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Posted on Apr 9, 2007 in admin, Equipment, SF Bay Area Local, Shopping | 71 comments

SF Bay Area shopping guide & award nomination

SF Bay Area shopping guide & award nomination

Shopping Resources: I’ve put together an opinionated shopping guide for the San Francisco Bay Area as a resource for local readers looking to buy bento boxes and accessories in person. I am not affiliated with any of these stores, I’m just an avid shopper and know what I like. I will edit this list as things change; please feel free to comment if you know other local stores that we’d benefit from knowing about (please disclose any commercial affiliations you may have with the store). Links point to the stores’ Yelp.com listings with maps, photos, and commentary from the larger Bay Area community. (See also the SF Bay Area guide to ethnic markets.)

Latest News: My LiveJournal site has been nominated for a Blogger’s Choice Award — Best Food Category! If you like Lunch in a Box, could you click over to the entry and vote? Thank you. I’m pretty jazzed considering this all took off just a couple of months ago with the new focus on speedy lunch prep tips added to my existing lunch blog. (Nov. 2007 update: Lunch in a Box tied for 3rd place, the only non-vegan blog in the top four. Thank you!)

My site was nominated for Best Food Blog!

San Francisco Bay Area
Shopping Guide for Bento-style Packed Lunches
If you only have time to go to one or two places, go to Daiso or Ichiban Kan (Japanese dollar stores) for a great selection of very cheap lunch packing equipment, accessories and cooking equipment. If you’re in Japantown, be sure to stop in at Asakichi on the bridge.

San Francisco

**Asakichi          (updated June 2014)
1737 Post St., Suite 365 & 1730 Geary  (in Japantown)
Kintetsu Mall
(between Buchanan St & Webster St)
San Francisco, CA 94115 (415) 921-3821

asakichi.com
Treasure trove for bento, with the largest selection of high-quality Japanese bento boxes in Japantown.  The iron/bento store is on the bridge between the West Mall and the Kinokuniya building, and has about 100 Hakoya and other plastic bento boxes. The main store is on your right as you enter West Mall from Peace Plaza, and carries the high-quality magewappa and sakura bark bento boxes. See my full write-up here with photos.

Belonging Gifts
2206 Irving Street (in the Outer Sunset)
(between 23rd Ave & 24th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94122 (415) 681-6826

www.belonginggifts.com
vanillacupcake writes: They have a large selection of character bento boxes, thermoses and spoon+fork sets, as well as chopsticks with containers. Every character bento box is $9.99. And almost every spoon+fork+chopstick set (you get all 3 in the set) is $9.99, they come in containers that will fit perfectly in your lunch sack, and there are a TON of character ones. As of today, the bento boxes they had were Winnie the Pooh, Hello Kitty, Mickey Mouse, Doraemon, and I think a few other really cute character ones. They are larger bento boxes, 500 ML +, some have 1 tier, some have 2 tiers. Biggie notes: They also have Shinkansen character gear (water bottles, utensil sets, loose oshibori hand towels, etc.) and a lot of Totoro gear (non-bento).

Daikoku by Shiki     (updated June 2014)
1737 Post St., Suite 1C (in Japantown)
Kintetsu Mall
(between Buchanan St & Webster St)
San Francisco, CA 94115 (415) 563-4550 

Japanese pottery and ceramics store on the same floor as Moritaya (by the Peace Plaza entrance). Worth quickly checking out as it usually has a few good-quality Hakoya brand bento boxes in the back on the left (traditional looking). Closed on Tuesdays.

**Daiso    (updated June 2014)
22 Peace Plaza, Ste. 400
San Francisco, CA 94115 (415) 359-9397

daisojapan.com
Excellent, huge Japanese dollar store (okay, $1.50 store) with a large selection of cheap bento boxes, accessories, antibacterial bento sheets and food cups, freezer containers, cooking equipment, metal bento boxesmini microwave steamers, stovetop fish/veggie grills, home products, dishes, hobby gear, children’s toys and books in Japanese, etc. Depending upon where they are in their inventory cycle, you can hit the bento jackpot here (or come up short). Look all over the store, not just the bento area in the back on the left. Located in Japantown in the East Mall just off Peace Plaza, the global Daiso store locator is here. EDIT: They also have branches in San Jose, Union City, Mountain View, and Newark (see below).

