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Guide To Obento: Japanese Boxed Lunch

Obento Japanese Boxed Lunch

Do you want to know about Obento the art of Japanese boxed lunch? Well, if yes. Then you’re certainly in the right place. Read further to know more about the Japanese Bento boxes. 

Obento isn’t just a lunch box in Japan but rather is a work of art and a means of communication between the maker and the receiver of the obento.

What is Obento the art of Japanese boxed lunch?

Obento (Oh-Ben-Toe) is a special lunch box that is not only tasty but also very healthy and aesthetically pleasing. It has a variety of food and flavours that is also colourful and nutritionally well-balanced usually with rice or bread, pickled veggies, fresh fruits, stir-fried meat etc. The Japanese people believe that food should be prepared in such a way that it can be eaten by the eyes. 

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Obtento has a history tracking down to hundred years of providing hungry men, women and children with food on the go. The original bento was actually just a dried rice meal but over the years it has slowly transited itself into a beautiful and oftentimes, a time-taking art. 

Related: Try these easy Japanese for food ordering words when you next visit an Izakaya/Restaurant in Japan!

The importance of obento the art of Japanese boxed lunch is highlighted in various places in Japan. Today, if a simple search on Google or Instagram will give you over 5 million different pictures (and ideas) of #お弁当 obento.

It is considered as an important part of Japanese life and can be found anywhere from the streets, railways or schools. 

One of the main features of obento, the art of Japanese boxed lunch, is seen as a means of communication between the maker and the receiver. 

Related: Try this healthy-licious Okinawa’s superfood Goya to stay fit! 

The Obento box is made with utmost love and care by the parents, husbands and wives with attention to details and filling it with healthiness.

Many Obtento menus consist of rice balls that are shaped by popular Disney characters or Totoro cut out nori in various shapes, stir-fry octopus-shaped sausages, flower-shaped cut veggies and whatnot.

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 Everything for the receiver as the Japanese Obento box recipes are solely about what the receivers like. Obento’s meaning is only art and communication with the medium of food.

Let’s move forward and get to know more about the Obtento Japanese boxed lunch that is so much more than just food!

Related: Wanna stay fit and fine? Read rules of eating healthy in Japan!

Obento The Art Of Japanese Boxed Lunch

What Is Japanese Bento Made Of?

Japanese bento boxes are typically made up of a variety of components that create a balanced and satisfying meal. 

The exact composition of a bento can vary based on personal preferences, dietary restrictions, and regional influences. 

However, here are some common elements that you might find in a Japanese bento:

  • Rice: Rice is a staple of Japanese cuisine and is often the foundation of a bento. It can be served plain or seasoned with furikake (a seasoning mix), sesame seeds, or other toppings.
  • Protein: This can include items like grilled or fried fish, teriyaki chicken, beef or pork slices, tofu, or tamagoyaki (a type of sweet rolled omelette).
  • Vegetables: Bento boxes typically include cooked or pickled vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, spinach, gobo (burdock root), and more. Vegetables can provide color, texture, and nutritional balance to the meal.
  • Salad: A small salad or a side dish of fresh vegetables might be included in the bento. It could be a simple green salad or a combination of mixed vegetables.
  • Onigiri: Onigiri, or rice balls, are a popular component of bento. These are triangular or cylindrical shaped rice balls that can be filled with various ingredients like salmon, tuna, umeboshi (pickled plum), or other fillings.
  • Pickles: Japanese pickles, or tsukemono, are often included for added flavor and to cleanse the palate. There are many types of pickles with varying levels of saltiness, sweetness, and tanginess.
  • Fruits: Slices of fresh fruits or fruit sections are sometimes included as a refreshing and naturally sweet component.
  • Dessert: A small sweet treat might be added to the bento for a touch of indulgence. This could be a small piece of cake, a mochi, or a sweet roll.
  • Sauce or Dressing: Small containers of soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or other dressings might be included to add flavor to various components of the bento.

Japanese bento boxes are known for their emphasis on balance, variety, and aesthetics. The goal is to create a meal that is not only delicious but also visually appealing. 

The specific items included can vary based on cultural customs, dietary needs, and personal preferences, making each bento unique.

Obento Meaning In Japanese

The Japanese word “bento” (お弁当, ōbento) translates to “lunch box.” It is a single-portion meal that is typically packed in a box or container. Bento can be simple or elaborate, and it can be made with a variety of different foods.

The word “bento” is derived from the Chinese word “bin,” which means “tray.” Bento boxes were originally made from bamboo or wood, but they are now more commonly made from plastic or metal. 

Bento boxes can have a variety of different compartments, which allows the food to be kept separate and organized.

