"Crab and Rice Bento (Japanese boxed lunch)" - Oshamanbe's standard bento!
Crab and Rice Kanaya's Head Office began selling bentos in 1928. By 1950 they had perfected their crab and rice combo and they have been selling their much loved 'Crab and Rice Bento' ever since.
One of the best parts of a Japanese train ride is enjoying one of the many delicious bentos available. In Hokkaido there are many different kinds to try, but one that has been a consistent hit is the Crab and Rice Bento. I recently set off to find out the secret behind this delicious, long selling lunch.
Mr. Katsujirou Kanaya, the founder of the shop, originally boiled the crab and sold the meals right on the train. However the crab were only available to boil during the summer fishing season. He came up with the Crab and Rice Bento so that delicious crab could be enjoyed year-round.
▲ Doesn't this look delicious? It seems that professional crab shellers used to have a permanent place on the trains.
Back when bentos were sold directly on the train platforms this lunch was extremely popular! In the old days, when the windows on trains could be opened or closed by hand, you could call out to one of the bento salesman on the platform from your window and enjoy a hot lunch delivered right to your seat.
▲ Bento salesgirls lined up on the platform in 1935.
▲ A bento salesman circa1965.
As time has passed these platform salesmen have disappeared, but you can still make a reservation to relive the feeling. If you order ahead they will specially prepare a bento for you and, calculating the correct arrival time, carry it onto the train directly to your seat when you pass through the station. Currently there are about 200 bento lunches being taken onto the trains every day.
Instructions for reserving a bento can be found at the bottom of this article.
If you would like to enjoy the taste of Crab and Rice Bento you can call ahead and order, visit the Marui Imai Department store, or buy directly from Ochamanbe and dig in.
When I arrived at the shop for our interview, they had just finished making the bentos and were in the process of wrapping them. Each box was wrapped carefully before being set aside.
▲ The kitchen in 1969. Even now the atmosphere hasn't changed a bit, and the history of Kanaya is still present.
I spoke with Mr. Matsushima about the Crab and Rice Bento.
"One of the main traits of the Kanaya Bento is the warmth of the rice; we use the "Hoshi no Yume" brand of Hokkaido rice in our bentos. Lately many other Seafood Bentos have become popular, and the crab used in those is quite red. This led to some of our customers saying that our bentos don't really look like they have crab in them. They do of course, but the crab we use is finely cut and has added flavors, so it goes really well with warm rice."
As soon as you pick up the first piece of crab with your chopsticks the wonderful scent of crab fills the air. Take your first bite and the white rice and fluffy crab mix together to fill your mouth with a taste like no other boiled crab you've ever had. The white part of the crab is pickled, providing a delicious accent to the meal. Accompanying the meal is a side dish of two types of seaweed, and lance-fish combined and boiled in soy, the perfect palate-cleanser.
In the past, the bento was featured in many exhibitions both around Hokkaido and outside the island. However, lately they haven't been featured as much, relying more on mail order sales to serve those outside Hokkaido. For those of you who would like to try a bite, why not order a box and taste the lunch box for yourself?
Of course, if you travel across Hokkaido by train, I highly recommend ordering a box for the ride.
● かにめし本舗かなや (Crab and Rice Kanaya's Head Office)
● How to make reservations for in-train delivery.
Please contact the JR Hokkaido Cabin Crew Center at least two days in advance.
(Open from 10:00 to 6:00. TEL : 001-261-6819 )
If you want to order while on the train, be sure to ask the staff at least an hour before arriving in Oshamanbe.
※ Service not available in some trains.
● Contact Information
有限会社かにめし本舗かなや (Crab and Rice Company Kanaya's Head Office)
Location: 40-2 Oshamanbe, Oshamanbe Town, Yamakoshi-gun
■ Hours of Operation: 8:00a.m. - 5:00p.m.
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Takako chiba)
(Photographs provided by 仙北慎次写真事務所プロボ 仙北慎次)
(Black and white photographs provided by かにめし本舗かなや)