**Ichiban Kan
22 Peace Plaza # 540 (Japantown Mall)
San Francisco, CA (415) 409-0472

Excellent Japanese dollar store with a variety of low-end bento boxes, insulated bento sets, cheap collapsible sandwich cases, lunch carrying bags (regular and insulated), accessories, antibacterial bento sheets, freezer containers and organizer baskets, mini microwave steamers, GlassLock tempered glass bento boxes and food containers, cheap tamagoyaki rectangular frying pans, etc. They often stock hard-boiled egg molds (2-pack for $1.50). Be sure to look all over the store, not just in the main bento area. You’ll find little bento carrying bags, sauce containers, dividers and the antibacterial bento sheets in different areas in the back for $1. They also have Japanese snacks, nori, basic cooking supplies, etc. Branches in San Mateo and El Cerrito (see below). Parking is scarce, but worth it (try the cheap parking garage by Nijiya Market, get your ticket validated for a discount if you spend more than $50 in Nijiya). If you’re here anyway, check out Moritaya and Daikoku by Shiki just across the Plaza. Ichiban Kan used to have an online store, but it closed.

Irving Housewares & Gifts
2200 Irving Street (in the Outer Sunset)
(between 23rd Ave & 24th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94122 (415) 759-1559 
vanillacupcake writes: Large selection of basic bento boxes (nothing cute, just plain plastic colors but with lock lids, etc.) and thermos jars. They also have a large selection of picks, but no soy sauce or mayo containers. Also some side dish containers too. Biggie notes: Three sizes of Leaflet boxes (500ml, 650ml and 740ml?) and some cheap Hello Kitty boxes in the front, foil cupcake liners in the back, onigiri molds, children’s utensils and matching chopsticks/cases. Prices are okay, but you can probably find most everything cheaper at Kamei, Daiso or Ichibankan. Worth a look if you’re in the neighborhood anyway (definitely check out the big, cheap, fresh produce market at 22nd & Irving).

*Kamei Restaurant & Supply
507 Clement St (in the Inner Richmond)
(between 6th Ave & 7th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94118 (415) 666-3699

Huge Asian kitchenware and restaurant supply store with unusual, excellent quality products at good prices (the only cheaper places will be Daiso and Ichiban Kan). Onigiri and sushi molds, jubako, and other sushi gear together in with the sushi serving gear (right hand side of store); cheap thermal food jars in the cooking equipment section on the left hand side of the store. The good-quality thermal food jars (Mr. Bento, Nissan Stainless, etc.) and high-end Zojirushi-brand insulated bento sets are behind the register; just ask for assistance and they’ll show you what they’ve got. Also a variety of plain bento boxes and side dish containers, intricate Chinese cutters, utensil sets, chopsticks, good-quality tamagoyaki pans, etc. Reasonably priced children’s melamine lunch plates and bowls (Thomas the Tank Engine, Monkey line, etc.) on the right hand side of the store, extensive rice cooker selection (all ranges, excellent prices). Good Lock & Lock container selection displayed outside the store, with the Lock & Lock picnic sets on the back wall of Aisle 6 with the cheap thermal food jars.

In addition to the variety of traditional, small Hakoya boxes that I wrote about earlier, (Aisle 4) they’ve also got a selection of new thermal bento sets from Tiger at excellent prices and different colors/sizes. They’re behind the counter in the housewares half of the store (in front of Aisle 6). I haven’t yet used the Tiger thermal bento sets, but they look to be the some of the better quality ones I’ve seen to date. The rectangular side dish containers have locking flap lids (Lock & Lock style) and an insulated flap around and over the thermal rice container that helps keep the rice warm and the side dishes cool. (I’ve also seen these here on Amazon (affiliate link).) Kamei also has an expanded line of GlassLock tempered glass food containers (Aisle 7), a good Lock & Lock selection, and good-quality large Asvel boxes (950ml) with insulated carrying bags.

Katachi
1737 Post St., Ste. 326 (in Japantown)
(between Buchanan St & Webster St)
San Francisco, CA 94115  (415) 931-9822

This small sword and souvenir store in Japantown is tucked away next to Moritaya, and at first glance seems an unlikely place to find bento boxes. But reader kuzatab clued me in to their pretty decent Hakoya bento box selection, at a slight markup over other Japantown sources like Soko Hardware. Thanks, kuzatab!

Kawaii Corner
5406 Geary Blvd. (in the Richmond)

(between 18th Ave & 19th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94121  (415) 666-3826
www.kawaiicorner.com
 Hours: Mon-Sat 11:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Kawaii Corner has character bento boxes, lunch bags, insulated lunchboxes, and utensils as well as all kinds of Sanrio & San-X goods that will thrill little girls and other fans of cute. Kawaii Corner’s online store ships internationally, and prices are about par for the branded items. They’ve even got a line of Angry Little Girls gear with attitude, like the yellow lunchbox shown at this post.

Moritaya     (updated June 2014)
1737 Post Street (in Japantown)
(between Buchanan St & Webster St)
San Francisco, CA 94115 (415) 674-1345 

A few unusual (but extremely overpriced) character bento boxes and accessories in the middle of the store. Think Totoro. They used to have an extensive selection of character bento boxes, but that has changed.

