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Posted on Apr 2, 2008 in Equipment, Review, SF Bay Area Local, Shopping | 46 comments

Soft launch of Ichiban Kan online store

Soft launch of Ichiban Kan online store

Ichiban Kan logoSounding the death knell of the eBay $9 egg mold, Japanese-style discount store Ichiban Kan finally debuted its online store yesterday in a soft launch. Their shopping cart is not working at the moment, though, so you cannot yet place orders. Ichiban Kan e-mailed me that they did a test run today with an unexpected error, but still anticipate being able to take online orders in a matter of days (not weeks). (UPDATE: They’re accepting orders now; see my list of good Ichiban Kan products for the lunch packer.) You can browse some of their inventory now at www.ichibankanusa.com, but be aware that all of their products are not yet up on the site. The store’s bento selection is a little slim, but they write on their blog that they have a shipping container full of bento gear on its way from Japan now, and will continue to “aggressively” add more products to the online store. Stay tuned. (Read on for my initial review of the online store.)

Molds for hard-boiled eggsAs I wrote in the San Francisco Bay Area bento gear shopping guide, Ichiban Kan is a good bargain store with an ever-changing selection of Japanese household goods, including matching bento boxes, insulated bento sets, bento accessories, collapsible sandwich cases, bento bags (kinchaku, insulated bags), egg molds for shaping hard-boiled eggs (2 for US$1.50, available in fish/car and rabbit/bear shapes), rice molds, character bento goods (Cinnamoroll, Hello Kitty, Shinkansen, Pokemon), cute food cups, food picks, sauce containers, chopsticks and utensils with cases, rectangular tamagoyaki omelet pans (see my tamagoyaki tutorial), etc.

After an initial look, I think their prices look teriffic, at little to no increase over their low in-store prices. Most products are US$1 to $1.50, significantly cheaper than the inflated prices you’ve probably paid on eBay up to now. Shipping is within the continental United States only, via UPS (see their shipping rates here). They plan to expand their shipping options, though, so we’ll see how that turns out. They will be offering discounts to wholesalers as well, so until Ichiban Kan ships internationally we may see other online stores acting as middlemen. I also wonder if this will increase the number of retail stores across the country offering Japanese household items…

All in all, this is an excellent development for the U.S. bento community eager to get their hands on reasonably priced bento gear. I’ll post again soon once they get the kinks ironed out and are able to accept online orders. (Disclaimer: I have no commercial affiliations with Ichiban Kan.)

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  1. Hallelujah!!! Hallelujah. Sorry ebay, but you’re outta here! Thanks for the update.

  2. This is music to my ears! No more overpriced bento equipment for me. :D

  3. I’m so excited about this! We’ll enter a new era of bento-making! It figures that it would open just as I’m making plans to go to Japan, though!

  4. Oh man I thought making money at this time of the year was difficult enough and I suddenly feel my bank account getting smaller… and smaller… and smaller.

  5. Thank you! I’m sharing the information with my daughter who is even more “Japanese” than I am. See, her husband worked for a Sushi Restaurant and became a “son” to the owner. He speaks limited Japanese, gets anime in Japanese with subtitles, and the whole family loves the language, culture, and of course The Food. And she’s been looking for affordable Bento supplies while avoiding the stores due to very busy 2 year old. This will be a godsend to her.
    Again Thanks for the Information.

  6. Thank you!!! Yeay, it’s like the dollar store online. Can’t wait. Thanks for sharing the tip!

  7. thank you so much for your amazing blog. you have turned me into a bento wannabe and i am happy to say that i love this sweet way of preparing lunches. i just made my first for my kiddos and thought i’d share. cheers. :)
    http://thequeenofquirk.wordpress.com/
    thank you so much for the info and inspo! :)

  8. Oh, I wish they would ship to Canada! I can’t find anything here…

    I agree with Namahottie : Bye-bye Ebay!

  9. Great link, I can’t wait to order a few new Bento Kits for my boy’s :)

  10. I really would love this if they ship internationally! There is a fairly limited supply of bento items on ebay and here in Guatemala, we don´t have anywhere to buy stuff like this . . . it´s hard to even get cookie cutters!

