Bento box of the week: Hand carved and lacquered Japanese elm

Hey, a new series! Every week on or around Wednesday, I’ll be featuring a bento box or bento accessory that has caught my eye for some reason. I’ll try to stick to items that can be ordered online as much as possible, unless it’s something truly exceptional.

Important notice: This bento box can be selected as your prize in the Menu for Hope drawing!

When you start to make bento, you can, and should, start with a utilitarian one that you can bash around a bit. But more you make bento, the more you want to start to collect different ones. While most bento boxes seem to be cute, there are some which are just breathtakingly beautiful, such as this one.

keyaki-bento1.jpg

This week’s bento box is this gorgeous bento box that is carved out of a single block of keyaki, Japanese elm. It is then lacqured with real urushi lacquer, not polyurethaned like cheaper models. It is made by a 148 year old company called Yoshihiko, located in Nagano Prefecture - an area also known for growing some of the best rice in Japan.

You might wonder how practical wood is as a material for a bento box. You can’t microwave it, and you have to hand wash it and hand dry it carefully. But many people consider wood to be the best material for a bento box, since it absorbs some of the excess moisture from the rice, making it taste really good.

keyaki-bento1_hashi.jpgThe one-level bento box with a removable divider comes with a matching box for the chopsticks, which are made of a harder wood, plus a cloth bento wrapper.

  • Price: 11,930 yen for the set. The web site does say they ship overseas, though you will have to negotiate the all-Japanese instructions on your own (But they will include an English instruction sheet they say.)
  • Dimensions: 18cm x 10.7cm x 4cm
  • Link

(If you are interested in buying any of these featured Japanese bento boxes and you don’t have a relative or friend in Japan to help you out, try the overseas shipping services listed on this page. Note this is not an endorsement of any of these services since I have not tried them myself, but they do get positive reviews from readers.)

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

27 comments

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Lovely!

That is absolutely beautiful…I’d be terrified to use it for food!

Christmas and Bento Boxes

I don’t know about you but once I started collecting bento boxes I couldn’t stop :p Just for Christmas I think my husband is going to get me at least 3 new ones (<3 spying for Christmas presents). On a more serious note: I love the idea of favorite bento box of the week. Overall I keep getting a lot of inspiration for making bento here and I think it is wonderful that you take the time to add elements from Japanese culture and information about the background of dishes/items. As I don’t speak much Japanese, it would be difficult to come by this information otherwise.

Gambatte!

thanks for sharing this link!

The other boxes featured on the company’s website look lovely as well. This makes me want to get beyond my utilitarian/minimalist plastic box!

This is such a beautiful

This is such a beautiful bento box! Thank you for sharing.

wooden containers

Andree, actually wood works very well for food. Wood for kids’ food (bowls, dishes etc) is a mini-boom in Japan amongst eco-conscious mothers. It doesn’t break when dropped, which is a good thing for a start! Also, wooden lacquered bowls are the preferred container for miso soup. As long as you take care of it it’s really good!

wow

i have been looking for these for the longest time. iM still a newbie bento padawan, but with your page and others, i can hopefuLLy become good enough. However, iM obsessed with fascinating and one of a kind bentos. I have lots of wooden & bamboo utensils/kitchenware. And, this would be a great addition. beautifuL bento!!!

Beautiful Bento - how to get? :)

Dear Maki, thank you very much for the great site and interesting info. We here in snowy Russia :)) take our lunchboxes to work too, and on summer - to picnicks. And a Japanese food is a hit here now! I’d love to buy a beautiful wood box from urusi.com for my lunches, but i do not know if they do delivery to Moscow (Russia) via EMS. Jbox.com, for example, does, and it’s Japan-based. If it is not too difficult for you, could you please ask them? I wrote them in English (i do not know Japanese) and they did not answer.

I really can’t do that

I really can’t do that I’m afraid, but you can try a shopping agent service like this one.

thank you very much!

That’s a great idea and I’ll use them! :)

let us know

You’re very welcome Anna! If you can, please let us know how the service worked for you. I’m sure other people who want to order things from Japan would be interested!

shopping agent service feedback

Dear Maki,

i promised a feedback on shopping agent service. Today i received my work-of-art lunchbox and can say that i-TM4U (www.i-tm4u.biz) which you recommended me is a very good and reliable shopping agent. It is very difficult to communicate with Japanese companies in English so i was glad to rely on their help with payment, shipping etc. i-TM4U was very accurate with all the info, the box was very well packed as i asked and the pricing is reasonable, too.

Anna, thank you for sharing

Anna, thank you for sharing your experiences! I’m sure other readers who want to try ordering things from Japan will find it very useful!

aa

Its so pretty! But how much is 11,930 yen in dollars? ( IM REALLY bad at math)

Today it’s about $112.

