Japanese Bento Boxes (Lunch Boxes)

   Bento, or box lunches, are one part of Japanese food culture. The act of eating Bento out of the house is a highlight to look forward to in the day, as they feature many different kinds of food arranged together in vivid colors. To prepare a Bento, you need a Bento box or container for holding the meal. Japan has a wide selection of lunch boxes, and these containers continue to evolve to be easier to use and to meet a diverse range of needs.

Bento Have Gained Attention Around the World, Too

Each Bento contains enough food for a whole meal, and can be carried around. They are emblematic of Japan’s food culture. In the modern day, it is most common to see Bento boxes made from plastic or stainless steel, but in the past they were made using wood, bamboo, and other materials.

   Since Bento often appear in anime and manga made in Japan, they have gained the attention of people around the world. Many people see the characters having fun eating Bento and they seem to want to eat the kinds of Bento that are shown in anime and manga.

   Bento feature many different kinds of food packed into Bento boxes. You can take these boxes with you and eat the food at school, in the office, or outdoors, such as on trips, field days, and when looking at the cherry blossoms. When you arrange a variety of food into a small Bento box about 6 to 8 inches long, the sight of it is sure to spark your appetite and bring you joy.

Children enjoying Bento in the middle of a trip. Bento taste exceptionally good when eaten outside with friends.

Bento also appear in Ukiyoe (woodblock prints) created about 160 years ago. (Utagawa Toyokuni, “Mitate Genji Cherry Blossom Banquet,” 1855)
Housed in the Ajinomoto Foundation For Dietary Culture

   The article below describes the history of Bento—why not give it a read?
   Japanese Box Lunches

Mage-Wappa: Traditional Bento Boxes that Bring You Calm with Their Warm Wooden Texture

Mage-wappa are made by curving thin wooden boards, and are well known as traditional Bento boxes.

   There are many different kinds of Bento boxes used for making Bento. Mage-wappa are particularly famous as a traditional type of Japanese Bento box, and are gaining popularity with people across the globe.

   Mage-wappa are a time-honored style of Bento box from Akita Prefecture. Amazingly, it is said that they were created about 1,300 years ago. Mage-wappa are made by processing thin boards of wood from Japanese cedars, Japanese cypresses, or other trees with a pleasant fragrance. These boards are carefully curved one by one by artisans to produce the boxes.

Handmade Mage-wappa created by an artisan. The wooden boards are boiled to heat them up before being processed to curve them, and then they are dried and their shape is adjusted.

   Mage-wappa are made with extremely careful attention paid to even the finest details. For example, the wooden boards are shaved at both edges even more thinly than the other parts. The reason for this is that when the wood is curved and the ends are placed on top of each other, the whole board will have the same thickness.

   The appeal of Mage-wappa is not just in their beautiful appearance, but also in their excellent functionality. Wood acts to control moisture levels, meaning that the moisture inside the Bento is adjusted so that the food stays tasty even after some time. Also, the wood from Japanese cedars has an antiseptic effect, and it is thought that this makes it harder for food to spoil in the summer when it is hot and humid. Mage-wappa can be said to be the ideal type of Bento box for Japan’s high-temperature and high-humidity climate.

   The classical, refined Mage-wappa look beautiful and have a great texture, enhancing the colors of the Bento inside. If you treat them well, you can use Mage-wappa for several decades. You are sure to feel more affection for them the more you use them.

Evolving Bento Boxes

Food jars have excellent thermal insulation, letting you eat hot Bento even if you are out of the house.

   Recently, it is popular in Japan to pack Bento in food jars when preparing them. A food jar is a stainless vacuum flask that can be used as a Bento box, and its strength is in its excellent thermal insulation. In principle, Bento are eaten cold, but the spread of food jars allowed people to easily eat warm rice, soup, risotto, and other types of food with a high water content even if they are out of the house.
Food jars also help with cutting the time needed to prepare food. If you put pasta or cut vegetables in a food jar as they are and then pour in hot soup before you leave, these ingredients will be cooked and become soft by the time you eat the Bento. You can prepare the food with little effort and in a time-shifted way, bringing a benefit where you can utilize time effectively when you are busy in the morning.

   Bento boxes with dome-shape lids have also come on the scene as products that use new ideas. Normally, Bento boxes have flat lids, and so rice sticks to the lid when you pack it in the box. This made it difficult to eat the food. If the lid is raised up high like a dome, the rice and other ingredients will not be in contact with the lid. As such, their shape will not be ruined, and you can carry the food while keeping its delicious-looking appearance.

The contents will not be in contact with the lid, so rice does not stick to the lid. This means that the food can keep its delicious-looking appearance.

   The article below features detailed information about character box lunches—read it to learn more.
   Link: Bento: Box Lunch The Food You Like, Where You Like It

   There are also popular Bento boxes that you can use with microwave ovens. If a company or other building has a microwave oven in a place where people eat their Bento, then people can heat the food and eat it hot.

Bento boxes that you can use with microwave ovens let you eat warm food even if you are out of the house.
Image provided by @living&health

The World of Bento Boxes Continues to Expand

   Apart from Mage-wappa and food jars, there are other Bento boxes that suit a wide range of needs.

   Bento boxes with characters drawn on them are hugely popular with children. If you use a Bento box showing your favorite character, mealtimes are sure to be even more fun.

Bento boxes with cute characters drawn on them are sure to make you feel excited just by carrying them around.

   There is an extremely thin Bento box with a thickness of 1 3/8 inches and a construction that prevents liquids from leaking. It does not take up space when you put it in your bag, so it is convenient and easy to use.

Many kinds of Bento boxes have been developed to suit a wide range of needs, such as a thin Bento box that easily fits in your bag.
Images provided by CB JAPAN CO., LTD.

   Bento boxes made from bamboo have good ventilation and do not get stuffy inside, meaning that the food stays tasty for a long time. The classical appearance and high functionality of these Bento boxes earn them strong endorsement even in the present day.

Bento boxes made from bamboo have good ventilation, so the insides do not get soggy
Image provided by cotogoto

   The world of Bento boxes continues to expand so that you can taste even more delicious Bento and have more fun when eating.