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What is a Bento Box? Unveiling the History and Tradition

The  bento box  is much more than a mere container for your lunch. It represents a rich tradition deeply rooted in Japanese culture, blending aesthetic pleasure with practical functionality. This tradition traces back hundreds of years, evolving through the eras into what it is today – a symbol of convenience, balance, and artful presentation in meal preparation. In this comprehensive guide, we explore the origins, evolution, and elements that make the bento box a unique culinary icon.

Discover the versatility and innovation of the modern bento box catering to diverse dietary needs and preferences. From nutritious lunches for kids to eco-friendly materials like glass and bamboo, the evolution of bento boxes mirrors the global shift towards sustainable and balanced eating habits. Dive into our guides to discover how to incorporate the bento box into various diets, including specialized bento diets, and creative ideas for work lunches that inspire. Explore how different cuisines, from traditional seafood to American fare, can be beautifully presented and enjoyed in a bento box, blending cultural heritage with modern culinary trends.


  • The Origins of the Bento Box

  • Evolution of the Bento Box

  • Traditional vs. Modern Bento Boxes

  • The Art and Etiquette of Bento Boxes

  • Making Your Own Bento Box

  • FAQs

The Origins of the Bento Box

A Historical Overview

The concept of the bento first appeared in Japan during the Kamakura Period (1185–1333). Initially, it started as a simple way to pack meals for travelers and warriors. These were basic, containing rice that was dried and could be boiled in water at any moment, thus serving the need for convenience during long journeys or battles.

Cultural Significance

As it integrated into the fabric of Japanese society, the bento box began to reflect not only the culinary preferences of an era but also its aesthetics and values. It was used during tea ceremonies, traditional outdoor excursions like hanami (cherry blossom viewing), and theater events, proving its versatility and importance in social gatherings.

Evolution of the Bento Box

From Simplicity to Sophistication

Over centuries, the bento underwent significant transformations. The Edo period (1603–1868) saw the rise of more elaborate and artistically crafted bento boxes, which were often lacquered and beautifully decorated. These enhancements coincided with advancements in cooking and preservation techniques, enabling more variety in bento contents.

Modern Adaptations

With modernization, the bento box adapted to contemporary life. The 20th century saw mass-produced bento boxes catering to the working class and schoolchildren, underscoring the bento's role in everyday Japanese life. Today, bento boxes range from simple and functional to meticulous and lavish, serving as a reflection of their creators’ dietary preferences, lifestyle, and artistic sensibilities.

Traditional vs. Modern Bento Boxes

Ingredients and Composition

A traditional bento box is carefully balanced, consisting of rice, fish, or meat, and pickled or cooked vegetables – embodying the principle of "ichi-juu-san-sai" (one soup, three sides). Modern bento boxes, while keeping the essence of balance, often include a wider array of ingredients catering to international tastes.

Design and Materials

While traditional bentos are often made from natural materials like wood and bamboo, adorned with intricate designs and finishes, modern versions utilize plastics and metals for durability and convenience. The aesthetic appeal remains important, with contemporary designs reflecting both traditional motifs and modern, character-based themes beloved by children and adults alike.

The Art and Etiquette of Bento Boxes

Aesthetic Presentation

The visual arrangement in a bento box is as crucial as its content. This ranges from the precise placement of ingredients for color balance and appeal to intricate designs that transform food into art – known as "kyaraben" (character bento).

Cultural Etiquette

Bento boxes also carry etiquette, particularly in their preparation and consumption. Respect for the effort that goes into creating a bento, as well as appreciation for the food, are ingrained values. Sharing bentos during gatherings emphasizes community and bonding over meals.

Making Your Own Bento Box

Choosing Ingredients

The first step to creating your bento is selecting a balanced variety of ingredients, considering colors, textures, and nutritional content. This ensures not only a visually appealing meal but also a well-rounded diet.

