Where to Get Bento Boxes, Buy Lunch Box Supplies, and Shop for Accessories
Online guides have become so helpful that today, the real challenge involves not making these meals, but finding the correct supplies and accessories. Yes, they can be ordered online, but what if you want to find more of a rotating selection? Below, I’ll give some pointers on getting bento supplies online and offline. I’ll also give you a little starter list of bento supplies that are a good starting point for the beginning bento builder.
Purchasing Bento Supplies In a Physical Store
My favorite stores at which to buy bento supplies are Ichiban Kan (located in San Francisco’s Japantown, as well as San Bruno and El Cerrito in California) and Daiso (also located in San Francisco’s Japantown, and other locations in the greater Bay Area, and in two Seattle cities- not to mention Canada, Korea, Taiwan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Romania, and the Philippines, among other countries).
These stores import and sell relatively inexpensive goods and offer a wide, weekly-rotating selection. I am particularly fond of them because I will find bento boxes, tools, and accessories in their aisles sold at a fraction of the price they go for in other stores.
If you are not near an Ichiban Kan, Daiso, or other dollar-type Japanese supply store, there is still hope. I have managed to find and purchase bento supplies in all countries and cities of the world (all I do abroad is go food accessory shopping, after all). The key is to gravitate toward Japan-themed stores, food stores, or design stores. Often, you’ll find a shop that is a mixture of those two things. For example, I stopped by a deisigney-food store in Germany that had bento boxes, and once purchased beautiful lacquer-wood bento boxes in Paris from a Japanese design shop. Prices at these shops are likely to be higher than at Ichiban Kan or Daiso, or most online stores for that matter, but it is still worth purchasing something if the product is unique and buying it creates a special experience- thus adding priceless sentimental value to the product you pick.
Purchasing Bento Supplies Online
Nevertheless, there are several designated online stores that sell only Japan or bento-related products. Some of the major ones are:
Daiso Japan’s Online Store - offers not only bento supplies but a litany of other things. If you want to set up your own bento shop or sell bento products through a retail store, note that you can get wholesaler discounts here. Bonus!
Casa Bento - offers bento supplies I don’t see on most sites (and in most non-Japan-based stores) and has pleasant site design, which is not something all the bento supply shops out there can boast having @_@
I Love Obento - also offers relative simple (and therefore not annoyingly busy) web design an a range of accessories that can get anyone started on a bento journey, but prices are pretty high.
Bento Crazy - sells a decent range of unique bento products at medium prices, and also assures shoppers that products are lead and BPA-free, which is a plus, because everyone’s afraid of the stuff now.
J-List - yeah, yeah... the go-to place for Japan-fans abroad. It has a decent bento selection at medium-range prices (higher than Daiso/IK, lower than other dedicated, designer bento shops), but browsing is clunky and the anime girls with disproportionate anatomy staaaaare aaaaaat yoooooou O_O from the sides, top, and bottom of the page.
A Bento Shopping List
If you’re just starting out as a bento-maker, you might be a bit overwhelmed by the number of products available to you. The key is to start simple- you don’t have to own everything to be a very successful bento-maker, and once you have started, you’ll have a better idea of what extra supplies you’ll need and which will be utterly superfluous in your ordinary bento routine.
- Bento boxes (you’ve got to put your adorable snacks into something, right?)
- Bento straps (to hold traditional bento boxes together)
- Chopsticks (only if you want a cute matching set and don’t already have a perfectly good pair on hand)
- A bag for your bento box
- Rice molds
- Egg molds (the molds can get you started with the easier forms of fancy food shaping before you go onto crazier things)
To Buy Later (if you want to):
- Food dividers
- Food picks
- Soy sauce bottles
- Vegetable and food cutters
- Special cooking pans