A rice ball (Onigiri) made with rice prepared in fish stock with a taste of honey, and filled with clam, accompanied with smoked cheese and smoked egg. These are the contents of a typical lunch box prepared at "Bokoi Meals." I asked Mr. Katsuji Sekine and his wife Hisako, who make these boxed lunches by hand every day, how "Bokoi Meals" got started.
The shop originally started, not as a boxed lunch shop, but as a handicraft shop named "Bokoi" which specialized in craftwork made from clam shells. (The name was derived from the Ainu phrase "Pok Hui" which translates to "catching many clams.")
There was nowhere in town to purchase just the clam shells so, while Mr. Katsuji worked with the shells creating artwork, his wife Hisako began to create delicious dishes with the inside of the clams, such as grilled clam or clam sashimi.
Among the dishes created, the most popular was their "Clam Rice" which placed first in a local boxed lunch cuisine competition. This isn't where the shop started however, actually in 1999 Mrs. Hisako was the champion of a Japan Silverwork competition which led to the purchase of a studio space in Enrumumarina, located in Muroran. This space is where the "Bokoi Meals" was born.
The studio space that Hisako rented was a former pleasure cruise waiting room, so many people came in thinking they had found a coffee shop. Hisako, being the lovely lady she is, would serve up some of the clam rice she had prepared. This is where the shop truly began.
When the shop began to sell its boxed lunches on the Hakodate line it established a reputation. There's an interesting story to be told here as well...
One day a student who was working a part time job at the nearby cafe "Broughton" told Mr. Sekine how, everyday, she saw many people getting off the train at an empty station and boarding the Bokoi Station train. After hearing this, the shop opened up a shop on the station right away.
Recently the shop has released a new product that has gained popularity, "Tororo Kelp Chikyu Cape" made with "Yayan Kombu." (Yayan means inedible in Ainu, and kombu is a Japanese word for kelp.)
Inside each boxed lunch, every item is individually wrapped so that the meal can be enjoyed all at once or in parts over the day. This is a consideration that represents the care put into each box by Mr. and Mrs. Sekine. If you ever visit the shop not only will you be treated to delicious food, you'll be greeted with smiling faces and wonderful conversation by the couple.
(Hokkaido Likers - Iwasaki)