If you were to ask a Japanese person to name the one dish they associate with lunch, chances are that the answer you receive will be ‘bento’. Japanese bento boxes have been feeding the nation ever since the Kamakura period (1185-1333) when the first portable meal was invented. Bento were originally very basic meals of cooked and dried rice, but the bento concept developed and diversified as time went on. Onigiri rice balls started to be carried around during the Edo period (1603-1867), and both ekiben (‘train station bento’, or bento bought at train stations) and ‘European’ bento (with sandwiches) came into fruition during the Meiji Period (1869-1912).
These days bento encompass an enormous range of meals, from the simple noriben (nori seaweed dipped in soy sauce and laid on top of cooked rice) to the elaborate shidashi bento (a collection of different traditional foods like tempura, pickled vegetables and rice, made in restaurants and delivered during lunch at occasions like parties and funerals). Restaurant and takeaway bento meals are widely available all over Japan nowadays, but for most Japanese people the quintessential bento experience takes the form of homemade bento lunches, prepared lovingly by parents, spouses or carers every morning to take to work or school.
Continue reading to find out more about the art of homemade bento making. Alternatively, browse japancentre.com’s Bento section, where you will find all of the bento boxes, accessories, cookbooks, and other equipment you could need for beginning or continuing your bento making journey.
For a Japanese child, the bento box normally represents the highlight of any school day. Not only is this the time of day when kids can turn their tables around and chat to their friends, but it is also when they get to enjoy the assortment of rice, nori seaweed, savoury meat dishes and sweets that makes up their bento lunches.
But, of course, there are some children who don't enjoy their bento lunches and refuse to eat them, much to their parents' or caregivers' dismay. In an effort to make bento more appealing to these fussy children, the past few decades have seen great expansion in bento box colours and designs, with many featuring cute drawings or beloved cartoon characters. As well as this, parents and carers now often take to making decorative shapes and pictures out of the food itself. This style of bento has come to be known as decoben (a word blend of ‘decorated’ and ‘bento’), and its popularity is increasing throughout the world.
Explore Japan Centre's extensive collection of bento boxes, ranging from small, simple, and basic to large, colourful and ornate. Find the perfect bento box for you, whatever your style or preference.
Japanese bento boxes come in all different shapes, style and sizes. Browse our large collection of bento lunch boxes and find the perfect one that suits your needs.
From adding animal shapes and smiley faces to make food more fun to eat, to creating detailed works of art out of rice, salad and sauce, bento accessories add creativity and pizazz to bento lunches. Shop for bento accessories now, or read on to learn about the different types available.
See our selection of our most popular bento accessories. Whether you are just starting out with bento or are a long-term decoben artist, now is the perfect time to find the bento accessories you need.
Cut shapes or smiley faces out of nori seaweed to decorate your bento rice.
Make rice balls in the shape of cats, pandas, flowers and more, with the Japan Centre's exciting range of easy-to-use rice moulds.
Bento picks are a fast and easy way to decorate your bento lunches. Browse the Japan Centre's range of bento picks and increase the cuteness or 'kawaii' level of your bento.
Use bento dividers to separate different dishes in a bento. The Japan Centre has a great range of cute, colourful, and ornate bento dividers in different sizes and shapes, both disposable and reusable.
Learn how to make healthy, delicious, and decorative bento lunches from scratch with the Japan Centre's range of easy-to-follow bento recipe books.
Browse the Japan Centre's collection of unique recipes for bento for lunches that are easy to prepare, healthy, and delicious for kids and adults alike.
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‘Shokado’ refers to a luxury type of bento meal, containing a variety of delicious, carefully prepared and beautifully presented foods. This recipe will show you how to create a range of simple yet flavoursome dishes perfect for including in a shokado.