Bento box history starts in ancient times were varied materials like magnolia leaf, oak leaf, bamboo sheath or bamboo leaf were used to wrap lunches. These were not durable and didn't last long so they started to be made from wood during the Edo period (1603-1868).
Early Ben to Boxes
The early bento boxes were created by interweaving fine strips of willow or bamboo or bending pliable wood into the required shape. These types of bento boxes are still in vogue today and offered for sale as traditional handicrafts.
The Edo period saw bento boxes being used by rich merchants to pack their favorite and assorted food varieties to make their outings to the theatre or flower viewing more interesting. The bento boxes had several tiered and comprised of enough food to last their trip. There were several varieties and forms of bento boxes in use during this period. One of them was inspired by the compartmentalised paint-boxes of a well-known painter and monk of that period by the name ShokadoShojo. Another one belonging to the sixteenth century was a half- moon shaped container said to have been liked by Sen no Rikyu who began the famed tea ritual.
The tea-box was a container to store the instruments required for tea ceremony held in open-air. Bento boxes were used from earlier times to serve food that was visually appealing on special occasions and during celebrations and also in the tea-partaking ritual.
Today's Bento Boxes
Today, in many Japanese restaurants bento boxes hold a special appeal and are used to serve Japanese sit-down party delicacies. Restaurants use bento boxes to serve individual meals, the traditional way more than the convenience factor. Several restaurants have bento boxes as a special item on their menus and the greater rating of the restaurant, the more exquisite are its contents. There are several varieties of bento boxes. Varied choices in shapes like circular, oval and rectangular as well as tiers are available. Bamboo, wood, melamine or anodized aluminum is commonly used as material they are made from.
The wide array of boxes include watertight containers that can hold liquid food content without leaks, vessels that maintain the warmth of the foods and some of them can even hold mini drink bottles. Then there are designer bento boxes which have famous cartoon characters for the decorative aspect. Varied accessories such as matching chopsticks, dividers, sauce holders as well as carrying cases are available in the market today. Due to the wide variety of bento boxes available, home-makers have a wide choice to choose from which helps to create interesting meals for their family.
The original purpose of the bento box of providing visually appealing healthy meals and this is still maintained today. The ingredients of the food-items and the manner of preparation have expanded to include new, colorful and nutritious recipes that will be liked by kids and adults alike.