Types Of Bento Boxes

Traditional Bento Box (Wappa Bento)

The Traditional Bento Box, also known as the Wappa Bento, is a classic and iconic style of bento box that originates from Japan. 

It is named after the “wappa” technique used to create the box, which involves bending thin strips of wood or bamboo and securing them with a type of bark known as “kazura.” 

Here’s a more detailed look at the Wappa Bento:

  • Materials and Construction

Wappa Bento boxes are crafted using natural materials, typically wood or bamboo. The construction process involves weaving thin strips of these materials to create a sturdy and lightweight container. The woven strips provide flexibility while maintaining the box’s structural integrity.

  • Appearance

Wappa Bento boxes are characterized by their warm and natural aesthetics. The wood or bamboo material gives them a rustic and traditional feel. These boxes often have a distinctive pattern created by the weaving technique, adding to their visual appeal.

  • Compartments

The Wappa Bento box usually consists of multiple compartments or sections that are created during the weaving process. These compartments are used to hold various dishes, allowing for a well-balanced and organized meal presentation. 

The number and sizes of compartments can vary, offering flexibility in arranging different types of foods.

  • Use and Advantages

The Wappa Bento box is designed to hold a variety of foods, including rice, main dishes, side dishes, and even pickled vegetables. The natural materials used in its construction make it a sustainable and eco-friendly choice. 

Additionally, the weaving technique used in making these boxes provides a level of insulation, helping to keep the contents at a suitable temperature.

  • Cultural Significance

Wappa Bento boxes have a deep cultural significance in Japan. They reflect the country’s appreciation for craftsmanship, nature, and the art of presentation. 

The use of natural materials connects these boxes to Japan’s traditional way of life and its focus on harmonizing with the environment.

  • Variations

While the Wappa Bento box is often associated with the classic woven design, there are also modern variations that use wood or bamboo veneers to achieve a similar appearance. 

These variations may incorporate contemporary features while still retaining the essence of the traditional design.

  • Maintenance

To maintain the quality and appearance of a Wappa Bento box, it’s important to clean it gently and avoid immersing it in water. 

Wipe it down with a damp cloth and allow it to air dry. Over time, the box may develop a patina that adds to its character.

Single-Tier Bento Box (Ichiju Sansai Bento)

The Single-Tier Bento Box, often referred to as the “Ichiju Sansai Bento,” is a simple and traditional style of bento box that focuses on providing a balanced meal with one serving of rice and three accompanying dishes. 

“Ichiju Sansai” translates to “one soup, three dishes,” which represents the ideal composition of a Japanese meal.

Here’s a more detailed look at the Ichiju Sansai Bento:

  • Components: The Ichiju Sansai Bento consists of four main components:
  • Rice: The central element of the meal is a serving of steamed white rice. Rice is a staple in Japanese cuisine and serves as the foundation of the bento.
  • Main Dish: The bento includes a main dish that provides protein and flavor. This can be a cooked meat (such as grilled fish, teriyaki chicken, or tempura), tofu-based dish, or any other protein source.
  • Side Dish 1: One of the side dishes typically includes cooked or pickled vegetables. These side dishes add variety and nutritional balance to the meal.
  • Side Dish 2: The second side dish might consist of another cooked or pickled vegetable, a small portion of salad, or another item that complements the meal.
  • Presentation: In an Ichiju Sansai Bento, each component is carefully arranged in its own section within the bento box. The goal is to create a visually pleasing and well-balanced meal that reflects the principles of Japanese culinary aesthetics.
  • Nutritional Balance: The concept behind the Ichiju Sansai Bento is to provide a balanced combination of flavors, textures, and nutrients. The inclusion of different dishes ensures that the meal is not only satisfying but also nutritionally well-rounded.
  • Portability and Convenience: Single-tier bento boxes are convenient for on-the-go meals. The compact size of the box makes it easy to carry, and the division of compartments helps prevent the dishes from mixing during transport.
  • Cultural Significance: The Ichiju Sansai Bento embodies the Japanese cultural emphasis on balance and harmony. It reflects the importance of variety and moderation in eating, promoting health and well-being.
  • Variations: While the basic structure of the Ichiju Sansai Bento includes one serving of rice and three dishes, there’s room for creativity and adaptation. The dishes can vary based on personal preferences, dietary restrictions, and seasonal ingredients. For example, the meal could incorporate regional specialties or modern twists on traditional dishes.
  • Occasions: The Ichiju Sansai Bento is commonly enjoyed as a daily lunch, whether at home, work, or school. It’s also a popular choice for picnics, outdoor outings, and even special occasions when a simple and well-balanced meal is desired.

Two-Tier Bento Box (Niju Jubako Bento)

The Two-Tier Bento Box, also known as the “Niju Jubako Bento,” is a style of bento box that consists of two stacked layers or tiers. 

