Thursday, August 5, 2010

The World of Bento

photo from
obento created by Yayoi Brown

A few years ago, I was frustrated by the lunch bags available in the stores: they seemed cheaply made and easily damaged or destroyed, many (most?) were unsafe--why on earth would you put lead in a lunch box? And, by the time lunch rolled around, the bag had been squished and roughed up so much that the meal inside was completely unappetizing. To top it all off, it was wasteful, using a system of baggies and/or commercially prepared individual portions. I wanted something better for my kids' lunches.

And, then I discovered bento boxes.

WARNING: Bento collecting is very addictive. I, myself, managed to pull back from the brink of total consumption by these beautiful, adorable, funny, and crazy pieces of art! I hope this post doesn't send me back to the edge :-)

In my last post, I tried to convey the meaning of obento (I do not claim to be an expert on this topic) and some most inspirational photos of this Japanese-style of lunch.

Today, our topic turns to the bento box itself.

There is a whole world of bento on the internet and the choices are nearly endless. You can find single layer, double or even triple layer bentos; bentos with chop sticks built into the top. Bentos which are traditional wood or stainless steel, bentos which are microwaveable. There are different styles of bentos for holidays and of course for men, women and kids. Every color and theme imaginable and all designed to enhance the lunch experience. Some bentos snap closed, some have thick elastic bands to wrap around. Some rely on pretty handkerchiefs tied artfully to keep them together; the chop sticks are then slipped under the knot. (see below)

There is an abundance of websites selling bentos these days. Of course, Amazon and ebay sell them, and many other websites as well. JBox has a large assortment of bento boxes and accessories. I have ordered from them several times and have found them to be very reliable. You can buy very cute, inexpensive bentos here, such as this one:

Or how about one for your lego-lover:

Hello Kitty bentos are very popular:

Do you remember the children's movie, Kiki's Delivery Service?

Here is an elegant bento with kimono print:

One with pretty flowers:

And with bunnies:

Don't forget the manly bentos:

And a traditional New Years Eve Feast lacquer box:

There are so many accessories, it is hard to know where to begin. Here are a few:

Of course, you have to have the grass to separate foods:

Here's another pretty way to separate foods:

There are tiny sauce containers:

And vegetable cutters:

How about a wacky wiener cutter--this one will make a crab shape:

Every self-respecting bento maker must have egg shapers...

and rice ball makers:

I have my doubts about the safety of these antibacterial sheets to keep your food safe:

And after your bento is packed, you might want to consider wrapping it in a furoshiki or handkerchief. Here is a video from youtube showing how to wrap furoshiki around a laptop, a bento and then how to make it into a shoulder bag to carry purchases or other items. No lead in these beautiful cloths, for sure.


  1. What a pretty post! I'm loving the pastel cups, but I've really got my eye on the rice ball maker, that it just fabulous! Do you know where they are sold?

  2. I just love those, too. The best place I know of is through websites such as J-Box. Here is a link for a bunch of different kinds of rice ball makers:
    Happy bento-ing! (and I'm thinking one of your cute aprons would make a beautiful furoshiki!)

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