All About Japan

4 Businesses Inspired by the Bento Box

Video Bento

The bento concept has seen an incredible expansion from its original purpose of mere food, and now occupies a warm core in the heart of Japanese culture. Similarly, the bento’s sleekness, compactness, balance and visual appeal have also spurred ideas for businesses in Japan and beyond!

4. Bento Database (U.S.)

4. Bento Database (U.S.)

Although FileMaker, Inc. discontinued the use of its Bento app in 2013, the app’s fans continue laud this simple, easy-to-use personal file and database organizer. Its original design of visually organizing and presenting files like a bento box has inspired other tech companies in producing similar applications, such as Evernote, iDatabase and TapForms. Its parent company, FileMaker, Inc., still sells Bento’s alter ego, the FileMaker Pro.

3. Presentation Zen (U.S.)

While the publisher of the bestselling Presentation Zen is based in California, author Garr Reynolds resides in Nara, Japan, with his wife, children and Siamese cats. It’s in Japan that Reynolds became a longtime student of the art of Zen and where he got the inspiration for his books on presentation, which counter typical presentation blunders he calls “death by PowerPoint.”

Reynolds' Presentation Zen, Presentation Zen Design and The Naked Presenter highlight simplicity, variety, balance and visual appeal—just like the Japanese bento. And more importantly, Reynolds also offers an actual Presentation Zenbento box, complete with a DVD, sketchbook, sticky notes, and two pencils arranged like chopsticks.

2. Cookpad (Japan)

2. Cookpad (Japan)

Known as the largest recipe-sharing website in Japan with about 50 million unique users, this former startup company has grown its community and following so well that it is now a publicly listed company with a $942 million market capitalization.

Listed as one of Forbes Asia’s “200 Best Companies Under a Billion,” Cookpad has expanded beyond its avid followers in Japan. The company now has an English site and other country-specific sites such as those in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Its vision of “making everyday cooking fun” has encouraged Japanese people to take pride and diligence in everyday cooking, and it even has a dedicated bento category on its Japanese site that features more than 100,000 user-shared recipes.

1. Bento Box Entertainment (U.S.)

Now famous for its Emmy-award-winning series “Bob’s Burgers,” Bento Box Entertainment (BBE) still sticks to its core of providing an assortment of animation and interactive content in one package.

BBE prides itself in its multi-platform, 2-D and stop motion animation, 3-D puppets and interactive storytelling. Its management and roster of talent also show the variety of cultures and perspectives in the organization. Little wonder Grammy-winning artist Alicia Keys chose to collaborate with BBE for her animated children’s television series, The Journey of Mama Mae and LeeLee.