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This design provides additional compartments and space for packing a greater variety of dishes, making it a popular choice for those who want to enjoy a more diverse meal while maintaining a compact and organized container.

Here’s a more detailed look at the Niju Jubako Bento:

  • Structure and Design

The Niju Jubako Bento consists of two separate layers, each with its own set of compartments. These layers can be securely stacked on top of each other and are often held together with a band or strap. 

The top layer typically contains the main dish and side dishes, while the bottom layer usually holds the rice or other larger items.

  • Compartments

The upper and lower layers of the Niju Jubako Bento can vary in the number and sizes of compartments. The compartments are designed to hold different types of foods, such as protein sources, vegetables, salads, pickles, and other sides.

  • Variety and Versatility

The main advantage of the Niju Jubako Bento is its ability to accommodate a wide range of dishes, allowing for a balanced and diverse meal. 

This makes it ideal for those who enjoy having multiple flavors and textures in their lunch. The separate compartments also prevent the dishes from mixing and help maintain the presentation.

  • Portability and Organization

Despite its two-tier design, the Niju Jubako Bento is usually compact and easy to carry. The tiers stack neatly on top of each other, and the box often comes with a handle or strap for convenient transport. 

The organization of compartments also makes it easy to access each part of the meal without having to open the entire box.

  • Cultural Significance

The Niju Jubako Bento aligns with the Japanese cultural value of balance and variety in meals. It reflects the idea that a meal should offer a diverse range of flavors, colors, and textures for both nutritional and sensory satisfaction.

  • Occasions

The Niju Jubako Bento is versatile and suitable for various occasions. It can be used for daily lunches, picnics, outings, and even special events. The ability to present a variety of dishes in an aesthetically pleasing manner makes it a popular choice for gatherings and celebrations.

  • Modern Variations

While the traditional Niju Jubako Bento is still widely used, modern versions might incorporate contemporary features. For example, some two-tier bento boxes come with insulated layers to keep hot or cold foods at the desired temperature until mealtime.

Three-Tier Bento Box (Sanju Jubako Bento)

The Three-Tier Bento Box, also known as the “Sanju Jubako Bento,” is a style of bento box that consists of three stacked layers or tiers. 

This design provides even more compartments and space than the two-tier version, allowing for a greater variety of dishes and an elaborate presentation. 

The Sanju Jubako Bento is often used for special occasions and gatherings where an assortment of foods is desired.

Here’s a more detailed look at the Sanju Jubako Bento:

  • Structure and Design

The Sanju Jubako Bento features three separate layers or tiers, each with its own set of compartments. 

These layers can be stacked on top of each other and are often held together with a band or strap. 

The top layer usually contains the main dish and side dishes, the middle layer holds additional sides or salads, and the bottom layer typically holds the rice or other larger items.

  • Compartments

The multiple compartments in each layer of the Sanju Jubako Bento allow for a diverse range of foods to be included in the meal. 

The compartments are designed to hold different types of dishes, ensuring a balanced combination of flavors, textures, and nutrients.

  • Elaborate Presentation

The Sanju Jubako Bento offers a visually stunning presentation due to its multi-layered design. Each layer can be carefully arranged to showcase the variety of dishes, making it an excellent choice for special occasions and celebrations.

  • Versatility and Customization

The numerous compartments in the Sanju Jubako Bento provide ample room for customization. Different dishes can be arranged in each compartment, catering to personal preferences, dietary restrictions, and seasonal ingredients.

  • Portability and Handling

While the Sanju Jubako Bento offers more space and compartments, it is still designed to be portable and easy to carry. 

The layers stack neatly and are secured with a strap or band, ensuring that the contents remain intact during transport.

  • Cultural Significance

The Sanju Jubako Bento aligns with the Japanese cultural value of aesthetics, balance, and harmony in both food and presentation. 

It reflects the idea that a meal is not only about nourishment but also about the sensory experience and appreciation of culinary art.

  • Occasions

The Sanju Jubako Bento is commonly used for special occasions and gatherings, such as New Year’s celebrations (Osechi Ryori), weddings, festivals, and other festive events. 

Its elaborate presentation makes it a centerpiece of the dining experience, and the variety of dishes symbolizes abundance and prosperity.

  • Modern Variations

Like other traditional bento box styles, modern variations of the Sanju Jubako Bento might incorporate innovative features. 

For example, some three-tier bento boxes come with insulation to keep hot or cold foods at the desired temperature.

Compartmentalized Bento Box (Kyaraben Bento)

The Compartmentalized Bento Box, often referred to as “Kyaraben Bento,” is a style of bento box that emphasizes creative and decorative arrangements of food to create visually appealing and often whimsical designs. 

