Bento Boxes (Homemade) -Japanese lunch boxes

Who doesn’t love a great lunch?

In Japan lunch is important. In Japan, if you are the mother of a kindergarten-aged student, it is REALLY important. Those are the prime years to excite and surprise your child with wonderful bento boxes.

According to Wikipedia:

“Bento (弁当 bentō)[1] is a single-portion take-out or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bentoholds rice or noodles, fish or meat, with pickled and cooked vegetables, in a box.[2] Containers range from disposable mass-produced to hand-crafted lacquerwareBentos are readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience storesbento shops (弁当屋 bentō-ya), railway stations, and department stores. However, Japanese homemakers often spend time and energy on a carefully prepared lunch box for their spouse, child, or themselves.”

When my wife was in Japan (she is Japanese) and a stay at home mother, she took great pride in putting together bento boxes for my son during his three years in kindergarten.

When my daughter began kindergarten in Japan (she was there for four months before we left Japan) my wife also took great pride in making her bentos as well.

There can be a lot of pressure in Japan on mothers to work extra hard to put together a nice lunch box.

I have seen and heard personally that some mothers also look down upon others who simply purchase school lunch for their child or put little effort into the bentos. I suppose that’s why my wife often felt stress. She wanted our kids to have amazing lunches and at the same time didn’t want any other mothers to look down upon her as being a “slacker Mom.” (No joke….this pressure is very real and serious for Japanese mothers)

These are a few school lunches my wife made for our kids while they attended kindergarten in Japan. She is a very talented cook and an amazing mother. I got these photos from her Facebook Page – Mai’s Kitchen. Please go there and LIKE it! 


Broccoli, apple, cherry tomato, two different kinds of onigiri (rice balls) – one with a happy face made from seaweed, corn on the cob, rolled ham and mozzarella cheese as well as shrimp tempura!  
Halloween themed bento – Ghostly onigiri (seaweed face), star-shaped carrot, chicken nugget, apple, cucumber, omelet with ketchup, sausage, packaged cheese and a jelly for dessert!
Two heart-shaped onigiris (purple cause yukari was used in them), one with seaweed sprinkles the other with sesame. Cucumber, cherry tomato, a strawberry, carrots, sweet beans, heart-shaped omelet, Kamen Ryder sausage and some chicken! 
My son like Pokemon so my daughter wanted a Pokemon themed bento like her brother. Pokeball onigiris (red is imitation crab meat – black is seaweed and white center is cheese). Chicken, omelet, ham, lettuce, blueberries and strawberries for dessert!
While in Japan my son loved playing Pokemon Go. Pokeball (made same as above) and Mukuro (owl) onigiris. Broccoli with omelet and other veggies. Sausage, corn, blueberries, and strawberry. 
Tanabata (July Star Festival) themed bento. Boy and girl rice balls with ham hearts. Tomato, sausage, omelet, and croquette. Cheese wrapped in ham, cucumber, apple and a jelly for dessert!


If you like this post let me know with a comment and a share! There will be more just like this since my wife has so many bento memories to share!

Remember to go and LIKE her FB page — Mai’s Kitchen!


The writer:

Kevin O’Shea is the host of the Just Japan Podcast. He is also the guy behind Kevin is a Canadian educator who lives in Beijing, China with his family. Kevin called Kobe, Japan home for 10 years. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jlandkev

Instagram: @jlandkev







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