INSIDE: Our hot tip on the best shop to buy a Japanese bento lunch box in Tokyo on a budget.
Japanese people seem to have a special talent for packing delicious, nutritious lunchboxes for their kids and family members.
At age 15, I travelled with 16 fellow Japanese-Language classmates on a school group tour to Tokyo and regional Japan for a month.
I experienced firsthand the tradition of a portable lunchbox ‘obentoo’ box when I lived with a Japanese family for 3 weeks.
- 1 Question: What is a Bento Box?
- 2 What goes into a classic traditional bento box?
- 3 What does UMAMI in Japanese mean?
- 4 Where to buy Bento Lunch Boxes in Tokyo, ready to eat?
- 5 Souvenir Idea – Buy Bento Box in Tokyo for Family and Friends
- 6 Visit Loft Ikebukuro Sunshine City to buy a Japanese Bento Lunch Box
- 7 Kawaii Bento Box (Kawaii = Cute)
- 8 Japanese Bento Box for Kids – Ideas
- 9 MORE Japanese Bento Box Accessories
- 10 The Best Bento Box for Kids Accessories
- 11 Bento Box inspiration!
- 12 Japanese Bento Lunch Box Recipes
- 13 The Inside Scoop – Where to buy Bento Box in Tokyo? Loft Sunshine City
- 14 How to get to Sunshine City Loft Ikebukuro for Bento Box Supplies
- 15 Map of Loft in Ikebukuro Sunshine City for Bento Supplies
- 16 Toadstool Rating – LOFT Bento Box shop
- 17 Relevant Reading
- 18 Looking for MORE SUPER DOOPER FUN places to visit in TOKYO?
Question: What is a Bento Box?
A bento box is simply a traditional Japanese lunch (or meal) featuring multiple small dishes, served in a ‘box’ style lunchbox with separated compartments.
My homestay mother sent me off on my daily school adventures with a bento food box in hand, and I’d never seen food be presented so beautifully.
Bento are often wrapped with a pretty ‘furoshiki‘ cloth wrap that, when knotted, forms a sack with a carry handle that helps keep multiple layers of bento safe from spilling. These furoshiki cloths come in a huge range of patterns, styles and colors including this Maneki-Neko Lucky Cat one and this pretty pink and blue Japanese Mountain design.
Opening a bento was my favourite part of the day, and my mouth waters at the memory of it.
What goes into a classic traditional bento box?
Each section in the box was filled with a small morsel of Japanese food.
In a traditional Japanese lunchbox, you might find:
- A scoop of creamy coleslaw.
- Miniature sausages filled with cheese.
- Crunchy chicken karaage.
- Seaweed salad or salads to reflect the season
- Buckwheat noodles in ponzu sauce.
- Tempura vegetables.
- Umeboshi pickled sour Japanese plums.
- Egg salad.
- Tamagoyaki – a sweet Japanese rolled omelette.
- Deep-fried foods such as croquettes, and fried fish cakes.
- Agedashi tofu
- Onigiri rice balls filled with tuna, salmon, pickled vegetables or umeboshi plum
- Steamed fish.
- Gyoza pork dumplings
- Pickled vegetables.
- Fresh vegetables
What does UMAMI in Japanese mean?
A Japanese lunch box “obentoo” is designed to be a nourishing, well balanced collection of foods to satisfy the five tastes considered in Japan – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami.
In Japan, eating from an “Obento” box for lunch is a cultural standard.
An obentoo meal is a balanced and aesthetically pleasing meal for one, a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine.
A Japanese box lunch is a time-honoured tradition in Japan.
I’d hedge my bets that even the most modern of Japanese mothers feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when creating an obentoo work of art for their own children to eat.
Where to buy Bento Lunch Boxes in Tokyo, ready to eat?
The best thing is that you don’t need your own Japanese mother to make you a bento lunch box.
Everyone can try a ready-made bento box for lunch in Japan, and many cost less than $10 a meal.
Here’s a list of the three most common places to eat Japanese bento lunch.
Japanese Convenience Stores
You can find fresh, ready-to-eat bento in all Japanese convenience stores.
We love these bento boxes for a quick budget dinner, especially when the kids are ready for a bit of down time on their ipads after a long day’s walking.
The best thing about these bento boxes is that the food is fresh, not soggy or overcooked like most food you find in a convenience store anywhere else in the world.
Japanese bento boxes in the convenience stores are great value too.
READ MORE: Buy fresh “onigiri” rice balls for your bento lunch box at Family Mart Convenience Store in Japan
Bento Boxes for Train Travel
Find shops selling fresh bento lunch boxes at all long-distance train stations in Japan too.
You can buy an Obentoo box full of a freshly cooked hot meal from special stands, and then take these on board the train with you to eat on the way.
Eat Bento at Restaurants
The best next-level ‘obentoo’ lunches are found in quality restaurants, where chefs take special pride in concocting a lunch bento box to remember.
Lunch bento sets usually include a separate bowl of rice and a miso soup too.
BUY NOW ON AMAZON: Pack lunch into one of these stylish oval bento boxes made from timber.
Souvenir Idea – Buy Bento Box in Tokyo for Family and Friends
A Japanese Bento Box makes a fabulous, practical souvenir for adults and kids.
Japanese Bento Boxes are usually made from timber or plastic, and have fixed compartments inside to keep the foods and flavours separate. They may be one layer, or multiple layers.
Bento boxes for kids often contain two separate containers that sit one on top of the other. A furoshiki cloth is wrapped around the boxes to keep them together, and tied in such a way it makes a handle to carry it.