“Kyaraben” is short for “Character Bento” in Japanese, and it involves arranging food items to resemble characters, animals, or scenes from popular culture, such as anime, manga, movies, and more.

Here’s a more detailed look at the Kyaraben Bento:

  • Creative Arrangements

Kyaraben Bento is all about transforming ordinary food items into delightful and eye-catching creations. It involves arranging various ingredients, such as rice, vegetables, fruits, and proteins, into shapes that resemble characters, animals, plants, and other objects.

  • Imagination and Playfulness

Kyaraben Bento encourages creativity, imagination, and playfulness in the culinary process. People of all ages, especially children, enjoy the process of assembling these bento boxes as it allows them to express their creativity and have fun while eating.

  • Themes and Characters

Kyaraben Bento often features popular characters from anime, manga, cartoons, and movies. 

Characters like Hello Kitty, Pikachu, Doraemon, and many others are commonly depicted in these bento boxes. Themes can range from animals and plants to seasonal motifs and special occasions.

  • Techniques and Tools

Creating Kyaraben Bento involves various techniques, such as shaping rice into onigiri (rice balls) or molding it into different forms, using nori (seaweed) for details, and arranging vegetables and other ingredients to create the desired shapes. Tools like cookie cutters, small food molds, and tweezers are often used to achieve intricate designs.

  • Colors and Presentation

Kyaraben Bento pays attention to colors, textures, and presentation. The use of vibrant and contrasting colors enhances the visual appeal, and arranging the components carefully within the compartments of the bento box ensures that the design is preserved until mealtime.

  • Appeal to Children

Kyaraben Bento is especially popular among children. The playful and creative designs make mealtime exciting and enjoyable, encouraging kids to eat a wider variety of foods and develop healthy eating habits.

  • Occasions

While Kyaraben Bento can be enjoyed anytime, they are particularly popular for children’s lunches, school events, birthday parties, and picnics. They can also be a unique and impressive addition to themed parties and gatherings.

  • Inspiration and Resources

There are numerous online resources, tutorials, and social media platforms dedicated to Kyaraben Bento ideas and techniques. 

People often share their creations on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, inspiring others to try their hand at this artistic and culinary endeavor.

Salad Bento Box

A Salad Bento Box is a type of bento box designed specifically for holding and presenting salads. 

Unlike traditional bento boxes that might have compartments for rice, protein, and sides, a Salad Bento Box typically features larger and more open sections to accommodate fresh vegetables, greens, and other salad ingredients. 

This type of bento box is well-suited for those who prefer lighter and more salad-based meals or are looking for a healthier dining option.

Here’s more information about Salad Bento Boxes:

  • Design and Features

Salad Bento Boxes are usually larger than standard bento boxes to accommodate the volume of salad ingredients. 

They often consist of one or two large compartments or a main compartment with smaller side compartments. 

The main compartment is intended for the salad greens and vegetables, while the side compartments might hold dressings, toppings, or complementary items like grilled chicken, tofu, or boiled eggs.

  • Lid and Leak-Resistance

Due to the presence of liquids in salads, some Salad Bento Boxes come with tightly sealing lids or separate containers for dressings. This helps prevent leaks and ensures that the salad remains fresh until it’s time to eat.

  • Freshness and Presentation

Salad Bento Boxes are designed to maintain the freshness and crispness of salad ingredients. The separate compartments prevent the dressing from soaking into the greens prematurely, keeping the salad at its best until mealtime. 

The presentation of the salad ingredients in the box can be quite visually appealing, adding to the dining experience.

  • Variety and Customization

Salad Bento Boxes can be customized based on personal preferences and dietary restrictions. You can choose a combination of vegetables, greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, proteins, and dressings that suit your taste and nutritional needs.

  • Portability

Even though Salad Bento Boxes are larger to accommodate salads, they are still designed to be portable. Many of these boxes come with secure locking mechanisms or bands to keep the compartments closed during transit.

  • Occasions

Salad Bento Boxes are suitable for a range of occasions, from work lunches to picnics, outdoor gatherings, and even for events like potlucks or parties. They offer a convenient way to enjoy a healthy and satisfying meal on the go.

  • Customization and Creativity

Just like other types of bento boxes, Salad Bento Boxes offer room for creativity. You can create your own unique salad combinations, experiment with different dressings, and even add various toppings for added flavor and texture.

Soup Bento Box (Shiru Nabe Bento)

A Soup Bento Box, often referred to as a “Shiru Nabe Bento,” is a type of bento box that includes a compartment specifically designed to hold soups or other liquid-based dishes. 

This type of bento box is ideal for those who want to enjoy a warm and comforting soup along with their meal, making it a convenient option for chilly days or when you’re craving a hearty and nourishing dish.

