First Anniversary Giveaway Day 2, with bento memories

This is the second day of the week long giveaway party to celebrate the first anniversary of Just Bento, as well as the fifth anniversary of Just Hungry. (The first day of Just Bento’s part is here.) While over on Just Hungry I’m looking back at the first five years of the site, here I’d like to go even further back in time, and talk about some memorable bentos from my past. (If you want to skip ahead, today’s giveaway is at the bottom.)

Raw carrot flowers

My mother was always busy while I was growing up - she was often working, or had my younger sisters to worry about. Nevertheless she always made me an obento every day when I needed one. But sometimes, she’d forget to put in something.

I don’t know why I still remember this, but when I was 5 years old and in kindergarten, I opened my little pink bento box to find it full of rice topped with beautifully cut carrot flowers…and nothing else. I looked in my bag for another container, and found nothing. On top of that, the carrot flowers were raw! I still remember picking one up with my matching pink chopsticks, and the awful taste (to a 5 year old) of those hard carrot pieces. Soon I was crying, my heart full of despair. How could my mother do this to me? My kind kindergarten teacher took me aside, assessed the situation, and gave me some of her okazu (sides) to eat with my plain rice, which I ate while still sobbing.

My young mother had forgotten to put in the okazu, and hadn’t known that she was supposed to cook the carrot flowers! She’d seen a picture of them in a magazine without instructions, and in the busy household in a small town in Saitama prefecture where she’d grown up, they didn’t have time to cut carrots into fancy shapes.

A bento box full of gyoza

After my first year of kindergarten, the whole family moved to England and then the U.S. for several years. Once back in Japan, I had school lunch in elementary school, but once I got to middle school (junior high school) I needed bentos again. By this time my mother had a job, not to mention another child, but she still managed to make me an obento every morning. They weren’t fancy or pretty like those of some of my classmates, but they were always delicious. I still remember the bentos of my school years with a lot of fondness.

One day, I opened my very unfeminine no-nonsense aluminum bento box to find it full of plump gyoza dumplings. I think there were a dozen in there. They were lined on the bottom with…a raw cabbage leaf. There was nothing else — my mother had forgotten to pack the rice! My 14 year old self didn’t burst into tears, but did find it a bit strange. I traded a few of the dumplings with my friends for some of their rice, which worked out fine.

When I got home, I quizzed my mother about my gyoza-only bento. She admitted that she had indeed, forgotten the rice. Then I asked her about the raw cabbage leaf. She stared at me, and then at the nearly-empty bento box, and exclaimed, “but I thought it was lettuce!”


If you combine the two missing-parts bentos separated by 9 years, I think it makes a rather decent bento. But I did cook the carrot flowers!

And now….on to today’s giveaway!

The rules again

Full information is in the Just Hungry post, but the important bits:

This giveaway is open to everyone, regardless of where you live, as long as you can receive mail!

Your comment must contain the following, or your entry will be disqualified:

  • Your email address - put this in the Email box so that spambots can’t see it. The email is necessary so I can contact you if you win!
  • Your name (a nickname is ok)
  • Your location (country)
  • You can enter/comment for all giveaways if you want, but one item per comment please!
  • Your comment must be posted before the stated deadline.

Note: None of the following items is a review copy, advertising freebie, etc. They are all items that I have duplicates or similar of myself and have used and loved!

Delivery: I’ll airmail you the item if you win ASAP, but I cannot guarantee you’ll get in time for Christmas.

Just Bento Giveaway Item 2: Shinzi Katoh Ringo Bento Accessories and Kyarappa cutter set


Even if you are as busy as my mom was, you can still make your kids’, or your own, bento lunches pretty with the items in today’s giveaway. Maybe your kids will remember the bento lunches you make for them when they are adults, and embarass you with old stories too!

Shinzi Katoh’s Ringo (Apple) bento accessories are too cute for words, and the Kyarappa (Charappa) food cutter set will have you making kawaii onigiri with eyes and limbs in no time.

You’ll get 2 furikake shakers (you could use them as salt/peppers too), 2 sets of sauce containers, a set of tiny food containers, and the Kyarappa cutter set of 3, which comes with a recipe pamphlet in Japanese.

Please note that the Ringo accessories are not dishwasher safe. They should be washed carefully, since the faces can get rubbed off (as with many Shinzi Katoh bento accessories). The Kyarappa cutter package recommends handwashing too.

DEADLINE: Your comment/entry must be posted before Midnight Greenwich Mean Time on Friday, December 5th.

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for entering, and check the front page for the giveaways that are still open! The winner will be announced next week! Good luck!

Follow and Like our Facebook Page! And visit our sister site, Just Hungry


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Kids can be sensitive about food

I probably wouldn’t have cried because of raw carrots, but I cried at a Christmas dinner at a family-friend’s house when the only meat was ham. I might not have cried if I wasn’t a bit sick at the time — I always cry easier when I’m under the weather. My mother was apologizing all over the place, and had to pull me aside to calm me down. I hated ham as a kid, because the only ham I knew was the heavily salted kind that my Yankee mother always served. I didn’t discover honeyed ham until I was an adult. No one I knew ever used a sauce with the salted ham either.

