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A CLOSER LOOK AT THIS WEEK’S HOUSE SPECIAL: Shokado Bento ($25-$100, for orders of 10 or more)
Apristine shop with neatly placed items and a friendly staff that greets customers with a spirited “irrashaimase!” — “welcome” in Japanese — comes with a ton of surprises.
Not only is J-Shop a convenient store stocked with Japanese products — including seasonings, snacks, stationary and other items exclusive to Japan — but it also sells fresh produce and dons a fish market and fully operating kitchen. Customers can pick up already-prepared bentos or custom-order one for lunchtime or dinner. And while the kitchen closes at 4 p.m., specialty bentos, such as Sashimi Bento ($9.75) and Wagyu Yakiniku Bento ($14.50), still are available until 6. Furthermore, one of J-Shop’s newest offerings includes Shokado Bento, a customized meal for special occasions, meetings and gatherings. With a minimum order of 10, these traditional bentos start at $25 each and go up in price according to the customer’s preference in dish choices.
Open for a little more than two years now, J-Shop is proud to cater to the local community, as well as chefs and restaurants that count on the store for its flown-in, never-shipped Japanese products, including a wide range of high-quality seafood, vegetables and meat. In fact, 95 percent of all J-shop’s goods come from Japan, specifically items that can’t be found at any other Asian-specialty store in Hawaii. And though it may be a small operation, J-Shop has a huge impact/presence on the island.
HISTORY AND INFLUENCE OF THE BENTO
The origin of bentos can be traced back to the late Kamakura Period (1185-1333) in Japan, and has definitely evolved over time — although the overall concept of convenient-eating, as well as some of the general dishes and ingredients incorporated, has not. Hawaiian culture has even adopted the bento and created its own version, which locals recognize as the plate lunch.