Been to a funeral recently, or during the later phases of the pandemic?

Bentos now are very much part of the funeral experience. It’s trending as an alternate to post-services buffets in the reception hall.

Also, services at the mortuary are now welcoming larger crowds like the past decades, unlike the 10-maximum head count at the height of the pandemic. Face masks are recommended, like other events with huge attendance.

The  local custom at funerals always has included post-service fellowship with the grieving family. Over the decades, a mini-buffet of local food – sushi, perhaps fried chicken, macaroni or potato salad, with mochi as the dessert offering – used to be the rule of thumb. Paper or foam plates would be available, along the usual utensils, like chopsticks, forks, napkins, where mourners used to self-servce.

Sample bento menu at Ige’s catering.

Not anymore. Bentos in pre-packed take-out type containers are stacked in the reception hall, awaiting mourners of the family of the deceased. When you consider health safety, a pre-packed meal makes a lot of sense, however awkward it might seem. And there are no more intrusive, pesky flies.

If folks start to exit and skip the refreshment hall, announcements are made to pick up a mini-meal in a grab-and-go format. Even take-out plastic bags are available for those opting to nibble at home.

Apparently, catering organizations have been revving up the post-funeral bento meals. Websites reflect a range of bento options, from minimalist to the excessive (and expensive), depending on budget.  

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