Nijiya Market    (updated June 2014)
1737 Post Street (in Japantown)
(between Buchanan St & Webster St)
San Francisco, CA 94115 
(415) 563-1901
Big Japanese market with a few bento accessories, notably the antibacterial sushi grass dividers and good-quality tamagoyaki pans. Nijiya now has a few more good-quality, plain boxes by Asvel at competitive prices, including larger 950ml sizes. The boxes are in the kitchen section near the produce aisle, along with disposable baking cups and plain disposable food dividers. More boxes on the wall by the produce section. Prices for the boxes are quite competitive — I was a little surprised.

Sanko     (updated June 2014)
1758 Buchanan Street (in Japantown)
San Francisco, CA (415) 922-8331
Decent selection of higher-quality men’s bento boxes, including Asvel and Hakoya brands. Look for the microwave-safe donburi bento box (“Don Don Lunch Box”) from Hakoya, which is evidently discontinued but they somehow still have stock. Their expanded bento section is in the left rear corner of the front room you walk into; you’ll also find some children’s boxes and nice Hakoya boxes for women in addition to the plain but sturdy large Asvel boxes for men. In response to customer demand, they’ve added a line of unusual, high-quality bento accessories that I’ve only ever seen online (my sauce pig/elephant with spreader, chick-shaped furikake dispenser, unusual food picks, sandwich cutters, cute rice molds, etc.). Bins outside have some discount merchandise, but Ichiban Kan and Daiso are cheaper for things like onigiri rice ball molds. Good selection of unusual furoshiki and Japanese-themed bandannas that are the right size for wrapping up a bento box (furoshiki are in the rear corner of the adjoining room). Prices are not extremely cheap, but you’ll find excellent quality things here you won’t find elsewhere. Full store review here.

Soko Hardware
1698 Post Street (in Japantown)
(between Buchanan St & Laguna St)
San Francisco, CA 94115 (415) 931-5510

If you’re in Japantown anyway, check out their cooking gear and bento accessories (downstairs) and their high-quality, traditional bento boxes and juubako (upstairs in the back). Ichiban Kan and Daiso are cheaper, but sometimes you’ll find something interesting like a square egg mold or plastic spam musubi molds. annoyedwabbit writes: Upstairs, in the back, they have a very few bento, and a few large, multi-layer picnic bento. Downstairs, in the far left corner, they have a whole bunch of useful stuff. I noticed several sets of steel shape punches (2 sizes, and I think each set had four shapes), foil food cups (round and oval) – which I did not see at Ichiban Kan, they only had the laminated paper cups – as well as all sorts of rice/sushi presses. There were at least two different styles of triangular onigiri presses, as well as the cute shaped presses (bear, heart, etc), and presses for different styles of sushi and sashimi. They had a few egg molds as well, and an egg-cuber. I also found a takoyaki pan, and they have multiple sizes of what I think were omelet pans – rectangular frying pans. There’s also a pretty big selection of rice cookers downstairs. (Biggie notes: If you’re in the market for a rice cooker, be sure to check out the selection at Kamei before you buy — very reasonably priced.)

Yes Variety
2345 Irving St. (in the Outer Sunset)
San Francisco, CA (415) 242-5170

Located near Sunset Supermarket on Irving Street, Yes Variety is a Chinese discount housewares store with some good-priced Lock & Lock insulated bento sets, cheap Chinese thermal lunch jars, cheap (low-quality) Chinese bento boxes, and little GlassLock-style tempered glass food containers with lids. They’re all in the first aisle as you walk in. If you do a lot of baking, be sure to check out their bulk baking supplies in the back, including cupcake liners, disposable baking pans, food picks, and to-go containers. Inventory photo at the full write-up.

Daly City

**Daiso
146 Seramonte Center
Daly City, CA 941015 (650) 992-7462

daisojapan.com
Excellent, huge Japanese dollar store (okay, $1.50 store) with a large selection of cheap bento boxes, accessories, antibacterial bento sheets and food cups, freezer containers, cooking equipment, metal bento boxes, mini microwave steamers, stovetop fish/veggie grills, home products, dishes, hobby gear, children’s toys and books in Japanese, etc. Depending upon where they are in their inventory cycle, you can hit the bento jackpot here (or come up short). Look all over the store, not just the bento area right behind and to the right of the cash registers (be sure to go in the back room with all of the plastic freezer containers, and in the utensil aisle behind the bento section). Located in Daly City at the Serramonte Mall where Good Guys used to be (across the parking lot from the Target store anchoring Serramonte Mall). Lots of parking, definitely a must-go. The global Daiso store locator is here. EDIT: They also have branches in San Jose, Union City, Mountain View, and Newark (see below).