Preparation Techniques

Effective use of space and creative presentation are key. Utilizing cutting and shaping tools can transform ordinary ingredients into delightful shapes and characters. Proper arrangement ensures each component is showcased while maintaining its integrity during transport.


Finally, the true beauty of bento-making lies in its capacity for personalization. From choosing a box that resonates with your style to selecting ingredients that cater to your dietary preferences, every bento box is a reflection of the individual who made it.

Which bento boxes does Umami Bentos offer?



Multifunctional Bento Box for Adults - Ideal for On-the-Go Professionals!

This comprehensive kit comes with 4 utensils, 2 condiment containers, and 2 adjustable partitions for maximum ease. Everything you require in an adult bento lunch box.

No-Spill Build - Forget about leaks and messes in your bag. Thanks to the silicone seal, this bento box for adults keeps your meals intact throughout the day.

Dishwasher Friendly - Clean-up is a breeze; just place it in the dishwasher! Now, you have more time to savor your scrumptious dishes.

Efficient Storage Solution - Our stackable and nestable adult lunch box declutters your kitchen space effortlessly.

Suitable for Microwave & Freezer - Designed to endure both high and low temperatures, our bento box is perfect for meal planning and controlling portions.

Choose From Multiple Bright Colors - Select the hue that matches your personality. Elevate your lunchtime experience with our stylish lunch containers for adults! Click 'Add to Cart' to start enjoying healthy eating daily!

Flexible for Any Appetite - With the option to use one or both layers and adjust serving sizes using the movable partitions, this bento box caters to both light and hearty eaters.

Available in the Following Locations:

USA, France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom.

→ You can find this Bento Box on Amazon 



All-in-One Bento Lunch Box for Adults - Ideal for On-the-Go Professionals!

Comprehensive Kit - Comes with 4 utensils, 2 mini condiment containers, and 2 adjustable dividers for maximum convenience. A complete bento lunch box solution for adults.

Spill-Proof & Leak-Resistant - Forget about leaks ruining your bag. Our adult bento box features a silicone seal to keep your meals contained and fresh.

Dishwasher-Friendly - Cleaning made easy! Just place the bento box components in the dishwasher for a hassle-free cleanup, allowing you more time to savor your meals.

Maximize Kitchen Space - Our stackable and nestable bento box design lets you save valuable cabinet space. Enjoy a clutter-free kitchen with our adult lunch box.

Suitable for Microwave & Freezer - Designed to endure both freezing and heating, this bento box is perfect for meal prepping and portion control.

Choose Your Favorite Color - With a selection of vibrant colors, find the one that reflects your style. Elevate your lunchtime experience with a stylish adult lunch container! Shop now for enjoyable, healthy meals daily.

Flexible Layer Options - Tailor your meal size with either a single or double layer, using the movable dividers for personalized meal portions. Catered to both light and hearty appetites.


Offered in USA, France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom.

→ You can find this Bento Box on Amazon



🍱 IDEAL FOR HEALTHY EATING - At Umami, we're dedicated to ensuring your meals are not only delicious but also nutritious and perfectly portioned. Our Japanese-style bento lunch box, suitable for both adults and children, ensures each bite leaves you feeling just right.

🤸 ON-THE-GO FRIENDLY - Certified 100% leak-proof, Umami's adult bento box can withstand being flipped or vigorously shaken. Thanks to its silicone seal and secure strap, you won't have to worry about spills or leaks.

🎍 STUNNING BAMBOO LID - Adorn your meal times with our bento box that features a genuine bamboo lid. Let its aesthetic appeal invite you into a world of flavorsome meals, enhancing your dining experience with Umami.

🍴 SOPHISTICATED WOODEN EATING TOOLS - Equipped like a mobile dining set, our bento box comes with wooden cutlery and chopsticks that make dining anywhere a breeze. This set, which includes a knife, fork, spoon, and chopsticks, is also completely dishwasher safe.

🍯 DUAL SCREW-TOP SAUCE CONTAINERS - Elevate your meals with the inclusion of our sauce jars, perfect for dressings, spices, or nuts, and dive into the depth of Umami - the essence of rich, savory taste that's known as the fifth flavor.

