Cissy Chan, Far Sea Ring

Step 1 of 4

The Soy Sauce Container

Fig 1: Exhibition poster

This fish was once filled with soy sauce, and was part of a bento. Bento, a Japanese-style packed lunch, occupies an essential position in East Asian food culture. Its development led to the manufacturing of a variety of products such as beautifully decorated lacquerware boxes that were used to serve food at outdoor gatherings like cherry blossom viewings. Over the years, bento has become part of everyday fast-food culture. Dishes have been simplified and bento can easily be bought at Japanese convenience stores, supermarkets and restaurants.

Hence, a small portion of soy sauce individually packed in a fish-shaped plastic container has become a standard ingredient in contemporary sushi bento boxes for take-away. Yoshihisa Sawada, an expert in the taxonomy of Japanese insects, researched the diverse different “species” of fish-shaped sauce containers and published the results in his book “Soy Sauce Sea Bream”Sawada, Yoshihisa. 2012. Shoyudai. Asutora.Yoshihisa found 76 separate “species” that he was able to divide into 6 families and 21 genera. While zoologically diverse, aesthetically pleasing and highly functional in preventing the dripping of sauce, the plastic containers are difficult to clean and not very suitable for reuse, and thus contribute to the considerable amount of waste left behind after enjoying a take-away bento.