**Kukje Super Market
2350 Junipero Serra Boulevard (by the In & Out Burger just off of 280)
Daly City, CA 94015 (650) 992-0333

Huge Korean supermarket with sizable cookware section. Excellent selection of Lock & Lock containers, sometimes including their lunch sets and other bento boxes and side dish containers. Nice insulated bento sets (buy those more cheaply behind the counter at Kamei or at Ichiban Kan if they have them in stock — almost half the price of Kukje). They’ve expanded their other bento offerings as well, now carrying a variety of standard bento boxes (including Leaflet and Asvel brands), as well as thermal lunch jars and good-quality Tiger thermal bento sets. Prices are generally higher than Kamei, but their selection is quite good. (9/08 inventory photo at this post.)

San Bruno

*Ichiban Kan, a popular Japanese-style discount store with lots of bento gear (see above), has a branch in the Tanforan Mall in San Bruno.

The Shops at Tanforan
1150 El Camino Real
San Bruno, CA  94066
(650) 873-2000
www.theshopsattanforan.com

East Bay

*Daiso Newark
2125 New Park Mall (in the New Park Mall by I-880)
Newark, CA 94560 (510) 742-2410
7,545 sq. ft., opened Dec. 22, 2007

Large Japanese dollar store (okay, $1.50 store) with branches in San Francisco, San Jose, Union City and Mountain View. See Daly City entry above.

*Daiso Union City
El Mercado, 1785 Decoto Rd. (next to Marina Foods, betw. Alvarado Niles Rd & Meyers Dr)
Union City, CA 94587 (510) 477-9441
17,760 sq. ft., opened Aug. 8, 2007

Large Japanese dollar store (okay, $1.50 store) with branches in San Francisco, San Jose, Newark and Mountain View. See Daly City entry above.

*Ichiban Kan
10562 San Pablo Avenue
El Cerrito, CA 94530 (510) 528-5210

Japanese dollar store with branches in San Francisco and San Mateo. See SF entry above.

Pastime Hardware
10057 San Pablo Avenue
El Cerrito, CA 94530 (510) 526-6615

mlouise007writes: Pastime Hardware has well priced mini butterfly/flower cutters, mini Halloween cutters, and paper and foil cup cake baking cups regular and mini sizes.

Tokyo Fish Market gift shop
1220 San Pablo Avenue (between Gilman St. & Harrison St.)
Berkeley, CA 94706 (510) 524-7243

mlouise007writes: Tokyo Fish Market gift shop next to the fish market, Berkeley, about 2 miles from Ichiban Kan in El Cerrito has several kinds of Zojirushi Bento Lunch Jars. [...] They had what seems to be the new version of Ms Bento, the Classic, and both versions of the Mini, priced less than amazon. Also have basic cooking supplies including the slicing multi-tool you featured for quick cucumber salad. The Fish Market has a good variety of food items.

Peninsula

*Daiso (Mountain View)
550 Showers Ave. #1, (near El Camino and San Antonio)
Mountain View, CA, 94040 (650) 947-9320

(opened October 8, 2007)
Japanese dollar store (okay, $1.50 store) with branches in San Francisco, San Jose and Union City. See Daly City entry above. Freecia notes: “Location is near Trader Joe’s, in the complex to the right of TJ, before the 24 Hour Fitness. For those who know the complex, a hobby shop used to be in that space. The shopping complex is maze-like and Daiso can’t be seen from the street.”

*Daiso Cupertino
19750 Stevens Creek Blvd
Cupertino, CA 95014  (408) 973-0331

Reader Freecia points out that Daiso, the big Japanese discount store chain where I get a lot of cheap bento and household gear, has opened a new store in Cupertino, CA (see Daiso Daly City entry above). Freecia reports that it’s smaller than the Mountain View store, which in turn is smaller than the Daly City store.

*Ichiban Kan (San Mateo)
98 E 3rd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401 (650) 347-1347

Japanese dollar store with branches in San Francisco and El Cerrito. See SF entry above.

San Jose

*Daiso
Eastridge Mall, 2200 Eastridge Loop, Ste. 1103
San Jose, CA 95122
daisojapan.com
Japanese dollar store (okay, $1.50 store) with branches in San Francisco, Union City and Mountain View. Not as big as the Daly City branch, but closer in for South Bay folks. See full entry above under Daly City.

Kogura Company
231 E. Jackson Street
San Jose, CA 95112 (408) 294-3184

Anne writes, “This is located in Japantown SJ two stores away from the famous manju shop. They carry about 15 types of bentos (lacquer-looking) from $14+. There are a few Hakoya bentos. Five or six 3-tier bentos with sakura/neko designs. As for bento supplies, they carry rice molds.”

Mitsuwa
675 Saratoga Ave.
San Jose, CA 95106 (408) 255-6699
www.mitsuwa.com

Japanese grocery store with kitchen and bento supplies. pure_trance writes, “They have several mens, womens and childrens bento boxes that are +/- $15 but they are really good. They have aluminum cups, separators, sauce and mayo containers, and rice molds.”

