Bento “The Art of Lunches”

Bento 弁当 

Bento is a Japanese-style packed lunch usually in a special box with multiple compartments.  It is normally comprised of items such as vegetables, rice, and fish.

History of Traditional Bento (Bako) Boxes

The term ‘Bento’ originated in Japan around the 1500s. It is basically another term for a lunch box with different types of food items popular in Japanese cuisines like rice, noodles, fish and several types of vegetables. The items are not limited to the ones mentioned above as people in ancient Japan used specific items in their bento boxes that were popular in their region.

In the early 1500s, bento boxes were usually made up of wooden material; however, in today’s world, you can find bento boxes produced with wood, plastic and stainless steel as well. Bento boxes were mostly used by people who worked far from their homes and could not go to their homes for lunch.  With time, bento boxes have also garnered commercial prominence.  Transportation services like airplanes and trains have also started offering bento boxes to their passengers. Bento boxes are available in disposable form and lacquerware.

The Most Unique Bento

There are many types of Bento, though the most unique bento type is キャ ラ弁 Kyaraben.  Kyaraben refers to bento that is arranged in a very unique way in order to give it a shape of an animal, plant, human or any other characters from popular media. Kyaraben is an artistic way to make your food more presentable for your family and friends and more fun for children.

The main purpose of introducing Kyaraben was to improve eating habits in children.  Hence, in Japan, the saying goes, “You eat with your eyes.”  The unique and funny shapes are created with the help of different types of food items which make the bento more interesting for children and adults.  Kyaraben making has gained a lot of popularity in the modern world as well. Because of its popularity, there are many different Kyaraben competitions held in Japan and all around the world. I have entered several contests!

I believe the shape and appearance of the food are very important. I love to make Kyaraben bento for my children.  This is one of my favorite things to do for them.  Making bento helps me to use my creativity with food.  You can also add cute accessories for a super fun bento. It’s wonderful to see the happy reaction of my children when they open their bento boxes to find their favorite character shaped out of food. Their classmates even look forward to seeing my children’s lunches!  In fact, my children love to be surprised with every bento I create for them which makes waking up early mornings more exciting.  #Let’s Do Bento!

The following song expresses the true happiness that children feel when they find their favorite character made out of food in their bento boxes.  This song introduces lunchtime in many elementary schools throughout Japan.

Obento, obento, ureshii na
Oteto mo kirei ni narimashita
Minna sorotte goaisatsu (Itadakimasu!)
Obento, obento, ureshii na
Nan demo tabemasho, yoku kande
Minna sundara goaisatsu (Gochiso sama!)

Obento, Obento
So happy, (hooray!)
My hands are clean too
Now that were all together
Lets say, lets eat!
Obento, obento
So happy (hooray!)
Lets eat it all and chew it well
Now that were finished
Lets say thank you for the meal


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