You can also buy all kinds of cute bento accessories to help you create your bento box masterpiece with artistic flair.
Presentation is as important as the foods it contains.
BUY NOW ON AMAZON: Click here to buy Japanese Bento Boxes like the traditional ones used in restaurants (pictured above)
Visit Loft Ikebukuro Sunshine City to buy a Japanese Bento Lunch Box
Our favourite place to buy bento boxes in Tokyo is LOFT.
Loft is located in many of the larger suburbs of Tokyo.
For the biggest range of the cute bento boxes for kids in Tokyo, we’d suggest Sunshine City in Ikebukuro.
Loft Bento Box supplies
Kawaii Bento Box (Kawaii = Cute)
Sunshine City LOFT has LOTS of Japanese lunch boxes, as well as cute bento accessories for kids like bento picks and onigiri rice ball moulds, bento box supplies to clean them, and bento box accessories such as soy sauce and mayonnaise containers.
Be sure that you purchase a leakproof bento box.
Over the years, bento box preparation has become something of a design-statement and now there’s more and more SUPER CUTE bento box accessories and bento box supplies.
Paper patty pans just don’t cut it anymore!
Luckily, box bento supplies are readily accessible and cheap, so everyone can master the art of the Japanese bento lunch box.
BUY NOW ON AMAZON: Cute Ninja Boy 3-Level Japanese Bento Box with strap
Japanese Bento Box for Kids – Ideas
Here’s a list of some of the Bento accessories available in LOFT.
- Sushi rice moulds in traditional oval or onigiri (triangular) shapes
- Rice moulds in cute (kawaii) shapes like panda bears or a teddy bear rice mold
- Bento sauce containers
- Condiment containers for soy sauce and Japanese mayonnaise
- Bento picks – tiny plastic toothpicks that are primarily used for decoration. Find animal food picks in the shape of ducks, panda bears, African animals, chickens, and more. You can also find alphabet bento picks, flower bento food picks, bento pick emoji shapes, fruit and vegetable bento picks, little people, … there’s no limit to the imagination here.
BUY NOW ON AMAZON: Japanese Bento Accessories to make rice balls shaped like cat heads!
MORE Japanese Bento Box Accessories
LOFT has a Japanese bento accessory to suit everyone who wants to try food decorating. Japanese bento accessories come in all shapes and sizes to suit every kind of hunger!
- Silicon baking cups and holders (like individual muffin trays, but to hold pieces of sushi and keep them separated in the bento box to maintain aesthetic presentation)
- Nesting containers and bento cups
- Nori paper punches and a seaweed nori cutter – to cut shapes out of nori paper to embellish designs on the rice.
- Lunch box cutters
- Sushi containers
- Bento containers for pickles
- Mini-rice moulds in alphabet shapes and cute characters
- Fake plastic grass separator strips (who knew?)
- Vegetable Cutter Shapes
- Microwave safe containers
- Hard-Boiled Egg molds
- Lego Utensils and other items
- Panda Molds (see picture below!)
- Japanese lunch bag
- Insulated lunch bags and at least one variety of insulated bento box
BUY NOW ON AMAZON: Super cute PANDA shaped bento picks.
The Best Bento Box for Kids Accessories
The Shinkansen Bullet Train rice moulds pictured above is the best Japanese bento food shape!
The BEST bento box accessory ever.
BUY NOW ON AMAZON: “Shinkansen” Japanese Bullet Train Shape Cutter (as pictured above)
Bento Box inspiration!
All this talk of Bento boxes must be making you as hungry as Roam the Gnome and I. So, here’s some inspiration to get you started on making your own SUPER CUTE bento for the kids and you.
Japanese Bento Lunch Box Recipes
If you want to know how to make Japanese bento lunch box, have a look below to find four of our favourite Bento recipe sites.
The Inside Scoop – Where to buy Bento Box in Tokyo? Loft Sunshine City
Loft in Sunshine City Tokyo is the place if you are wondering where to buy bento lunch boxes in Tokyo.
Address: 2F Sunshine City Alpa, 3-1Higashiikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo, 170-8630
Opening Hours & Entry Fees: Open 10am until 8pm daily.
How to get to Sunshine City Loft Ikebukuro for Bento Box Supplies
Nearest train stations to Sunshine City Ikebukuro
- 3 minutes on foot from Higashi-Ikebukuro Station (Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line)
- 8 minutes on foot from Ikebukuro Station (JR, Tokyo Metro, Seibu Line, Tobu Line)
- 4 minutes on foot from Higashi-Ikebukuro 4-Chome Station (Toden Arakawa Line)
Directions to Sunshine City Mall Ikebukuro from Ikebukuro Station: Go to exit 35 of Ikebukuro Station. Walk down Sunshine 60 Dori, and the underground entrance (escalator) to Sunshine City will be visible on the right-hand side next to Tokyu Hands.
Directions to Sunshine City Mall Ikebukuro from Higashi-Ikebukuro Station: Walk toward exit 6.7, and a sign should direct you to the “Underground Passage” to Sunshine City.
Map of Loft in Ikebukuro Sunshine City for Bento Supplies
Toadstool Rating – LOFT Bento Box shop
- Visit a JAPANESE SUPERMARKET to buy fresh bento boxes on a budget
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- An Epic List of Tokyo Supermarkets for Grocery Shopping in Japan
- Visit LOFT in Shibuya for more BENTO supplies (3rd floor for bento supplies)
Looking for MORE SUPER DOOPER FUN places to visit in TOKYO?
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