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Did You Know?

Did you know that bento boxes came in a range of shapes, sizes, uses and Japan was not the only country to use them? Following are a few types.

  • Chūka bentō (中華弁当) are filled with Chinese food and often used as an appetizer or a midnight “snack”.
  • Hinomaru bento (日の丸弁当) is the name for a bento consisting of plain white rice with an umeboshi in the centre. The name was taken from the Hinomaru, the Japanese flag, which has a white background with a red circle in the centre. Pure Hinomaru bento only consists of rice and umeboshi to flavor rice without any other side dishes. The metal bento boxes, once popular in Japan, were often corroded by the acid of umeboshi, eventually making a hole in the middle of the lid.
  • Kamameshi bentō (釜飯弁当) are sold at train stations in Nagano Prefecture. It is cooked and served in a clay pot. The pot is a souvenir item.
  • Makunouchi bentō (幕の内弁当) is a classic style of bento with rice, umeboshi, a slice of broiled salmon, and a rolled egg.
  • Sake bentō (鮭弁当) is a simple bento with a slice of broiled salmon as the main dish.
  • Shidashi bentō (仕出し弁当) is made in a restaurant and delivered during lunch. This bento is often eaten at a gathering like a funeral or a party. It is usually packed with traditional Japanese foods like tempura, rice and pickled vegetables. A shidashi bento packed with European-style food is also available.
  • Shōkadō bentō (松花堂弁当) is a traditional black-lacquered bento box. It inspired IBM’s (later sold to Lenovo) ThinkPad design.
  • Tori bento (鳥弁当) consists of pieces of chicken cooked in sauce served over rice. It is a popular bento in Gunma Prefecture.
  • Kyaraben (キャラ弁) is a bento with the contents arranged to look like popular characters from anime, manga, or video games.
  • Shikaeshiben (仕返し弁) is a “revenge” bento where wives make bentos to get back at their husband by writing insults in the food or making the bento inedible.
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