All My Co-workers Envy My Japanese Lunch Box

Keeps food separated and comes in fun colors, too. Photo: Courtesy Takenaka

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2018, and in the intervening years, this bento box has become one of our all-time favorite items. We’re republishing this ode because it is now enabled with on-site shopping, which means you can now buy this actually nice-looking lunch box for kids or adults without leaving this page (and just in time for back-to-school and back-to-office). Read more about our on-site shopping tool here.

Healthy, frugal New Year’s resolutions are a dime a dozen, but it’s nearly spring, and I’m still achieving mine. My secret to saving money at lunch is my Takenaka bento lunch box, which makes packing a meal feel like a treat, instead of a sacrifice. While BYO lunch is a noble idea, in practice it often means soggy lettuce, leaky Tupperware, and finding your cell phone and wallet drowning in a pool of well-intentioned, homemade soup (true story).

Available in a rainbow of hues, with soothing names like “lemon zest” and “serenity blue,” my coral-shaded bento box sports two levels. The partition that separates them houses a plastic fork that comes with the set, making it ideal for a multicourse repast at my desk or for breakfast and lunch in one box. I learned about the 90-year-old Takenaka brand (saying the name repeatedly is a must) from my Japanophile brother, who gave me one as a gift. Unlike cheaper, flimsier lunch boxes that are precariously held together by an elastic band, the layers of the Takenaka lock together with secure side snaps (though, there’s an expanded option with stretchy band, too). Even when my lunch contains sauce or a broth, my wallet and phone are mercifully unscathed. Also unlike those cheaper “bentos” that litter the internet, the Takenaka is actually made in Japan. The microwave- and dishwasher-safe lunch box even achieves the Holy Grail of reusable lunch boxes — it doesn’t retain flavors, so Wednesday’s roast-beef sandwich doesn’t taste like Tuesday’s tuna salad.

Practicality aside (because when are accessories simply about function?), the Takenaka also guarantees your status as an aesthetically minded diner. Every time I bust it out at the office, it elicits oohs and aahs from my colleagues — so much cooler than Tupperware or a brown paper bag. And after several trips through the dishwasher and microwave, its coral lid is as bright as ever.

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All My Co-workers Envy My Japanese Lunch Box