

Interesting manga. But just to clarify...if Kururi’s mother is Harumi’s aunt...that would make Kururi a first cousin. Unless Kururi's mum is Harumi's sister, which would then make her niece.
According to wiki anyway =P
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cousin

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

That is correct. I have corrected the text.

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

Does this manga have furigana?

Thanks
Becki

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

Only for characters' names when they are first introduced. Furigana are usually only used for manga aimed at small children (or for manga repurposed for language students sometimes).

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

Thanks Maki
I guess I better start studying harder again >_<

Becki

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

お弁当の本といえば、もう一月ですか。まきさんの料理の本を読みたいですよ。
Speaking of bento books, is it January yet? I want to read Maki's cookbook! (Also, I wouldn't mind for this semester to be over, lol.)

Anyway, this manga looks cute. I hope it gets put into paperback, even if it isn't translated and sold at Borders, because my Japanese teacher told me that reading manga in Japanese is a great way to practice, especially the informal way of speaking Japanese. Maybe I can find it raw somewhere are the internet.

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

In my family, whenever there is a large test or exam at school, we would get a "proper" lunch, compared to day-to-day. It would usually be a delicious sandwich with whatever topping you wanted, a bottle of soda and a small candy bar. This isn't for being healthy, but more that when you start stressing about the test, you have something to look forward to, something you'd thoroughly enjoy in the middle of all the stress.

My boyfriend never had this, and when we started dating in high school, I'd always make sure he had a nice lunch for those large tests, instead of whatever he'd scrounge up at the store. It surprised him every time, and he always stressed less with those tests than the ones he didn't have a small distraction from.

After moving in together and starting university, I still cook him bento those mornings we leave at the same time, or I know he won't have time to get a lunch between classes. Packed lunches have really semented alot of trust and care in our relationship, even if it's just a sandwich, made with care and brought by as a pleasent surprise.

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

As a result of discovering this site, I started taking bento-packed snacks while on a weight-loss plan (they made brussels sprouts and apple slices much more appealing). About a year ago, when my husband started coming home from work too hungry, lunchless because he no longer liked downtown restaurant lunches, I was equipped to make him a bento every day. Healthy and economical. Just the right amount. He appreciates it, and gets a kick out of collecting compliments on his rather elegant black-and-gold bento box.

One more note. I'm going to a conference in San Francisco, and plan to make a pilgrimage to Ichiban Kan. Now, big-city bento-shopping is more interesting to me than clothes and jewelry!

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

Oooh I love slice of life manga!
And as for the question - in Grade 12 at my new school, a girl started sitting with me at lunch whereas before I would sit alone. I noticed she never had a lunch and always stared at mine hungrily... so I started bringing her bento too! We're really good friends now and sometimes she talks about how she misses eating my food for lunch, since we live in different cities.

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

Yes! I'm slowly integrating bentos into my routine for my daughter's lunches. She is 10 and, while she enjoys healthy foods, she packs the worst lunches.

I bought a Hello Kitty bento box last year, which she loved, and all her friends would crowd around to see what I had put in it. We have a few bento boxes now, and I'm making them more regularly.

She loves to watch and help me make the bentos, and shows a surprising amount of excitement that I do this for her, thanking me and coming up with ideas for bentos.

I frequently finish it with one small piece of candy - a Swedish fish, a Hershey kiss - which she loves.

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

A close friend of mine was very angry - he was in love with me, but I wasn't with him and so he didn't want to see me for about 3 years.

In the summer he finally agreed to visit me again and we talked about our relationship a lot. One day we made a trip to a beautiful lake nearby. I had packed bentos the night before and when he opened his box, he was so happy... I could hardly believe it. And after he had tried his first piece of tamago, he said: "Now I know why I loved you once." It was just great <3

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

I discovered bentos recently, and fell in love with the idea. I really wanted to make bentos for my boyfriend (who usually eats fast food during the day). He finally agreed to let me make one... and he brought the box home later, still full of food. He had barely even eaten it.

Since then I haven't made him any more bentos. I just make them for myself (and make my coworkers jealous!).

It made me realize how much I want a significant other I can cook for. I want to be with someone who will enjoy the things I cook. It would motivate me to make more different foods and try new recipes. But for now, I'm stuck with a picky eater.

The next one has to like my bentos.

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

Is this manga printed in english? I'd sure love to read this, and I have yet to make a bento dish, but now since I came across this site I've been curious ^^

Bento support

It's definitely been good for our relationship (which was already great before I started making regular bento lunches for us). My husband has had a rather stressful time at work in the last weeks (months?), and as guys are, doesn't want to talk much about it. So when I asked him how I could support him, he just said: "Keep making me bento lunches - they really make a difference to my stress levels." He also enjoys the attention/envy of his colleagues who only have a bought lunch or sandwich and admire his colourful, varied lunches. For a while, the guys with whom he rides on the morning bus even started asking him "show us your lunchbox" every day... :)))
For me, I love cooking anyway, and I enjoy that I can give him that extra instance of "edible love" every day. So yes, I'd say bentos have strengthened our relationship further. :)

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

I make lunches for my husband and me. We have a wonderful relationship but I do think that packed lunches have made us stronger cuz as he has tells me "they let him know that I love him and he feels cared for". He works 16 hrs a day and he gets so cought up in his job that he often forgets to eat lunch and then wen he finally eats he chooses the worst junk! By making him lunch I know he will EAT and eat better. Also he likes shearing the snack muffins I bake for him wich has made him popular among his co-workers :)

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

This sounds like a great manga! Too bad my Japanese reading skills are lacking...

I'm currently in my early 20s and only make obento for myself, but I hope to make obento for my future husband and children, haha! I just feel like giving someone a well-packed lunch shows that you care about them and their health. The reason I pack obento is because I care about my own health, after all, but making one for someone else is really a sign of love <3

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

My making bento has definitely affected my relationships!

This year, I got an apartment with my two best friends, who are now my roommates. We've always been close, but this semester, we started making regular bento together in the mornings to save work and time. I usually make the main course, she'll start the rice and side dishes.

It really makes me happy to be able to make food for and with someone, and I feel like it really strengthens the relationships between my roommates and me.

My next boyfriend is going to have to resign himself to getting a bento too.

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

Bento has definitely changed my relationship with myself... in the past I never wanted to cook if was only for me... it seemed pointless and like a lot of effort. Now I take the time to make a lunch for myself, and it's such a good feeling when I open up my box at lunch. Now I also make bentos for my boyfriend, who has gotten used to my bento obsession, and he brings them to work and doesn't even care if they're cute. I know they make him very happy and I also love making them for him.. it's a way of expressing my love. All his work friends are always looking forward to seeing his bentos. I think making bentos for yourself and for others really shows love and care. ^_^

Re: Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's ...

I must say, that seems like an interesting manga, I will go have a look.

As for me, I won't say it was a catalyst for a change in relationship albeit it made me realise several things about my relationship with people and myself. I started out thinking I can't cook. I honestly still don't think I cook very well, however a few friends has pointed out I cook things they wouldn't have even attempted :) At the same time, while I didn't realise they were looking over the photos of some of them, it appeared that I mattered more to them than I thought.

So, bento made me realise a few things about myself and my relationship with others :)

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