Here’s more information about Soup Bento Boxes:

  • Design and Features

A Soup Bento Box typically consists of multiple compartments, just like traditional bento boxes, but it includes one compartment that is designed to hold liquids securely. This compartment is usually leak-proof to prevent any spills or leaks during transit.

  • Soup and Other Compartments
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The liquid compartment of a Soup Bento Box is intended for holding soups, stews, broths, or other similar dishes. The other compartments can hold the solid components of the meal, such as rice, main dishes, sides, and salads.

  • Lid and Sealing Mechanism

The liquid compartment of a Soup Bento Box is equipped with a secure lid or sealing mechanism to prevent the soup from leaking. This ensures that the soup remains contained and doesn’t mix with other components of the meal.

  • Thermal Insulation

Some Soup Bento Boxes come with thermal insulation to help keep the soup warm until mealtime. This feature is especially useful if you’re packing a hot soup for lunch and want to enjoy it at a warm temperature.

  • Variety of Soups

The beauty of a Soup Bento Box is that it can accommodate a variety of soups, ranging from clear broths to hearty stews and creamy bisques. You can customize your bento to include your favorite soup or experiment with different recipes.

  • Occasions

Soup Bento Boxes are suitable for a variety of occasions, including work lunches, outdoor outings, picnics, and even for enjoying a comforting meal at home. They are particularly popular during colder seasons when a warm soup is especially appealing.

  • Nutritional Benefits

Including a soup in your bento adds nutritional value to your meal. Soups can provide vitamins, minerals, and hydration, and they can also contribute to a feeling of satiety.

  • Customization and Creativity

While the focus of a Soup Bento Box is on the liquid compartment for soups, you can still get creative with the other components of the meal. Customize your bento with a balance of proteins, vegetables, grains, and other sides that complement the soup you’ve chosen.

Snack Bento Box (Snack Bento or Okazu Bento)

A Snack Bento Box, sometimes referred to as “Snack Bento” or “Okazu Bento,” is a type of bento box designed specifically for holding a variety of small snack items or appetizers. 

This type of bento box is ideal for those who enjoy grazing on a selection of different flavors and textures or for occasions that call for a collection of bite-sized treats.

Here’s more information about Snack Bento Boxes:

  • Design and Compartments

Snack Bento Boxes usually feature multiple compartments or sections to hold different types of snacks. These compartments help keep the snacks organized and prevent them from mixing together during transport.

  • Versatility and Variety

One of the key features of Snack Bento Boxes is their versatility. You can fill the compartments with an assortment of snacks, such as nuts, dried fruits, crackers, cheese cubes, vegetable sticks, mini sandwiches, cookies, and more. This variety allows you to create a balanced and satisfying snacking experience.

  • Portability

Snack Bento Boxes are designed to be portable and convenient. They are compact and easy to carry, making them suitable for a range of situations, including picnics, work breaks, road trips, and more.

  • Children and School

Snack Bento Boxes are particularly popular among children and can be used for school lunches or as a convenient snack option. The small compartments make it easy to include a diverse range of kid-friendly snacks that they can enjoy throughout the day.

  • Parties and Gatherings

Snack Bento Boxes can also be a great addition to parties, gatherings, and events. They allow you to provide a variety of snack options for your guests without the need for separate plates or bowls.

  • Health and Portion Control

Snack Bento Boxes can also be a useful tool for practicing portion control. By pre-portioning snacks into the compartments, you can monitor your snack intake more easily and make healthier choices.

  • Customization and Creativity

You can get creative with the contents of your Snack Bento Box, tailoring it to your preferences and dietary needs. Consider including a mix of sweet and savory snacks, textures, and flavors for a well-rounded experience.

  • Specialty Boxes

Some Snack Bento Boxes come with additional features, such as built-in dividers, removable trays, or sealed compartments to prevent cross-contamination or keep dips and spreads separate.

  • Environmental Impact

Using a Snack Bento Box can also be a more environmentally friendly option compared to using single-use packaging for snacks. It reduces waste and promotes a sustainable approach to snacking.

Onigiri Bento Box

An Onigiri Bento Box is a type of bento box designed with specific compartments to hold onigiri, which are Japanese rice balls typically wrapped in nori (seaweed). 

Onigiri are a staple in Japanese cuisine and are often enjoyed as a convenient and portable snack or meal. The Onigiri Bento Box is tailored to accommodate these rice balls along with their accompanying ingredients.

Here’s more information about Onigiri Bento Boxes:

  • Design and Compartments

An Onigiri Bento Box typically features compartments that are sized and shaped to hold onigiri comfortably. These compartments help keep the onigiri intact and separate from other components of the meal.

  • Onigiri Varieties

Onigiri come in various shapes, sizes, and fillings. The most common shape is a triangle, but they can also be round or cylindrical. Fillings can include various ingredients such as pickled plum (umeboshi), salmon, tuna, bonito flakes, kombu, and more.

