The Bento Box: From Utility to Status Symbol

Convenience and Balance of the Bento Box

In ancient Japan, around the 5th century, farmers, hunters, and warriors packed their lunches in boxes and brought them to the fields. The practice wasn’t particularly special, but the boxes were. The design came from a farmer’s seed box and had multiple compartments for different dishes, such as rice, vegetables, and fish. It was a rather simple presentation but that it makes a lot of sense to keep the different delicacies apart to prevent contamination in flavors before the meal is enjoyed.

They were later referred to as ‘bento boxes’. “Bento” was actually from the Southern Song Dynasty slang term biàndāng, which means “convenient.” It spread to other cultures like China, Korea, the Philippines. Each culture adopted its own dishes for the box, but what was emphasized was that meal was varied and balanced.

The practice became popular in Japan and the Japanese would bring their lunch boxes for cultural gatherings and social events. People came with their bento lunches in festivals, the theater, and at religious holidays. The boxes were made of basket material or lacquered wood or aluminum.

The Japanese do believe in proper nutrition even then in the late 19th century. The government, particularly the Ministry of Education, recommended nutritious meals for all schoolchildren. After WWI, when Japan came into economic inequality, the gap between rich and poor was felt even in children’s schools. The well-off kids were taking their lunch out of shiny bento boxes, complete with nutritious foods. The poor could no longer afford such fare.

Enjoying Bento Meals in Issaquah

When you’re in Issaquah and wondering where to have delicious, balance meals, try Japanese. Try Aji Sushi dining in trendy surroundings. You’ll love our bento dinners and bento delights for kids, as well.