Nikaku Japanese Arts (Animart)
615 N 6th Street
San Jose, CA 95112 (408) 971-2822
www.nikaku.com

Anne writes, “Nikaku has very traditional bentos ranging from $35+. They have a couple ‘huge’ ones that can fit on one’s lap. They sell the little fish sauce containers and mayo containers. They also have flower rice molds.”

Nijiya Market
240 Jackson Street
San Jose, CA 95112 (408) 275-6916
www.nijiya.com
Anne writes, “They have Lock & Lock boxes and the fish sauce containers.”

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  1. Mitsuwa in SJ has an OK amount of things. They have several mens, womens and childrens bento boxes that are +/- $15 but they are really good. They have aluminum cups, separators, sauce and mayo containers, and rice molds.

    Also in the SJ area there are 2 asian markets, Marina and Ranch 99. I hate Ranch 99 with a firey passion so I haven’t been there since i’ve been into Bento. Marina has a lot of lock & lock boxes, 2 large (think picnic) bento boxes in a couple styles and some microwavable 1 tier boxes. They have veggie cutters and rice molds too, as well as microwavable steamers.

  2. Congrats! On my way to the voting booth!

  3. Cool, thanks kaoko!

  4. Excellent info, pure_trance — thank you! If anyone has inventory info on the SJ Ranch 99 (or others), please chime in! I haven’t been down to Ranch 99 in quite a while, so my info is old.

  5. Looks like they’re neck and neck with the Big Blue Whale. Where can we check out The Passionistas’ music?

  6. No problem :)
    If I decide to brave my hatred of Ranch 99 for new Bento stuff I’ll let you know what they have xD;.

    Also…San Jose Daiso coming soon! I hope they open up fast!!!

  7. A shame you didn’t write this in March, before y went to SF. At least I went into Ichiban Kan and Moritaya; but I would have liked to see the other places you recommend in the city.


    Lu.

  8. I voted for you! My fiancee and I just came back from Japan and I feel in love with so much of the culture – especially the bentos! Your site has been the most helpful in answering questions that I’ve had. Thank you so much for putting the time and effort in.

    Best,
    Alison T.

  9. Ooh, too bad! Better late than never, though.

  10. Thanks, Alison! I’m enjoying the research and learning process.

  11. Oh I forgot to mention that Marina is actually in Cupertino and Ranch 99 is either in Santa Clara or Cupertino. Marina is on Steven’s Creek past De Anza blvd.

    As for SJ Daiso, I’ve only heard that it’s opening I have no idea exactly when or where :(

  12. Congrats on your nomination! I think your blog truly deserves it.

  13. Thanks muffin! My Lunch Can Beat Up Your Lunch and I were joking around on the bentolunch community about the same thing (we’re both nominated), and I challenged him to a battle to the death!! (Fitting for the blog name.) Choose your food weapons — I chose frozen spaghetti cups. You wanna take on the winner? Choose your food weapon! ;-)

  14. Thanks much, purple7luv! Looks like the vegans are out in force, though.

  15. Thanks for the kind words, commoi! It does look like the vegans are out in voting force, though.

  16. Excellent info, mlouise007! I’ll update the entry in a few days (I’m getting ready to take a trip, so things are a little hectic over here).

  17. thanks for the guide!
    i arrived in san francisco today and first visits on my agenda are to japantown!

  18. Definitely go to Ichiban Kan. I was there yesterday, and they’ve got a lot of good inventory. They are out of the insulated bento sets at the moment, though. :-(

  19. Thanks. Yeah thats all I’ve heard too :( If anyone knows anything about the San Jose Daiso please let all of us know!!!!!

  20. Hmm, My Lunch chose yakitori — chicken for energy, the stick to poke with. Unless I can knock him unconscious with frozen spaghetti before he can stab me with the skewer, I think he’d win our fantasy food fight. I’d have to give yakitori good odds against an asparagus spear, too. We may have lost here, muffin!

  21. Bug and I are going to Philadelphia tomorrow to visit an ailing relative, so we’re in the midst of packing right now. I should be able to get out another entry before we leave, though.

  22. Congratulations!

  23. Thanks, kohaku!

  24. Congratulations on the nomination! I voted for you! Good luck! :3

  25. I was just at Soko Hardware yesterday, and they have quite a selection of things that would be useful for bento.

    Upstairs, in the back, they have a very few bento, and a few large, multi-layer picnic bento.

