Why Am I Designing A Lunch Bag? Introduction of Bento Culture

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by aika | Posted in From My Work Room | No comments yet. | 4141 views on this post

I’m designing a lunch bag. But why? You may wonder if you are from other countries than Japan. In Japanese cuisine, we have a style of food called bento which is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal. A traditional bento holds rice, fish or meat, with pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container.

link to うちのご飯日記。bento example

link to うちのご飯日記。bento example

link to うちのご飯日記。example of bento

(Pictures above: Japanese blog, Uchi no Bangohan)

Bento is mostly taken by kindergarteners and school kids as their lunch, and also by adults to their working places. I used to take my bento to both schools and offices in Japan. Bento is lovely… I think many of Japanese have heart-warming memories associated with bento, in various occasions like school trips where we ate bento on the mountains in the spring, sports festivals where parents and even grandparents joined to eat bento all together under the clear autumn sky at playground of schools.

But making bento every morning is very challenging. I remember that my mother was so happy to be free from obligation to make bento for me and my big brother after our graduation. After moving to Finland, although there is no so-called bento in Finland, I still love bento culture and because I want my 3-years-old son to have similar kind of memories as I have, I bought a bento cook book from Japan. But actually I don’t like cooking so much, haha, so I haven’t made a nice bento for him yet.

Bento cook book, Hahaben, recipe1

Bento cook book, Hahaben, recipe of Onigiri

(Pictures above: Japanese bento cook book "Hahaben")

The Good things of bento are that you can save a lot of money compared with having lunch at a restaurant or buying ready-made or fast food from stores, and you can control your diet, like making salt-free or low calorie menus, according to your need. I used to make bento when I was working for a design studio in Japan to save money to move to Finland.

It was the last summer in Japan when one of my friends suggested me to design a lunch bag using felt, because wool felt has high insulating quality which can keep bento either warm or cold for hours. She said that because of the long-lasting bad economy and the stream of concerning about our health, people in Japan have been enjoying cooking at home, and home-packed bento lunch has been booming even among business men. They even take Japanese or Chinese tea in their thermos bottles not to waste the PET bottles. What a great effect against the bad economy.

Since then I’ve started designing a lunch bag for Japanese people, and my Japanese friends have commented useful feedbacks and one of them was: “Bento is booming in Paris. My French coworkers take bento to our office, and some of bento restaurants are popular now”. There is bento cook book in English, and moreover, very stylish bento boxes are available from online shops. Well.. bento is not just about Japanese cuisine but evolving in the world in various ways? How about in your country?

I’ve just made a board on Pinterest titled “Bento lunch” (click the image to jump). You can find all the links to blogs and websites written in this post. And yes, I found many nice European and American bento recipes there. Just enjoy looking around, and you could try making your own bento today?!

Bento lunch on Pinterest by Aika Felt Works


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