All About Japan

The Secret to a Hot Bento

Shopping Bento

Picture a silver tin can—about the size of a hand—with rice and appetizers such as dried fish or meat accompanied by chopsticks and a thermos filled with green tea. Traditionally, this was the common everyday lunchbox meal one would bring to school or work.

Now imagine opening the tin lid and getting the chopsticks out to eat what should be steaming hot rice—but it’s cold and somehow tasteless. Want to avoid this disappointment? That’s the idea behind insulated bento boxes, known in Japan as dan-netsu yoki. Options from Thermos, Tiger, Luntus and others can be found at grocery stores, variety shops and any number of sources online, allowing students and workers to enjoy steaming rice just as they would at home.

These boxes may be round or square, narrowly shaped to fit in a salaryman’s briefcase or blocky enough to hold a child’s rice balls on a school trip, with special features to keep salad dressing from spilling. Regardless of age, gender, profession, the bento box has the flexibility to accommodate one’s personal needs of convenience and necessity—and ensure that the rice comes out hot!