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Time-Honored Tradition Meets Modern Convenience: The Benefits Of A Wooden Bento Box

What is so special about Japanese bento boxes?

There are many food storage options out there, but none are quite as distinctive as a the traditional wooden bento box. This iconic Japanese food storage container is making a comeback all around the world as more people are beginning to recognize its unique benefits (as well as the benefit of packing your own lunch on a day out). 

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Bento boxes, especially wooden varieties, are a time-honored Japanese tradition that can be traced back to the 15th century Edo period. People would use them to carry food on long journeys or special outings, like theater trips or picnics beneath cherry blossom trees. The tradition endures today, with people using bento boxes to store their food when going to work, school, or on day trips and excursions. 

While many western food containers tend to only have a single compartment, bento boxes are defined by their separate compartments and stackable layers. These allow for ease of storage and a greater variety of food; you can treat yourself to a lovely multi-course meal no matter where you go!  

What material is best for a bento box?

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Traditional bento boxes are made from specific types of wood, mostly cedar and cypress, that are meticulously bent into oval or rectangular shapes for optimal storage space. New technologies have introduced a wave of modern bento boxes made from a wider variety of materials, like plastics and metals. 

Each material has its own set of benefits, but we believe there are many good reasons to stick to tradition when it comes to bento boxes.

  • Metals, such as aluminum and stainless steel, are durable options that are typically easy to clean. However, they can create chemical reactions with the food that cause a change in taste, texture, and in some cases lead to a lower nutritional value. This is especially true for acidic foods like fruit and certain vegetables.  

  • Plastic is another durable option that tends to be lightweight and inexpensive. Unfortunately, these benefits come at a cost to the planet and potentially your own body. Plastic bento boxes can release toxins and microplastics into the food stored, and later into the environment when being washed. They are also non-biodegradable, and can stay in landfills for centuries at the end of their life cycle. 

Those seeking a healthy, safe, and sustainable bento box material may want to opt for good old fashioned wood. 

Natural cedar wood, one of the most popular varieties for bento boxes, will keep your meals secure, fresh, and delicious. Other materials tend to trap steam and heat, which leads to excess moisture. The inherent breathability of wood helps to maintain the right temperature and moisture levels for food, especially rice, which is known to stay tender and fluffy when stored in cedar. 

Another major benefit of wooden bento boxes is their eco-friendly nature. Traditional Japanese bento box craftsmanship encourages sustainable production, with companies sourcing trees from well-managed forests that contribute to a cleaner air space and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. And being a natural material, wood is both renewable and biodegradable, which leads to less pollution in the long run. 

Wooden bento boxes are also lightweight, durable, and sensually pleasing with their beautiful organic texture and subtle scent. They’re more than just food storage containers; they’re artisanal delights that enrich your everyday life. 

Interested in switching up your lunch experience? Be sure to check out our full assortment of traditional Japanese wooden bento boxes