All About Japan

Better Know Your Bento Boxes

| Food & Drink , Bento
Better Know Your Bento Boxes

A bento box is designed to hold a meal for one person, and often has individual compartments and layers for several dishes. There are many different types of bento boxes that vary in shape and material, each with its own unique history. Join us as we take a look at the different kinds of bento boxes that can be found in Japan!

5. Shokado Bento Boxes

Shokado bento (松花堂弁当) is a simple but beautiful black lacquered box; the quintessential bento box par excellence. Because of its roots in Kyoto’s tea house culture, the shokado box is traditionally used during tea ceremony or to serve a light meal for guests. You can also find shokado bento in high-quality traditional restaurants around Japan.

4. Wooden Bento Boxes

Wooden bento boxes are made from Japanese cedar, cypress or pine, which have long been the typical materials used for bento. The design is simpler than the shokado, usually with only two compartments, which makes this sort of bento appropriate for everyday use. Though wooden boxes need a little more care—they shouldn’t be microwaved or go in the dishwasher—many people consider wood the best bento box material because it absorbs some extra moisture from the rice.

3. Hangetsu Bento Boxes

Hangetsu, or half moon, bento boxes are constructed in an appropriately semicircular shape, which was reportedly the favorite of legendary tea master Sen no Rikyu. Many people find this traditional lacquered bento box shape visually appealing, though packing a lunch in it every day would be a challenge.

2. Aluminum Bento Boxes

Aluminum bento boxes are made from anodized aluminum. While most modern bento boxes are made of plastic, the aluminum bento box is a 20th-century classic. These boxes are easy to clean and maintain, they’re stronger than other box types, and many come with only one compartment, permitting a greater variety of lunch options.

1. Cartoon Character Bento Boxes

Cartoon character bento boxes are popular with kids and young adults in Japan. They typically feature cute characters from Japanese anime shows and Disney films. Because the boxes are made of plastic, they’re available in a large variety of sizes, colors and shapes, and usually come with matching chopsticks and other bento accessories.

As you can see, there’s quite a range of bento boxes available. There’s sure to be one that’s perfect for you!