Bento, Japanese history in a box

Japanese cuisine has rolled into popularity in recent years, both here in the UK and further afield. Walk around town and you’ll most definitely see a choice of Japanese restaurants. Scroll around the supermarket shelves and you’ll spot sushi next to the sandwiches. We’ve well and truly fallen for Japanese food with its healthy yet tasty appeal.

So you’ve probably heard of bento. This rapidly growing food trend has hit our shelves in recent years and proved increasingly popular.

If you’re unfamiliar, bento simply means convenience. It’s a small box used by the Japanese to transport food. Think of the equivalent as a lunch box, something you can carry your food in. But, they’re far more than just a piece of Tupperware.

They’re made up of several, balanced ingredients, designed to be bought or made up for lunch and eaten on the go. These little boxes are packed full of flavour, containing fresh and healthy ingredients. It’s no wonder they’re so commonplace in Japan and are becoming a fast favourite in the UK.

Here at Taiko we’ve been producing sushi for British supermarkets for over 20 years. We’ve been at the heart of Japanese food’s impressive influx into the UK food scene, so we know a thing or two about bento. Here’s our ultimate guide to this Japanese favourite.

Where does bento come from?

Bento might be relatively new to Britain, but it’s been around for a long time, being prominent in Japan since way back in the early 12th century. Bento fed the warriors on the roads, being the perfect way to transport and eat meals whilst staying nourished.

Fast forward a few years to the Edo era – bento fed the many people travelling throughout Japan for commercial or religious reasons. Again, an easy way to stay fed and healthy.

Bento’s played an important part in Japanese food history, and it’s certainly passed the test of time. In fact it’s perhaps more popular today than ever before. Wander round any supermarket or convenience store in Japan and you’ll find whole sections devoted to bento alone. It’s commonplace in the home, amongst children, with adults and everyone in between.

Traditional Bento Box

Presentation Matters

Like anything, bento’s been tweaked and changed over the years. Although the core purpose of the box hasn’t changed, the appearance has adapted.

Nowadays the presentation of bento is often influenced by Japanese popular culture and art. Think intricate designs – anything from Hello Kitty shaped rice to vegetables carved into flowers.

Presentation matters. It’s become quite the craze to craft beautiful, creative and detailed boxes. You’ll even find parents spending hours creating fun, attractive bento for their children to take to school.

Of course, not every bento box is carved and crafted to perfection. But, even so, they’re naturally attractive. Containing fresh, colourful ingredients, they make for a very appealing lunch with minimal effort – the perfect way to enjoy sushi to go!

Kids Bento Boxes

Kids Bento Boxes

What Goes into Bento Boxes?

Looks are important, but so is what’s inside – so what goes into bento exactly? Well the answer is pretty much anything can! That’s the great thing – they’re so versatile. You’ve really got your pick when it comes to these flavour filled boxes.

Traditionally they contain a range of ingredients from the different food groups – this not only achieves a varied lunch, but a balanced meal too. At a basic level expect rice, fish or meat, eggs, vegetables, pickled foods and sometimes fruit.

As time’s moved on, the contents of the boxes has become more complex and creative. They’re still packed full of healthy, balanced ingredients, but you’ll now find an array of foods and flavours. From sushi, miso, soy, pickles, salmon, to sesame – the key is, whatever goes in is well thought and works together. They may be created for convenience, but that certainly doesn’t compromise on taste.

Benefits of Bento

There’s one thing that’s certain – whatever goes into bento, it’s always fresh. No nasty chemicals in there!

The size of the box itself means you won’t go overboard with portion sizes, but still get all the nutrients you need. Unlike that same old supermarket sandwich you’ve been tiredly picking up every day bento is actually good for you, and even better, it tastes great too!

To top it off, bento is super easy. Rushed off your feet? Don’t have the time to prepare healthy meals at home? Simply pick up and purchase bento from your local supermarket, pop it in your bag and you’re away. Take it to school, work, the train, the park – wherever you fancy!

Taiko Bento

Here at Taiko we strive to produce the best quality bento, using authentic recipes to ensure that true Japanese flavours are alive in all our products. In line with traditional bento, all our boxes are nutritious, balanced and tasty.

We only select the best ingredient combinations, so with careful consideration, we curate bento that pack a punch for all the right reasons.

Taiko Chicken Katsu Bento

Chicken Katsu Bento - Taiko Sushi Waitrose Chicken Katsu Bento Box

Taiko Miso Salmon Bento

Taiko Miso Salmon Bento Box

Taiko Sushi & Tofu Bento

Our bento range includes the likes of chicken katsu, to Miso Salmon. Vegetarian? Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you! Amongst our sushi products you’ll find our veggie Tofu and Sushi bento. Whatever your taste, we’ve got you covered.

Waitrose Taiko Sushi & Tofu Bento Waitrose Taiko Sushi & Tofu Bento


Here at Taiko we craft the best bento, sushi and food to go, choosing to produce the products that all other manufacturers decide are too difficult. We don’t just accept the challenge, we run with it. Putting care and attention into everything that goes into our Bento, from quality ingredients to irresistible flavours, we create food our customers love.

So, where can you find them?

Pop into your local Waitrose and peruse their sushi section, or buy online.