As days get shorter and temperatures cool, it’s also time (eek) to start thinking about going back to school. To help you get a jump on the best school (and school-related) supplies to buy for fall, we’re running a series called Cool School Stuff, in which we’ll sniff out the best backpacks, best dorm décor, and best bento boxes, among many, many other things.
Have you ever wondered: “Is there an item that sits perfectly at the corner of our collective obsession with all things Japanese and all things wellness?” The answer is yes, of course, and the item is a bento box. For the non-Japanophile: Bento boxes are compartmentalized Japanese lunch boxes — traditionally packed with rice, pickled vegetables, and fish — that are quickly becoming very popular in America.
To find the best Japanese lunch boxes for students, we spoke with Angelique Chmielewski, owner of Japanese home-goods store Nalata Nalata — according to Chmielewski, the best portable bento container is airtight, with a rubber gasket that is leak-resistant, and easy to wash. Below, options that’ll render Tupperware containers (let alone brown paper bags) obsolete. A tip: To avoid stealing your kid’s lunch box, we’d advise ordering two upfront.
Note: These are currently unavailable, but a larger peach version is available here.
A simple aluminum option from Muji.
An airtight, double-stacked bento with ventilation locks for hot food. And it comes with a pair of chopsticks.
While not technically a compartmentalized bento box, this is a very functional and handsome stack of containers that includes its own lunch bag, stainless-steel bowls, and utensils.
This traditional bento box is made of Japanese cypress Thujopsis wood, known for its antimicrobial properties and water-resistance.
Bento boxes have even infiltrated Pottery Barn — these compartmentalized versions are like the plastic lunch boxes you toted as a child, only with sensible portion separators.
Not exactly a bento box in the traditional sense, but these are Chmielewski’s favorite containers for lunches on the go — the three size options, she says, help with portion control.
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