🚿 EFFORTLESS CLEANING - The Umami bento box is a breeze to clean, whether by hand or in the dishwasher. It’s designed to be odor and stain-resistant.

🥪 FLEXIBLE MEAL PLANNING - Our double-decker bento boxes feature adjustable dividers, allowing for diverse meal prepping. Experiment with a savory layer and a sweet layer, balancing your meal according to your cravings.

♨️ MICROWAVE, FRIDGE, AND FREEZER SAFE - Crafted from microwave-safe polypropylene and completely BPA-free, the Umami bento box is designed for convenience. Simply remove the lid to reheat your food for a warm meal anytime.

🎨 EXQUISITE DESIGN - Let your eyes feast on the beautiful aesthetics of our adult bento box, designed to make your meal times special with its inviting look.

🍴 COMPLETE CUTLERY SET - Included is a full set of cutlery, making on-the-go dining seamless and akin to having a restaurant in your pocket.

🌍 AVAILABLE IN SELECT COUNTRIES - Our products are available across a broad range of countries, including but not limited to the USA, France, Spain, Germany, and many more across Europe and beyond.

Experience real-time like never before with Umami's bento boxes, where convenience meets style and taste.

→ You can find this Bento Box on Amazon 

→ Many other products are available on our  website  and  Amazon

Learn more about us

As passionate food enthusiasts from France, we believe the secret to delectable meals lies in the quality of the ingredients and culinary tools. It was this belief that inspired the inception of  Umami. Our mission was to design a superior lunchbox that would not only ensure our meals stayed fresh and safe but also retained their flavor, even on the go. Drawing inspiration from Japanese aesthetics, our bento lunchboxes are crafted for convenience, mastery in quality, and a touch of whimsy. Should you have any inquiries, please feel free to reach out to us.

Embarking on an entrepreneurial journey after a fulfilling corporate career, we aimed to enhance the workplace dining experience for our friends and former colleagues.

We acknowledged the significance of a nourishing lunch break at work. Despite a fraction of the workforce having access to extensive, sometimes complimentary, workplace dining facilities, the reality for the majority is quite different.

A notable number of employees, nearly 46% of those without access to a workplace restaurant, opt to bring homemade meals to work at least once a week, with 27% doing so daily (as per a 2012 Harris Interactive Study).

However, the experience of dining from traditional lunch containers can often feel less than satisfactory. With UMAMI, our ambition was to transform these moments of dining into occasions of calm and delight, enhancing them with premium, yet practical designs.

UMAMI, defined in Japanese cuisine as the savory "fifth taste," enhances the traditional quartet of bitter, sour, sweet, and salty flavors.

Our vision is to rejuvenate the lunchbox experience, promoting delicious and healthful eating, while simultaneously striving to minimize waste.

We fervently hope our collection of bento lunchboxes enhances your dining pleasure.

Etienne Ameil, Founder and CEO of Umami

Discover our categories:

- Original Bento

- For Kids

- Glass Lunch Box

- Lunch Bags

- Water Bottles

- Accessories

Contact us:   


What does "bento" mean?

"Bento" is a Japanese term that directly translates to "convenient" or "convenience." It pertains to a single-portion meal packed in a box, designed for on-the-go consumption.

Is making a bento box expensive?

Creating a bento box can be as affordable or as lavish as one's budget allows. Using leftovers and seasonal produce can keep costs down while prioritizing variety and nutritional balance.

Can bento boxes be prepared in advance?

Yes, many components of a bento can be prepared in advance and stored appropriately to save time. However, for optimal freshness, assembling the bento should ideally be done the morning of or the night before consuming it.

Are there vegetarian/vegan options for bento boxes?

Absolutely! Bento boxes are highly versatile and can cater to any dietary restriction, including vegetarian and vegan diets. Plant-based proteins, vegetables, and grains can create a balanced and delicious meal.

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