I forgot to say where I’m from in my other entries: Houston, TX, USA. If I had my choice, I hope I win this contest, because my husband likes what he calls the “flavor containers” in his lunch. And the only bento supplies I’ve run across locally have been pink, girlie, cartoonish containers LOL. He wouldn’t mind the ones pictured here at all.

I just looove your

I just looove your stories! This is indeed a good week!

and of course, I’m ranking 250 among the Shinzi Katoh lovers, duh! mook from France

=O so cute ^.^ and useful

=O so cute ^.^ and useful too =] I’m still a little confused about your mother saying that she thought it was lettuce (as opposed to cabbage). Ayla USA (CA)

Shinzi Kato!!! Yay!!!

Aw, those are charming stories (though I can imagine that your 5-year-old self didn’t think that at that time). .. Though I think I actually liked raw carrots even as a rather small child…

And Shinzi Kato accessories are just too cute! I can’t resist! Have to try! XD

Katharina, Germany

Happy Anniversary!

Congratulations on your anniversaries!

I happened to just recently have stumbled upon both of your blogs (about a month or so ago) while I was looking for a recipe for onigiri. I wanted to say that I loved the recipe you provided on Just Hungry!

Those stories were terrific, also! I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making bento, and your recipies have really been an inspiration. Hopefully I won’t forget anything important, but I think reading the memories you’ve shared will help me avoid at least some mishaps. :o)

Ah! I’ve typed too much already. Anyway, congratulations again! Here’s to many more anniversaries to come!

Kelly P. (a.k.a. Kip) USA

keep at it Maki ^_^ Amanda

keep at it Maki ^_^

Amanda from the United Kingdom

That bento looks yuuuuumy. I

That bento looks yuuuuumy. I love Gyoza!!

So Kawaii!

These are really cute! I have never commented on this site.. i have heard of Shinzi Katoh, and the products are really nice! Thanks so much for your awesome site!!

Elaine, Australia

that looks lovely!

very very cute bento accesories! =)

Jayna (London)

can't resist

i can’t resist giving it a try! silvia from france


I always had “hot lunch” when I was young (hot meaning it was hot because the school served it at lunch time, of course), so by the time I switched to “cold lunch” (being one I brought from home) I was old enough to make my own, which I did because it made me feel mature! (not that they were any good at all) So I have never known the feeling of being disappointed by what my mom packed for me. I imagine it must be horrible, though!

Today’s give-away items are so cute!! I normally don’t make my lunches cute simply because I don’t have the energy in the morning (or any of the fun tools I see all over the ‘net). But these items certainly make me want to try! Please sign me up!!

Name: Alison Country: USA

Happy anniversary!

The accessories are just adorable!

Glenda, Illinois, USA

Sweet Story!

I enjoyed your story!

Jill, USA

So pretty!

I used your gyoza recipe to make my own bento last week, and there’s a pic on my blog if you’d like to see! It’s not nearly so nice as yours, though!

Annie Toccoa, GA, USA

Sooo cute

These look really cute… Niki - Lansing, MI - USA

Happy Anniversary!

These are just what I’d need for some cute bentos ;) Name: moni Location: Austria

Congratulations on your

Congratulations on your anniversary!!! What an adorable giveaway set as well! Please count me in!

Katy Lin (USA)


Those gyoza look beautiful - your bentos are always inspirational. Thanks for the journey into bentos, I look forward to learning more and more!

Seanna Florida - USA

Obento goodness

Oh wow- they are super cute & useful! I better start practicing my obento making skills….

Isn`t it funny- I eat cooked carrot now sometimes but as a child I only ate raw carrot- so those sakura carrots would of suited me fine! That looks like an awesome bento- it is so nice that your mum made the effort to give you a bento even though she was busy!!!

Love Lulu in Australia

Such funny memories

Your stories made me tear up a little. My mother is an incredible cook (trained by a Frenchman) but with four children in school, she never made us lunches — we each just got a quarter in the mornings to buy a school lunch with. She told us she despised PB&Js and would never inflict that on us, but if she’d known of the bento tradition, I think she would have been fascinated.

Neshura, Alexandria, VA, USA

Great obento stories!


What a hoot! Great memories. Thanks for sharing.

Kim in Ogaki, Gifu, Japan


Oh, Goodness. I’d love some of them to use for my boyfriend & I when I make bento(s) for Uni! I tried looking around in the Aussie Jap shops but they don’t exist. :(

Heard about your website

Heard about your website from my cousin, tried out your potato salad & it was AWESOME! Just gonna try my luck & see if I win anything. Peace!


Hahaha.. I love your stories..your mom’s so funny!! My mom has 5 kids and being a businesswoman herself, she never make lunches for us. She’d give us pocket money instead.

Now being a mom myself (to a 1-yr-old son) I will definitely try to make lunches for him. I’ve been inspired to make bentos since I’ve found your blog. I really wanted to buy those bento kits etc, but my hubby is always upset whenever I buy the cute kitchen stuff. He thinks they’re a waste of $$. Oh men.. why can’t they understand us??