Today it’s about $112. (Hint: a very easy way to do conversions is to just type it into the Google search box, e.g. “11930 yen in $”.)

disappointed

I love hand crafts and Japan really has some of the best. I ordered this in a two tier box and was disappointed. The craftsmanship as expected was great. However, my three pieces, lid and two containers were not cut from one piece of wood…..none of the grains matched up, and the grain of the wood matching up is the beauty of the box. I emailed the company and sent pictures of my box but after several days I haven’t yet heard from them.

it might not be all their fault

they might have never claimed the two-tier version to be carved from the one piece of wood? I considered this box too, but the pictures on the site show the grains do not fit, so with the help of my shopping agent i opted for another version. They actually write all details on the web-page - in Japanese.

2 tier box

Hi Anna, actually the web page for the two tier box does show matching woodgrain…its an angled side view. Nevertheless, I still thought they might have sent an email by now.

very pleased

Thanks for your recommendation. I’ve never carried lunch box to work but this superb lunch box gives me big motivation to do so I ordered the two tier box set (with chopsticks and wrapping cloth) and am very pleased with the product. (By the way, I ordered through i-TM4U (www.i-tm4u.biz) and am very happy with their services too).

Hand carved and lacquered Japanese elm

I came across your site as I was looking for something other than the plastic bento everyone seems to carry. I love your Bento of the week feature. And I fell in love with this beautiful wooden Bento as soon as I saw it. I used White Rabbit Press (Japanese shopping service) to buy mine. And it is even more beautiful now that I can hold in in my hands. Thank you for sharing. And I look forward to new discoveries with you in the future. (bows deeply)

It’s awesome that so many

It’s awesome that so many people have gotten this beautiful box :) I’ve been thinking about it myself but haven’t sprung for it yet…

Re: Bento box of the week: Hand carved and lacquered ...

Though I ended up with another urushi-lacquered product, it was this post that let me know there were non-plastic alternatives out there that would be just as (if not more) beautiful and functional as my conventional Hakoya and Lube Sheep ware. Thank you for all the wonderful bento box reviews. I hope to continue seeing them and am eager for what the future will bring.

Re: Bento box of the week: Hand carved and lacquered ...

I am weak of will. LOL After posting about how I purchased a two-tiered wooden box from another (local) vendor, I caved and contacted the shopping agent you recommended for this elm wood box. I just couldn't help myself. The two tiered box I received from LwoP is gorgeous...don't get me wrong...and I plan on using it as well, but this box just "called" to me. ::sigh:: At first, I didn't think I could afford it, but when I realized I could get only the box at almost 50 percent of the price for the entire set...I happily caved.

Re: Bento box of the week: Hand carved and lacquered ...

Wow, I am envious! I keep on gazing at their web site from time to time, but so far haven't bought anything...let us know how the real thing looks when you get it!

Re: Bento box of the week: Hand carved and lacquered ...

I finally received my box and it is beyond beautiful. The packaging was superb, by the way. Everything came nicely insulated in a large box, wrapped like it was a present, and even included a small thank you card with an origami swan inside. I'll send you pictures soon. So cute!

The actual box is even more beautiful. The inside rim is gorgeously carved out, the wood grains are lovely, and the color is so rich and warm. Everything is constructed at truly professional levels. As you know, I also purchased a wood bento from a US vendor. Comparing the two, the elder wood box is easily my favorite. No complains about the other one, which is also a lovely box and well constructed, but I just love the heft and feel of the elderwood (compared to the light, almost cork-light weight, of the cedar) and the fact that it's carved out of a single piece of wood.

Re: Bento box of the week: Hand carved and lacquered ...

Looking for a nice wooden bento box, I came upon your page and the link to Yoshihiko. I contacted the company concerning overseas delivery, and they replied (see below) it can be done via RAKUTEN. They also provided me a link within their shop at RKUTEN to the box I wanted to order (in English) (http://en.item.rakuten.com/urusi/besl-1/).

Processing the order was no problem (opposite to what I understood from their reply, a registration with RAKUTEN is not required). Maybe this is an alternative to employing a shopping agent?

P.S.: many thanks for a great webpage full of inspirations!

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Re: Bento box of the week: Hand carved and lacquered ...

Yes, since this was posted back in 2007, it's gotten a lot easier to get various bento boxes from Japan, including this one. I like to think that this site had a little bit to do with that.... but maybe I'm exaggerating its importance in my mind ^_^;

Re: Bento box of the week: Hand carved and lacquered ...

Have had this box for 3 years now, but it has only seen regular use within the last few weeks (for a myriad of reasons...none of which is really on-topic). It's still a fantastic box and my favorite, but I did want to mention that because the grain is so large and the rings so thick, there is a danger of wood from within the grain marks (specifically the dark ring lines within grain) chipping. I coddle my box and wash and dry as directed, but I've noticed a little section on the corner top has just sort of popped out. Not a large piece, but it's there nonetheless. I've ordered some butcher block oil to make sure it stays water resistent (though it's never exposed to any prolonged water...I just want to be on the safe side).

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