  • Nori and Freshness

When packing onigiri, it’s common to wrap them in a sheet of nori to help keep them fresh and add flavor. Some Onigiri Bento Boxes might include a separate compartment for nori to ensure that it remains crisp until you’re ready to enjoy your onigiri.

  • Additional Components

In addition to the onigiri, an Onigiri Bento Box typically includes compartments for other complementary items. These might include vegetables, pickles, side dishes, and even small condiment containers for soy sauce or furikake (seasoning).

  • Versatility and Convenience

Onigiri Bento Boxes are versatile and can be used for various situations. They are perfect for packed lunches, picnics, road trips, and even as a satisfying snack during breaks. The compartments keep different components organized and prevent mixing.

  • Children and School

Onigiri Bento Boxes are also popular among children for school lunches. The compact size of the onigiri and the individual compartments make it easy for kids to enjoy a balanced meal with their favorite onigiri fillings.

  • Customization

You can customize your Onigiri Bento Box to include a combination of onigiri with different fillings, along with sides that you enjoy. This allows you to create a meal that suits your preferences and dietary needs.

  • Cultural Significance

Onigiri are an integral part of Japanese culinary culture and are associated with comfort and nostalgia. Including onigiri in a bento box showcases a traditional and beloved aspect of Japanese cuisine.

Sushi Bento Box

A Sushi Bento Box is a type of bento box that is specifically designed to hold and present sushi and related items. 

It provides compartments for sushi rolls, nigiri, sashimi, and accompanying condiments, making it a convenient way to enjoy a variety of sushi while maintaining an organized and visually appealing presentation.

Here’s more information about Sushi Bento Boxes:

  • Design and Compartments

A Sushi Bento Box typically features compartments that are designed to hold different types of sushi. 

It might include sections for sushi rolls, nigiri (slices of fish or seafood on top of rice), sashimi (slices of raw fish), and additional compartments for condiments like soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.

  • Sushi Varieties

The compartments in a Sushi Bento Box can accommodate a variety of sushi creations. This might include different types of sushi rolls with various fillings, such as cucumber, avocado, crab, or tempura. 

The nigiri section can hold slices of fish like salmon, tuna, and eel atop vinegared rice. Some Sushi Bento Boxes even include space for special rolls like dragon rolls or rainbow rolls.

  • Soy Sauce and Condiments

Sushi is often enjoyed with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. A Sushi Bento Box might include small containers or compartments for these condiments. This ensures that you have everything you need to enjoy your sushi to the fullest.

  • Presentation and Aesthetics

The design of a Sushi Bento Box emphasizes the aesthetics of sushi presentation. The compartments keep the different types of sushi separate, preventing flavors from mixing, and allowing you to fully appreciate the colors and arrangements of the sushi.

  • Portability and Convenience

Sushi Bento Boxes are designed to be portable and convenient. They are suitable for various occasions, including work lunches, picnics, outings, and even for special events where you want to enjoy sushi on the go.

  • Customization

You can customize your Sushi Bento Box with your favorite types of sushi and accompaniments. This allows you to create a sushi experience that suits your taste and preferences.

  • Occasions

Sushi Bento Boxes are versatile and suitable for different occasions. They can be enjoyed as a regular meal, a special treat, or as part of a celebration. Sushi is popular worldwide, making this type of bento box a versatile choice for a variety of palates.

  • Cultural Significance

Sushi is a beloved and iconic part of Japanese cuisine. Including sushi in a bento box highlights the cultural significance of this culinary tradition, which has gained international recognition and popularity.

Hot Food Insulated Bento Box

A Hot Food Insulated Bento Box is a specialized type of bento box designed to keep food warm for an extended period. 

This type of bento box is particularly useful when you want to pack hot meals, such as soups, stews, curries, or any dish that you’d like to enjoy at a warm temperature. 

The insulation helps maintain the temperature of the food until it’s time to eat, ensuring a satisfying and enjoyable meal.

Here’s more information about Hot Food Insulated Bento Boxes:

  • Insulation Technology

Hot Food Insulated Bento Boxes are equipped with thermal insulation technology that helps retain heat. 

They typically include double-walled compartments or layers with a layer of insulation between them. 

This insulation helps slow down heat loss and keeps the contents of the bento box warm for a longer duration.

  • Materials

These bento boxes are often constructed using materials that have good heat-retaining properties. Stainless steel is a common choice for the interior, as it can effectively hold and distribute heat. The exterior might have an insulated layer to prevent heat from escaping.

  • Design

Hot Food Insulated Bento Boxes generally have compartments similar to regular bento boxes, with sections for rice, main dishes, sides, and more. The compartments are designed to fit securely inside the bento box and help prevent heat from dissipating.