Caroline - Australia

I love raw carrots! But

I love raw carrots! But yeah, reading that post & keeping your age in mind my heart just melted when I pictured you in my mind. pats awwww. (My toy poodle loves raw carrots & I make carrot flowers for her all the time)

Inspiring Ideas!

Thank you so much for writing this blog and providing your readers with great ideas. I am very new to making bentos and don’t know anyone else who makes them to get ideas from. It is important to me that I make my daughter healthy, fun lunches for Kindergarten and your blog provides all the inspiration that I need. As a single mom and full time student I would never have the time to come up with these ideas all on my own. Again, a million thanks and keep up the great work!

Alisha & Hazel Minnesota, US.

Raw Carrots

Thinking about that I really would’ve preferred the raw carrot flowers, lol. I hate cooked carrots. :(

Name: Tyra Country: United States

I always thought the apple

I always thought the apple items were adorable!

Tannim, USA

Ringo accessories

How fun! I wonder if Ringo Starr ever had food prepared with pretty or fun decos like this. Elaine USA

Name: Amanda Location:

Name: Amanda Location: United States

Thanks so much for doing

Thanks so much for doing these giveaways! I can’t believe it’s already been a year of bento! :)

Kai Philadelphia, PA, USA

Ooh, cute!

That was a hilarious story and those accessories are too cute for words!

Jup Thailand

Love it!

I’ve been into bento for a while now, which is pretty difficult when you live in a dorm with 2 tiny kitchens allotted to about 450 people. Your website, while not showcasing the cutest bento lunches, is by far my absolute favorite! I love the tutorials you have on bento safety (they come in handy when I’m home with my boyfriend during break because he works full time) and the fact that you put as much nutritional information into each post as humanly possible. Since I have a lot of digestive issues, having an attractive meal and knowing that it’s healthy is of huge importance to me. Keep up the amazing work!

—Mary from Maryland, USA

So cute!

Thanks for sharing your childhood obentoo stories. I have one to share with you. My mom used to make me onigiri in the U.S. for me back in the late 70’s before sushi was popular here and all the kids used to stare at me and ask me what that blackish/green stuff was and would make fun of it. So I made her make me sandwiches instead. ;) NOW my kids love onigiri and I make it all the time! :)

Thanks, Lisa, USA

That’s a wonderful piece

That’s a wonderful piece of memory of your bentos. =)

I hope my Kids too will have fond memories of the bentos I make for them, especially because I always picture Them when I pack the bentos.

SanMelMama of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

Great bento accessories

I would love to enhance my daughters bento - mine are too simple and not much fun

Great bento accessories

and sure enough I forgot to mention - Vienna, VA - USA


animemiz in New York U.S.A.

I would love to get a chance for this giveaway, so…. definitely put me in..


I love your site! It’s always very interesting (: Thanks for doing this giveaway!

Location: USA

I can totally relate to your

I can totally relate to your emotional lunch times as a kid. My mom was pretty busy too, as a single mom who worked way more than full time, so I had a few times where my lunch was missing quite a few components. I remember one time where I opened my Peanuts lunch box and it was EMPTY. I got sent to the office to call home (since mom worked nights, she was there, trying to sleep). She ended up coming to pick me up and she felt so bad she took me to McDonalds for a happy meal. LOL I also didn’t have to go back to school since I was so “traumatized”. We weren’t allowed to share lunches, because they were afraid of allergies.

Anyway, I’d KILL for those cutter wheels!

name: Sile country: USA (NY)

My mom definitely forgot the

My mom definitely forgot the sandwich quite a few times…

Erin, USA!


The best part in life is the memories of our youth! Makes your heart all warm & fuzzy when we remember the silly little things, even if we thought them to be not so great at the moment, it’s the humor we find later in years that makes it fun. Food has always been a big part of my growing up, traditions are like warm fuzzy memories of the heart. I too was born in another country & now call California home. But my parents kept a lot of our Brasilian & German traditions alive, as well as blending in our new life here in the States! Thank you for a small look into your life! Much success & good fortune in your future! Ilona, Murrieta, California

Those green apple shapes are

Those green apple shapes are really cool and would totally match the cloth that I wrap my lunch containers in (I like my food privacy).

Dave from USA


I love your sites =]

Ann, United States

So fun!

You’re websites are so helpful! I live with my aunt and uncle right now watching their 3 and 5 yr old children and recently started looking at bento-type meals as a way to make sure we’re all eating right. I would love to enter to see if I can start gathering my own things :)

woops, Marita, USA

woops, Marita, USA

I love your blogs and all

I love your blogs and all the awesome bentos! You inspired me to dig out my mom’s circa 1960s Zojirushi bento set and put it to good use!

Annemarie, USA

can't resist

I can’t resist entering for this one too. My bentos are yummy but look a bit too grown-up and serious now….

Shinzi Katoh Ringo Bento Accessories and Kyarappa cutter set

I’m such a girly girl. Love these colourful stuff

So kawaii!

I love following your site and I love this giveaway! They are useful tools and super cute!