Executive Chef Noboru Kikuchi from Restaurant Nippon prepares an exclusive bento box lunch for New York's frontline workers. As part of an initiative to support and encourage New York City frontline workers, the Consulate distributed 1,000 bentos throughout February and March at sites across the city. We sincerely appreciate their brave efforts to keep the city running and its people safe. Please read on for a feature on the project.

It's a busy morning at Restaurant Nippon has bento boxes are prepared for delivery and the chefs get ready for the lunch and dinner crowds. Established in 1963, Restaurant Nippon's has a 57-year history of cooking quality homemade Japanese meals for New Yorkers.

The day's bento box has been specially prepared for the delivery to MTA workers at noon at Grand Central Station. Paired with Ito En tea, the March 11 Special Bento Box menu includes soft shell shrimp, salmon teriyaki, inari sushi, fried chicken karaage, among other delicious Japanese foods. Restaurant Nippon has participated in three bento deliveries with the Consulate throughout the pandemic.

Meanwhile at JAANY, the Japanese American Association of New York, JAA Executive Director Michiyo Noda and a volunteer from the NY Japanese American Lions Club are sorting through letters of encouragement and origami paper cranes. JAA has been a huge part of this initiative to provide bentos to frontline workers, but also to Japanese and Japanese American seniors through Project Bento. Since last May, they've provided lunches to seniors throughout New York City and at Isabella House, an assisted living residence. Project Bento will continue throughout 2021, on a monthly basis.

Yasuhiro Makoshi, Executive Vice President, General Manager of Restaurant Nippon, waits for the delivery van to pick up the lunches. “I really hope for New York to continue to get over this pandemic,” Mr. Makoshi says. “It’s been a hard time, but we truly enjoy serving traditional Japanese dishes to our customers, and this is a great chance to do that.”

Volunteers from JAA and the New York Japanese American Lions Club unload the box lunches at Grand Central. They set up and organize the boxes of Ito En tea and the 100 bentos of the day, freshly made from Japan Village, Sushi Ryusei and Restaurant Nippon.

Mr. Makoshi distributes the delicious bento lunches to members of the MTA, conveying the Japanese community’s deep gratitude to the MTA workers and other frontline workers for their work throughout the pandemic. The March 11th bento delivery to MTA and NYPD members at Grand Central station was headed by the Consulate and organized by JAA and NYJRA, the New York Japanese Restaurant Association.

The Consulate would like to express our immense gratitude to frontline workers, such as the MTA Police Department, for their brave work throughout this Pandemic.“We really appreciate the Japanese community thinking of us,” says a coordinator from the MTA.

"Thank you for lunch!" Workers in the custodial department pick up their bentos. "We've worked here a long time-we're great friends," they say. In a taxing year for many frontline workers, the Consulate and the greater Japanese community in New York is encouraged that we can support our community in this way.

Paper cranes folded by well-wishers and donated to JAA were included with the bento lunches. In Japanese culture, orizuru, folded paper cranes, are a symbol of recovery and gesture of encouragement. The Consulate would like express our deepest gratitude to JAA, NYJRA, the New York Japanese-American Lions Club, front-line workers, and all involved in making bento deliveries a success.