All About Japan

Tokyo Bento Shop Pays it Forward with IOU Food

Food & Drink Bento Stay Home

In late February, as coronavirus infection began to spread at a rapid rate in Japan, the country’s schools shut down. With the government having declared an ongoing state of emergency for the nation, many of those schools are yet to reopen and have switched to online lessons instead.

If kids aren’t going to their classrooms, though, they’re not going to their school’s cafeteria either, and the loss of school lunches isn’t something some low-income families’ budgets can accommodate. For those that live near Tokyo’s Kichijoji neighborhood, however, local bento boxed lunch shop Chonando wants to help out and is offering special reduced-price kids’ bento.

But make no mistake, these bento are not free, and kids absolutely have to pay for them. It’s just that Chonando is extremely flexible about when, and even who, the kids pay. Japanese Twitter user @haru_chat snapped the above photo of a sign posted outside Chonando explaining the unique payment policy. The notice reads:

“Until schools open up again, on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., we will be offering Kids’ Bento for 250 yen (US$2.30).

For you kids who don’t have enough money, you can pay at a later time. If you need to, you can come back and pay after you’re all grown up. And if by the time you’re all grown up, Chonando isn’t around anymore, then please use the money to help someone else or donate it to someone who needs it.” It’s a literal application of the “pay it forward” philosophy, and a quick peek at the Twitter account for Chonando, which also operates as a vegetable market, shows bento that look both healthy and delicious. Chonando’s act of culinary kindness for kids reverberated throughout the hearts of Twitter users, who left comments such as:

“Well, that brought the tears.”
“I think the kids will always remember the bento. That kindness will teach them to be kind to others too.”
“Thank you for doing this. When my wife was a child, her school lunch was the only meal she got.”
“When I was a kid, a local bakery did something like this for me. When I grew up and got a job, after I got my first paycheck I went to pay them back.”
“Reading about how other people had someone help them like this, it shows how many of us are supported by the kindness of others.”

One parent even posted a photo of the Chonando kids’ bento their child ate that day (above). Chonando also has for-adult bento, also priced at a reasonable 800 yen or so, and should you ever happen to be in the neighborhood, it sounds like a great place to fill up not just your stomach, but your heart too.

Read full story at SoraNews24

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