    Downstairs, in the far left corner, they have a whole bunch of useful stuff. I noticed several sets of steel shape punches (2 sizes, and I think each set had four shapes), foil food cups (round and oval) – which I did not see at Ichiban Kan, they only had the laminated paper cups – as well as all sorts of rice/sushi presses. There were at least two different styles of triangular onigiri presses, as well as the cute shaped presses (bear, heart, etc), and presses for different styles of sushi and sashimi. They had a few egg molds as well, and an egg-cuber. I also found a takoyaki pan, and they have multiple sizes of what I think were omelette pans – rectangular frying pans.

    There’s also a pretty big selection of rice cookers downstairs.

    I hope this helps! I noticed you didn’t have much information on Soko Hardware. :)

  26. Thanks for the support, bentonoibii! I need all the help I can get, looking at the vegan get-out-the-vote action going on!

  27. Thanks for the info on bear and heart shape egg presses. Do you suppose they have the rabbit shape also?

    Thanks very much.

  28. I can’t remember. I’m sorry! They were selling the presses in packs of three, I think. There was a heart, and a bear, and either another animal or a star as the third.

  29. I was at Belonging Gifts in San Francisco today on Irvine. They are located at 2206 Irvine Street. They have a large selection of character bento boxes, thermoses and spoon+fork sets, as well as chopsticks with containers. Every character bento box is $9.99. And almost every spoon+fork+chopstick set (you get all 3 in the set) is $9.99, they come in containers that will fit perfectly in your lunch sack, and there are a TON of character ones. As of today, the bento boxes they had were Winnie the Pooh, Hello Kitty, Mickey Mouse, Doraemon, and I think a few other really cute character ones. They are larger bento boxes, 500 ML +, some have 1 tier, some have 2 tiers.

    Down the street from this Belonging gifts, is a housewares store (2 stores down) that has a large selection of basic bento boxes (nothing cute, just plain plastic colors but with lock lids, ect) and thermos jars. They also have a large selection of picks, but no soy sauce or mayo containers. Also some side dish containers too.

  30. Oh, I love Belonging Gifts! They also have Totoro gear: cell phone straps, carseat strap covers for $15 (that I use on Bug’s stroller straps), etc. They have Shinkansen character gear as well (water bottles, etc.).

    Irving Housewares (23rd? & Irving) is pretty good for plain boxes, and there’s a cheap Chinese dollar store a block away called “Yes” that has super-cheap men’s two-tier boxes (very roomy). I’ll update this week.

  31. New store to add:
    We discovered (Just down the street from Mitsuwa) a Lion market, which is an asian supermarket (emphasis on the super) we got packs of steamed buns (1.19 for 6 buns!) and all kinds of bento sized goodies including Pocky and nori (laughing cow was 1.50 or so). Food prices are much, much better than mitsuwa and it’s literally down the street. No real bento goods, though they did have a few cheapie lunch jars.
    471 Saratoga Ave. in San Jose.
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/uXbh3bkm1rkG0HnQGtfQmQ

  32. Great work! I’m going to bookmark it.

    I would add a note that parking for Ichiban-kan in SF is actually very easy if 1) you don’t come during one of the street festivals and b) you don’t mind paying for the parking garage. ;)

    Mitsuwa also, in addition to some bento stuff, has a full range of Japanese cooking supplies, a million different brands of furikake, etc. While each of the other Japanese grocery stores in the area has its own good points, Mitsuwa is the most thorough one. It also has a little shop out front that sells the fancy New Year’s three-layer boxes, microwavable ceramics with plastic lids, etc.

    Someone mentioned Lion markets, too. There are several in the Bay Area; the one nearest me is in Newark by the Newpark Mall. Lion stores usually have a Japanese Food aisle with snacks and mixes. They tend not to have actual bento stuff, though the Taiwanese-style bookstore-and-cute-junk store out front sometimes has cute children’s ones, I think.

    Milpitas Square in Milpitas (just off of 880, near McCarthy Ranch) has an MV Trading Company (I think there’s also one in San Mateo) which carries Chinese and Japanese housewares and cookware, including some bento items IIRC.

  33. Hi there,
    I am familiar with your site from the Laptop Lunch Flickr group. I wanted to thank you for putting together this list of places to shop for bento supplies. I went to Oakland Chinatown today and it was a total bust. I kind of realized Japantown would be a better spot than Chinatown! It wasn’t until I got home that I thought.. wait a second.. I think I remember hearing something about SF recommendations on Flickr. So I did a search on the Mr. Bento group discussions and found the link to your recommendations. I will head to Japantown in SF tomorrow and see what I can find… another option would be El Cerrito, but it seems like Ichiban Kan is the place to go (I think Daly City is a little too far for me to go). If you only went to one place, would it be Ichiban Kan? I’m looking for egg molds, rice molds, shaped cutters, nori punches and other cheapie accessories.