  • Sealing Mechanisms

To maintain the heat effectively, Hot Food Insulated Bento Boxes usually come with secure and airtight sealing mechanisms. These mechanisms prevent heat from escaping and maintain the temperature inside the bento box.

Usage and Benefits:

  • Warm Meals on the Go: These bento boxes are perfect for individuals who want to enjoy warm and home-cooked meals while away from home, whether at work, school, or during outdoor activities.
  • Time Flexibility: With an insulated bento box, you’re not constrained to eating immediately after packing your lunch. You can enjoy your meal hours later and still experience it at a warm and delicious temperature.
  • Nutritional Value: Keeping your meal warm helps maintain the flavors, textures, and nutritional value of the food.
  • Seasonal Foods: Hot Food Insulated Bento Boxes are especially popular during colder seasons, as they allow you to enjoy comforting, warm dishes wherever you are.
  • Occasions
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Hot Food Insulated Bento Boxes are suitable for various occasions, including work lunches, outdoor excursions, picnics, road trips, and even for special events when you want to enjoy a warm meal away from home.

  • Cleaning and Care

Because of their thermal insulation features, Hot Food Insulated Bento Boxes may have specific cleaning and care instructions. It’s important to follow these guidelines to maintain the integrity and effectiveness of the insulation.

Where Bento Box Came From?

The bento box originated in Japan during the Kamakura period (1185-1333). The first bento boxes were simple containers made of bamboo or wood. 

They were used by farmers and merchants to carry their lunches with them while they worked.

Over time, bento boxes became more elaborate. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1600), lacquered wood boxes became popular. These boxes were decorated with intricate designs and were often used as gifts.

In the Edo period (1603-1868), bento boxes became even more popular. They were used by people of all social classes, from samurai to merchants. Bento boxes were also used for special occasions, such as theater excursions and picnics.

In the Meiji period (1868-1912), bento boxes became available at train stations. These bento, called ekiben, were a convenient way for travelers to have a hot meal on the go.

Today, bento boxes are still popular in Japan. They are a popular lunch option for students, office workers, and families. Bento boxes can be simple or elaborate, and they can be customized to suit individual tastes.

What’s So Much Fun About the Japanese Boxed Lunch?

Obento (Oh-Ben-Toe) is a Japanese boxed lunch that usually kids carry to school. It’s so much fun that they get to eat good looking food everyday and it’s exciting to see what’s in the Japanese bento box menu everyday. 

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Japanese boxed lunch obento are often made out of wood or plastic and also have sections to separate the food. Traditional Japanese bento boxes food is made out and decorated in Disney characters, flowers, animals etc. 

japanese bento box recipes
Source: Pexels

The chopsticks are often of matching colour and also consist of silverware cups, bags, containers and lunch mats. The Japanese boxed lunch concept is really cool and fun!

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More than Just Boxed Lunch

There is a saying in Japanese, food should be made in such a way that it can be eaten by eyes and very evidently, it stands true for the Japanese boxed lunch, bento. The food in the obento is really colourful and fun as most Japanese believe that food should look pretty and taste good.

Japanese bento makers often choose colour, texture, patterns and taste very carefully before laying out the Japanese bento boxes. Apart from making a colourful and beautiful Japanese boxed lunch, they also make sure it’s healthy.

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Obento always consists of green healthy vegetables, a dash of meat with some fresh-cut fruits as dessert. 

Japanese lunch box
Source: Pexels

People often layer the bento with some rice topped with stir-fried meat with some pickled vegetables/fruits like apricot, plum etc, some boiled veggies, a small portion of omelette made with salt and sugar, a teeny bit of sausages and fresh fruits.

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The meat can be pork, beef, chicken or fish according to one’s choice. Even the veggies and fruits can be according to one’s liking and choices. 

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Before You Eat Bento 

Obento box is special so first, the children wash their hands and gargle with a kind of mouthwash. They then take the Japanese boxed lunch out of their bags. During the cold season, the sensei might take the bento boxes to warm them.

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Kids then put their bento boxes, chopsticks, cups and lunch mats on the table and sing a fun song before they start eating their Japanese boxed lunch. 

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Obento: Do’s and Don’ts

We definitely have seen a lot of Japanese bento boxes in Tvs, vlogs, movies etc where they share the secrets of their aesthetically pleasing Japanese boxed lunch but I decided to take a much better step. 

Here this time, I’ve asked the Obento makers throughout Japan to share their personal secrets related to bento.

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My first question was”What are the elements in a successful Japanese boxed lunch obento?”

I spoke to around 15 women who make obento on the daily basis in the household or professionally. 

