Thinking about bento

Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Hey JustBento regulars and bento veterans, we've been getting quite a lot of new visitors here again. Help me tell them about the awesomeness of bentos!

What do you call a bento creator?

Now that bentos are becoming more and more popular outside of Japan, the question arises:

What do you call someone who makes bentos?

Takasugi-san chi no Obento (The Takasugi Family's Bento), a manga about families, love and bento


A manga series in which bentos play a pivotal role. And a question - have bentos or packed lunches affected your relationships?

Maki's Top 10 Bento Rules

Pink, green and yellow spring bento

To round out Back To School Week, here are my top 10 rules for bento making. They are the rules or philosophies that guide all the content that you see on JustBento. A version of these rules appear at the top of The Just Bento Cookbook too. They're the rules I try to live by in my daily bento life.

Sometimes I stray away from them when my life goes haywire - like trying to renovate an old house in a foreign country, and then getting infected by an insect bite which turns into a zombie bite...well you know, things happen. But I when I can return to these rules, I know that life is nice and normal again.

Back from Japan, and some thoughts about bentos


Some bento-related thoughts on returning from Japan.

Getting started with bento making: Are bentos right for you?

[Note: This is my New Year's message from 2008, but it's just as applicable this year. I'll be posting a brand new New Year's post tomorrow later on, but in the meantime, if you are thinking of making bentos part of your routine this year, this is worth a read I think!]

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to incorporate bento lunches into your life, this is the first part of a mini-series on how to get going.

Are bentos right for you?

I know that a lot of people get seduced by the idea of jewel-like little boxes of food greeting them for lunch. But before you embark on the bento route and start collecting bento boxes and cute supplies and so on, ask yourself these questions:

Bento: The Magical Bond for Parents and Children


Two hungry kids tackle their bento lunch (Note: They're not Linda's kids, they are related to Maki :)) (Photo: Michiko Ebina)

This is a guest post by Linda Rolle, a Japanese-American mom to twins and co-owner of the online stores True Renu and True Renu International.

When our twins were born, we made all sorts of promises to ourselves about how we'd like to raise them. One of those wishes was to share with them our love and appreciation for good food, as my husband and I both come from a family of chefs and restaurateurs. For example, their first solid foods included miso soup, tofu, edamame and Weißwurst (a mild German veal sausage). To this day, they will choose edamame over chips, and tofu over just about everything.

When they entered preschool, we needed a way to continue feeding them in ways they would enjoy, while still (subtly!) hammering home the concepts of choice - and balance. Bento was the obvious solution. Having to prepare two lunches each weekday while running a business has forced me to be more resourceful, and plan meals more efficiently. But in so doing, I've also learned an even greater lesson; that the Bento is far more than a packed lunch. It has become a treasured link between me and my children as well as one of my most rewarding responsibilities as a parent.

What is a bento anyway, redux: It's not just about cute charaben


A regular family outing bento (photo by Michiko Ebina)

(Note: This is in part a belated response to the New York Times blog post about bento boxes that appeared in September. I had started it some weeks ago but didn't have the time to finish, until now. Please also read the very thoughtful forum discussion about the post.)

The New York Times blog post about Beauty and the Bento Box was, after the recent balanced article about bento boxes that appeared in the same publication, was rather disappointing. To see yet another piece in the mainstream media focusing just on the aesthetics of bentos, and specifically on charaben, gives me a "What, again?" sort of resigned feeling. The question that they posed to a group of experts (only one of whom is Japanese...I wonder how many have even had a homemade bento for lunch?) was a leading question if there ever was one: "What does the care devoted to the visual details in a packed lunch suggest about the culture? Why is such value placed on aesthetics in everyday life in Japan?".

I've repeated this many times on this site already, but the basic definition of a bento box is "a meal in a box", as the subtitle of this site says. Bentos can be for any meal. They can be made by and for anyone. They are often portable, but not always (as for bento box lunches served at sit-down restaurants). In short, bentos are just part of everyday life for most Japanese people. Charaben are just one category of bentos.