  34. Or maybe Kamei?

  35. Thanks for the tip, robynchick!

  36. Thanks for the info, wintersweet!

  37. For what you’re looking for, I’d say Daiso in Daly City is definitely your one-stop-shop (unfortunately — it’s far for you). They have everything on your list except the egg molds. Failing Daiso, I’d say go to Ichiban Kan, then since you’re in the neighborhood, hit Soko Hardware (for the egg molds — I believe Ichiban Kan is out right now, but Soko may have them) and gawk at the overpriced but cute boxes & accessories at Moritaya.

  38. I ended up going on a quick run to Ichiban Kan in El Cerrito. It was such a pleasure to shop there, very clean and well organized. It is easy to drive to because they have a parking lot in front of the store. It would be easy to take the bus down San Pablo as well. I picked up rice molds, rectangle lidded containers for the Laptop Lunchbox, teeny sauce containers, plastic picks, “grass” dividers, bento belts, mini silverware, cloth napkins, and everything was between $1 to $1.50! They did not have any egg molds when I was there.

  39. Glad you were able to find some good things, letterknit. I haven’t actually been to the Ichiban Kan in El Cerrito, just the Japantown one. Great feedback on their inventory!

  40. Hello, I just wanted to let everyone know that Daiso has opened a branch in San Jose. Inside Eastridge mall. Their grand opening was on July 28th. Definitely not as big as the one in Seramonte but at least I dont have to drive far to get obento supplies. Unfortunately, they dont have egg molds.

  41. @50 from lynne:
    Thanks for this, lynne! I’d been meaning to update the shopping guide with the SJ Daiso, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

  42. Daiso is opening up in Cupertino, off of Stevens Creek & Portal (in the old Longs shopping center, near the Elephant Bar). I can’t wait to check it out after reading about all the cool things you’ve gotten there!

  43. @52 from Sun: Ooh, excellent info, Sun! Would you happen to know when they plan to open?

  44. No, there’s not much information except for the a sign w/ the new stores opening up (there’s also a Marukai & a Beard Papa coming) in the center. I’ll let you know if they announce an opening date or when they’ve opened.

  45. @54 from Sun: Beard Papa? EXCELLENT!! Their choux creme are truly transcendent (there’s also a store in downtown SF — so good). I also hear good things about Marukai from readers in L.A…

  46. More San Jose Bento Supply Places! :)

    Gotta support SJ Japantown. My bf lives in that area so we frequent the stores often. The “people traffic” has been quite slow lately.

    Kogura Company
    231 E. Jackson Street
    San Jose, CA 95112

    This is located in Japantown SJ two stores away from the famous manju shop. They carry about 15 types of bentos (lacquer-looking) from $14+. There are a few Hakoya bentos. Five or six 3-tier bentos with sakura/neko designs. As for bento supplies, they carry rice molds.

    Nikaku Japanese Arts (Animart)
    615 N 6th Street
    San Jose, CA 95112

    Telephone: (408) 971-2822
    Fax: (408) 971-0856
    Email: [email protected]
    Web site: http://www.nikaku.com

    Nikaku has very traditional bentos ranging from $35+. They have a couple “huge” ones that can fit on one’s lap. They sell the little fish sauce containers and mayo containers. They also have flower rice molds.

    Nijiya San Jose

    They have lock and lock boxes and the fish sauce containers.

  47. @56 from Anne: This is great info, Anne — thank you. I’ll add it all to the list with the next update.

  48. @58 from aJ: Ha hah, I believe you’ve got bento budget blowout aJ! You seem to be really into it! Enjoy your stay and all of the fun bento shopping.

  49. @56 from Anne: I finally updated the Bay Area bento shopping guide with your great San Jose info; thanks again!

  50. I am thoroughly enjoying your site! I wish that Daisho was there in Daly City whenever I was living there, once upon a time. I’ll have to send scouts (i.e., friends still in the Bay Area) there for me to get me bento gear. Looking forward to reading more of your posts!

  51. @61 from Rachelle Nicolette: Hey, thanks! Your friends in Daly City just might enjoy that kind of errand, depending…

  52. I love your website! You have such good ideas. Unfortunatly I can`t buy anywhere in my area Bento lunch boxes I am from Latvia (Europe). I tried different web pages where you can order Bento or similar lunch boxes like Fit N Fresh and Amazon even eBay but they have small choice of product or big shipping or they don`t ship to Latvia at all. I was desperately searching for Mr. Bento lunch box or something but nothing. I will try to improvise for my husband lunches. Thank you for your nice web page!!!

  53. @63 from Viktorija: So sorry to hear about your bento sourcing problem! I know JList ships internationally, but don’t know their shipping costs to Latvia — selection’s so-so. I think the BentoTV store will ship internationally if you order over a certain amount, but double-check their prices with competitors before ordering…

  54. I used your SF Japantown list just this weekend. It was really useful. Thanks!
    I thought you might want to know that I found a few bento boxes at Sanko, 1758 Buchanan Street (other end of the pdestrian street from Soko). They didn’t have tonnes but they did have some Hakoya.
    This is such a fun site . . . and informative. Kudos and thanks!

