As Japanese kids get older, they go on longer, stay-over school trips. These are called 修学旅行 (shuugaku ryokou, meaning a ‘learning trip’), or if are going to be One With Nature, either 臨海学校 (rinkai gakkou, ‘school by the sea’) or 林間学校 (rinkan gakkou, ‘school in the woods’). In my second year of middle school when I was 14 or so, our whole class went off to a school-in-the-woods version for a 2 night, 3 day trip. This was my first time away from home without my parents, so I was quite excited.
One of the things we were supposed to do was to cook our first meal, out there in the woods, on our own on a campfire! Unfortunately no one in our designated group of six (3 girls, 3 boys), knew a thing about camping, let alone cooking on a campfire using a 飯ごう (hangou), an aluminum cooking pot. The rice we attempted to cook was a disaster, the approximate consistency of wallpaper glue with hard little grains of uncooked rice. And our teachers were almost as clueless as we were.
Fortunately, my skeptical mother had packed some big onigiri for me, together with a Tupperware container full of mixed sautéed vegetables and chicken. We divided up the onigiri to quiet our initial hunger, and mixed the veggies and chicken into the rice gruel, which made it just about edible. I can still taste the welcome salty-sweetness of the veggies and chicken with the gut-burning hot gruel.
After we packed up our gear, our teachers told us to hike back through the woods to the inn we were all staying in. As we trudged on, it started to rain. Soon, it was pouring down in buckets. It was so bad that we could barely see where we were going, let alone our teachers, who were shouting at us to keep going from somewhere up ahead. I eventually got separated from my group and my only companion was one of the boys.
I don’t even remember his name or his face anymore, but I will never forget how calm and encouraging he was. For a 14 year old boy, this was quite remarkable in retrospect. He kept urging me on as I faltered, and waited for me patiently when I had to stop for a rest. Eventually the rain eased up, and we could walk on, dripping wet, but cheered up enough to chat as we went. At one point he stopped calling me by my last name as was the norm, and called me Maki-chan, and my heart skipped a beat.
You might ask what’s the big deal about that? Well, in Japan teenage boys and girls don’t call each other by their first names. They use the last names. For that boy to call me by my first name, and with the -chan suffix at that, was basically saying that he really liked me, as a girl! And, this was my very first ‘confession’, ever!
If this were a teenage romance novel or manga, I’d have turned to him with big shiny eyes and indicated that I felt the same way, or something. But it didn’t happen that way. I had never thought of that boy in that way at all - he was just a classmate. I was just too shocked, and we walked the rest of the way back in an awkward silence. I think I may have hurt his feelings. As soon as we reached the inn I practically ran to the room I shared with some other girls, and didn’t even look at him for the rest of the trip. (Later on, during the next school term, he tried to say something to me again but I gave him the cold shoulder once more, because I still didn’t know how to react! Besides, I sort of liked another boy…)
But enough of my awkward teenaged self. On to today’s giveaway!
Please check the giveaway rules in the first post . Do try to remember to keep it to one comment per item/entry, thanks! Remember: You need to give me your email address (in the email entry area) where I can contact you if you win, your name (or nickname), and your location (country).
This adorable bento box set consists of a thermal rice container, which has a capacity of 250ml, and two non-insulated side dish containers, each with 190ml capacity. It comes in an insulated orange canvas zipper case, printed with Miffy the Bunny. The containers are also printed with Miffys. A couple more pictures:
The containers are fairly small, so this set is suitable for children or people with small appetites, or if you’re watching your weight. You put hot rice into the thermal container and heat it up in the microwave for a couple of minutes, then close the lid. Your rice will be piping hot at lunchtime. You could also use the container for things like chili or stew (but be sure to carry it upright. The bag should catch any small leaks.) I’ll include an English instruction sheet. Chopsticks are not included.
[Edit:] Many people wanted to know where to get this bento, if they didn’t win it in this giveaway! I have seen it listed occasionally on eBay - try searching for ‘thermos miffy bento’. You could also consider using a buying agent , and ordering it from a place like Amazon Japan  for example. See also: Where to buy bento items 
This bento set is not that easily available outside of Japan. Perfect for fans of cute bunnies!
DEADLINE: Your comment/entry must be posted before Midnight Greenwich Mean Time on Sunday, December 7th.
This giveaway is now closed. Thank you for participating! The winner will be announced next week!