It became apparent that planning your obento in month’s increment or meat-to-vegetable ratio, there’s a common ground on what a “good” packed lunch consists of:

  • Colour: Five different colours (most common answer)
  • Well-balanced: Nutrition
  • Variety: Food that is raw, cooked and pickled
  • Harmonising: Strong Flavours with the delicate ones

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I then moved forward with asking some insider tips on making the perfect obento which attracted a lot of answers, here are the most common ones:

  • If you want to attach cute inserts, coloured paper cups, different rice moulds, go to Daiso or other ¥100 shops because it’s cheaper there and everything is available.
  • Not all mornings will be the same where you’ll have time to include everything homemade for the Japanese boxed lunch obento and that’s fine. Many makers use frozen foods like gyoza or korokke to save time. It’s hard to find out that it’s not homemade!
  • If you find your onigiri (rice balls) a little on the sour sight, you can always improvise. Make onigirazu, the perfect fusion of Japanese rice balls and sandwiches.
  • You can always reach out to YouTube or free obento box making classes, there are so many tutorials in English as well as other languages.

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Some women also shared a few taboos related to the Japanese boxed lunch:

  • Avoid including bread and rice in the same Japanese lunch box. It makes the meal heavy and full of carbohydrates. It also makes the bento box colour palette dull. 
  • Remember to only pack food which does not have to be warmed up or refrigerated. A lot of times the fridge and microwave aren’t available.
  • Food with strong aroma also becomes a burden sometimes to not only to the receiver but also to the people around. Please try including clean food in your Japanese boxed lunch.

But is Obento Here to Stay?

In a country like Japan where pretty much everything is available and every family is growing and both parents working full-time, it’s normal to think about questions like these. 

A lot of women I interviewed said that they willfully make these bento boxes while there were other women who confessed that they’ve stopped the practice of making Japanese boxed lunch at home.

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Some women said that they’ve stopped making obento boxes because it costs less for their husbands to buy cafeteria food. Others have stopped due to daily stress of coming up with different obento menu and obento box recipes. 

However, there are many high school students who are challenging themselves to make their own Japanese boxed lunch and bento to relieve their parent’s daily stress.

Though this is a very small percentage of people, it still leads us to think about Obento’s future in this fast-paced world. 

Perhaps it’s only about time we’ll be able to find out whether bento boxes will stay or not. For now, let the internet flow many new ideas and recipes of aesthetic and pleasing  Japanese lunch boxes.

How to make your own Bento box? 

Here are the steps on how to make your own bento lunch:

  1. Choose a bento box. There are many different types of bento boxes available, so take some time to choose one that is the right size and shape for you. You may want to consider a box with compartments to help you keep your food separate.
  1. Plan your meal. When planning your bento lunch, it is important to think about balance. You want to include a variety of foods from all the food groups, including:
    • Starch: Rice, noodles, bread, or potatoes
    • Protein: Meat, fish, tofu, or beans
    • Vegetables: A variety of different vegetables
    • Fruit: A piece of fruit or a small serving of yogurt
  1. Cook your food. Once you have planned your meal, it is time to start cooking your food. You can cook the food ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator or freezer. Just be sure to pack it in an airtight container so that it doesn’t get soggy.
  1. Assemble your bento. When you are ready to assemble your bento, start by putting a layer of rice in the bottom of the box. Then, add your protein, vegetables, and fruit. Be sure to arrange the food in a visually appealing way. You can use toothpicks or skewers to hold the food in place.
  1. Decorate your bento. If you want, you can decorate your bento with a variety of fun and creative items. This could include:
    • Furikake: This is a Japanese seasoning that is made with dried seaweed, sesame seeds, and other ingredients.
    • Nori: This is a type of seaweed that can be used to make shapes or designs.
    • Garnishes: You can use small pieces of vegetables, fruit, or cheese to garnish your bento.
  1. Pack your bento. Once your bento is assembled and decorated, it is time to pack it up. Be sure to pack it in an insulated lunchbox so that your food stays warm or cold.

Here are some additional tips for making a bento lunch:

  • Use leftovers. If you have leftovers from dinner, you can often use them to make a bento lunch. This is a great way to save time and money.
  • Be creative. There are no rules when it comes to bento lunches. You can be as creative as you want with the food you choose and the way you arrange it.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. The best way to learn how to make bento lunches is to experiment. Try different combinations of food and see what you like.

Japan’s Best Lunch Box

Obento culture is quite hard to define in a brief. With every box comes a different pair of hands working on it, different choices and a different mind that makes every bento unique. 

Hope you enjoyed reading about Obento: The Japanese boxed lunch and the art behind it. 

Also Read: 

  1. How to Adopt in Japan
  2. Calling Emergency Services in Japan
  3. Rituals of Japanese Funeral
  4. What is Hakusai

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