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A Bento (弁当) is a type of Japanese single-portion meal usually presented in a take-out or home-packed container and is often served at lunch.

A traditional bento may contain rice or noodles with fish or meat, often with pickled and cooked vegetables all arranged within a single container. The bento containers can range from mass-produced disposables to hand-crafted lacquerware. Often various dividers are placed inside the containers are used to separate individual ingredients or dishes, to avoid them from affecting or mixing with each other before they are eaten.

As it is common for mothers to make bento for their children to take to school, or for wives to make bento for their husbands to take to work, the act of making and giving a bento box to another has become a trope in romantic material (particularly in high school dramas); as it alludes to the individual making/giving the bento to be acting as a wife or mother to the one receiving the bento. Because making bento can take a while, some mothers/wives will prepare the ingredients the night before, and then assemble and pack everything the following morning before their children go to school or husbands goes to work. Due to this the creation of a bento is seen as no trivial feat and the variety of ingredients found within is seen as a testament to the amount of effort the mother/wife put into its creation.



  • It is often a social expectation of mothers in Japan to provide bento for their children, to create both a nutritionally balanced and aesthetically (visually) pleasing meal. House wives have been known to vicariously compete with each other through their bento.
  • A bento was also often seen as a reflection on a student's wealth, and many wondered if this had an unfavourable influence on children both physically, from lack of adequate diet, and psychologically, from a clumsily made bento or the richness of food.
  • Once created the bento is usually wrapped in a furoshiki cloth, which acts as both a bag and a table mat when opened.
  • Bento can be elaborately arranged in a style called "Kyaraben" ("Character Bento"), which are typically decorated to look like popular characters from anime, manga, or video games. Another popular bento style is "oekakiben" or "picture bento". This is decorated to look like people, animals, buildings and monuments or items such as flowers and plants. Contests are often held where bento creators compete for the most aesthetically attractive arrangements.

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