Bento boxes take plating to a whole new level. Common in Japanese cuisine, the boxes are meant to be home-made lunchbox, but have now become an elaborate display of food. The word bento originated from Song Dynasty slang meaning convenient. However, different types of boxes such as, kyaraben and oekakiben, suggest otherwise. Kyaraben boxes are character bento that are decorated to look like popular Japanese cartoons like, anime or manga (comic books). Oekakiben means “picture” bento. These are decorated to resemble people, animals, flowers, buildings, and so on.
Boxes are made from disposable material to hand crafted lacquerware and are sold everywhere from specialized bento shops to train stations. What started off as a simple meal made for spouses and children are now contests judged on what is most aesthetically pleasing.