  55. @65 from Uyek: Thanks for the heads up about Sanko; I was in Japantown just this morning but didn’t stop in. Will check it out next time I’m there!

  56. I was just at Hankook market in Sunnyvale, CA, and they have quite a few bento products. They carry Zojirushi, Tiger, other thermos type lunch jars. They also have tupper-ware like bentos as well in thermal bags. They also care glass tupper ware for those who don’t want to microwave plastic.

    The Zojirushi lunch jars were around $45, The Tiger one was $36, and I bought a knock off for $23. I forgot the brand. I’ll post it shortly.

  57. I’ve been shopping at Ichiban Kan and Yaoya-San for a while now, since I’m in El Cerrito. Yaoya-San has a pretty decent selection of foods that are cheaper than the tiny selection that resides on the shelves of Safeway (half a block up. And Most importantly, the staff is nice and helpful as are a few customers. I don’t speak Japanese so I have to either go by sight or ask.
    As for the selection at Ichiban, it’s pretty minimal in my opinion. I’m going to try Tokyo Fish market instead for hardware. Barring that, it might just be cheaper to order off the internet.

  58. Mitsue, Tokyo Fish Market does have some bento stuff, but it’s a tiny supply and fairly spendy. If you can get to SF or Daly City, try Daiso or one of the places on Clement Street or Japantown. You’ll save a ton on shipping costs!

  59. I live close to Ichiban Kan and Yaoya-San in El Cerrito, and I was really happy yesterday when I went to Ichiban Kan that they added more bento supplies. More of the small items like dividers, sauce containers, etc. They were really lacking for awhile so I’m happy to see that they have a better selection now like their larger sister store in Japantown. I’m at Japantown every weekend anyways, but I love to support the little shop in El Cerrito as much as possible. Also Katana-Ya Ramen, the restaurant in the same shopping center is wonderful. We go there all the time ^_^

  60. I can’t post this on the BSL (google maps take waaaaayyyy too long to load for me) … wanted to tell you that in Japantown right next to Moritaya is Katachi – yes, the sword store! – also has some bentos, I got a great Hakoya there today.

  61. @72 from kuzatab: Thanks for the heads up on Katachi — I’ll go check it out next time I’m in Japantown.

  62. This is SO helpful! I was researching Bento boxes when I found your site; as luck would have it I’m in San Francisco as well. Thank you for these wonderful resources! I will check out Daiso – I drive by it often and thought it was a restaurant. Doh!!

  63. Hey Biggie!
    Thanks for this! I was in San Fran without directions so I called my dad and asked him to go to your site and find some for me! Success! Made it to the Japantown Mall and Ichiban Kan for the first time :)

  64. @75 from LenaLoo: That’s funny — I’m glad it worked and you made it to Japantown, LenaLoo!

  65. The new Daiso in Cupertino has opened a few weeks ago, next to (also new) Marukai super market.

    They both occupy the space formerly used by a Longs Drugs, for those familiar with the place.
    It’s at the Marketplace shopping center, a block or two west of Wolfe Road on Stevens Creek Blvd. It’s the shopping center with Merlion and Elephant Bar most visible from the street.

  66. Hi Biggie,

    I was at Ichiban Kan in Japantown yesterday and I couldn’t find any of the GlassLock bento boxes. Are there any other stores in Japantown that might have glass bento boxes?

    Thanks! Your blog is a joy to read.

    Thank You,
    Emily

  67. This week in Rainbow Grocery (1745 Folsom St., San Francisco), I spotted several bento box items (Laptop Lunchbox, Takeya Bento Box, those cute lunch bags that look like puppies, frogs, etc.)

    They also carry a lot of Asian-style food items. And they offer a number of different discount programs including 20% discounts every Wednesday & Thursday with a coupon from the AT&T phonebook.

  68. Yesterday, July 1, the new Ichiban-kan opened in the Tanforan Shopping Mall, San Bruno. It’s on the lower level, a few doors in front of Sears. It’s smaller than the SF Japantown store. It had most, but not all, of the bento gear that I have seen (and bought) in the City and El Cerrito.

  69. I thought I put a comment up here the other day, but maybe in another section… anyway, Pagano’s Ace Hardware, 1100 Lincoln Ave in Alameda close to the Tube now has Laptop Lunchboxes and Laptop Lunchbox Carrying Cases. They’re in a display right when you enter the store. It’s a fabulous good old time Hardware store that carries everything, well worth visiting! (Wonderful old Alameda nursery across the street, has a sweet coffee house attached.)

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