HSU alumni open new bento box business

When thinking about Japanese food, most of us think about the price that accompanies it. Generally, we treat ourselves to sushi when family’s in town or when we’re out on a nice date. Obento is a new Japanese delivery service based in Arcata that is trying to change that.

Obento opened up for business in October. It currently operates out of Food Works in Arcata, where they rent a kitchen and the owners Shin Tamura and Maya Matsumoto cook and prepare the food for delivery.

“I wanted to break the idea that all Japanese food was pricey sushi,” Tamura said. “We wanted to be a part of diversifying food and culture in this community, especially with Japanese food.”

Tamura is an HSU alumn and graduated in 2016 with a degree in marine biology. He grew up in the food industry. He was born and raised in Japan, where his grandparents owned a sushi restaurant. At age 5, Tamura and his immediate family moved to the United States.

His father opened a Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles where Tamura later helped in the business. Tamura’s father recently sold the restaurant, and he now vends at different food events anywhere from LA to SF to Las Vegas. Tamura continues to help his father every now and then.

Being exposed to the restaurant and food industry influenced Tamura’s decision to start the Obento delivery service. When he was a student at HSU, he said there were few Japanese food options, and that this hasn’t changed since he graduated.

Co-owner Maya Matsumoto added that the purpose of the company is to make food not only affordable but accessible since many college students have limited transportation.

Matsumoto, who is a California native from Sonoma County, started rolling sushi from a young age, learning from her Japanese grandmother. Matsumoto also attended HSU and was Tamura’s roommate. She explained that with both of their interests in food, it made sense for them to jump into starting a business together.

Their main mission is to serve good food on a budget while integrating the people of this community. HSU is comprised of a diverse student body used to a variety of ethnic foods, so Tamura wanted to fill that niche and offer a new option with Obento.

They offer bento boxes and catering. Bento boxes are traditional single portion take-out meals in Japanese cuisine. Obento’s boxes range from $10 to $12. Some of their dishes are chicken katsu, salmon teriyaki, crispy croquettes, as well as salmon or tuna rolls.

“It’s really rewarding to see the process of it all, and eventually it funnels into this neat little bento,” Matsumoto said. “We’ve had an awesome customer response and it’s great seeing people light up when they get their food or when they talk about it, it really reinforces what our mission is and who we are.”

Some people at HSU are already fans of Obento.

“It was really good, you could really taste the freshness,” said Normani Patterson, HSU anthropology student. “They definitely put some seasoning in their food which you do not get at a lot of places up here. But they did the job well.”

Patterson also said that she appreciated the amount of food she got for under $15, as opposed to other restaurants that tend to get pricier.

As of right now, the bulk of their customers are in Eureka, mostly consisting of offices or businesses looking for a good lunch option.

Obento has not yet catered for HSU, but serves the community as a whole.

Disclosure: After this story was reported and written, the company had its own photoshoot for the business and provided the leftovers to our staff. This is not a regular policy but we want to be transparent.

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