    Love your blog, by the way. I have a 2 year old and a 10 month old and am using your blog as inspiration for meals for my oldest.:D

  11. Hi! Thanks for posting this. I was dreading trying to find a place on the east coast for bento supplies. I gotta say I love your site. I was looking for better lunch options for my 6 year old and myself and this is fabulous. I am ramping up for full scale bento production by the time my 3 month old is ready to start eating solid lunches.

  12. Wow, I’m glad I’ve held off on ordering through ebay.

  13. Oh, that’s great news! The stores in my area are outrageously expensive – $10 for a $3 box, if you’re lucky enough to to find one. Thanks so much, Biggie!

  14. bad news for me- they arent shipping internationally… yet. heres to hoping!

  15. I can’t wait. I’ve been checking their site every day now. It’s so hard to look at all the items and not be able to hit the “buy” key. I’m so excited.

  16. Squee, squee, squee, is all I can say :) Thanks for keeping us updated!!!

  17. I almost cried seeing some of the prices up there finally I can’t wait, I used to live in NYC and was able to get bento gear easily but since I’ve moved it’s been a real nightmare XD Please give us an update when the shopping cart is working?

  18. This makes me insanely happy! I was fortunately able to find my egg molds at a somewhat reasonable but still expensive price ($20 for the set of 4), but I’ve been eyeballing those onigiri bentos on ebay for a while now. Guess what they say is true; Good things come to those who wait!

  19. Oh my god! Wonderful! Thank you so much for keeping us updated! This is especially good news to someone who used to be in the area, but now lives in Illinois.. :)

  20. Sweet! Saves me a trip to the Bay Area. :D

  21. @18, Cerri – wait, where in NYC? Cuz I’m in NYC and never find anything priced as well as SF… or anything at all, sometimes :(

  22. I am so dancing with joy!!!! The prices are wonderful!!! I just spent $50!!! It’s either going to be the death of me financially or the birth of my new love for bento!

    Whoohoo! :o)

  23. Yeay it’s Christmas all over again:-)

  24. Wow..Great news! We have been dropping a lot lately on ebay adding to our collection these last few weeks and these prices + shipping are killing me!!!!
    Off to peek!

  25. Oh thank god it’s not just me. I tried placing my order and there was an error. Hopefully it gets settled soon and the bento section has more to it! Thanks!

  26. Too bad their website doesn’t work in my browser. (Firefox). Shouldn’t their web designers have noticed this? It’s really too bad! I’ve been waiting really eagerly for the launch . . .

  27. Hmm… I can’t get the page to work for me at ALL. :(

  28. Did their website break? I can’t see more than the front page of their website in either Firefox or Safari… :(

  29. Does the site only work on internet explorer? I can’t see any more than the front page either. Maybe the site had too much traffic?

  30. To the other posters:

    I use Firefox and can get to the website just fine. Make sure your Firefox is updated. I think there was an update just a few days ago, it might help.

  31. @33 from Chris: I had the same issue this evening after being able to see everything. They must have broken something, and just thrown up the initial page with non-functioning links until they get things sorted out. No inside info, though — just guessing here.

  32. @34 from Bri: I don’t think it’s an IE vs. Firefox issue; I’m on Firefox and could see everything earlier, then it looks like it broke this evening and they threw up their old front page with non-functioning links. Hopefully they’ll get it straightened out soon.

  33. @32 from Spiderdust: I think they broke it this evening — I could get it to work earlier, but now it’s wonky.

  34. Site is still broken. so sad!

    At least I got to see it earlier.

    Thanks for letting me know it was up and running. Now, just give me patience until I can actually plan an order.

  35. @9 from Sile: I just checked, and that bento eBayer is still charging US$9 for ONE egg mold.

    And, wow, “bargain” price of $25 for the set of four (bought at Ichiban Kan for $3 plus tax) — that’s quite the markup. I wonder how many takers she’ll have once Ichiban Kan is able to accept orders on their site…

  36. Hooray…I hear that money walking out of my pocketbook already! I can’t wait until its up and working! I just super-organized it all and have tons of space!
    My friend has to up and move suddenly …while I am sad for her situation (though she did it to herself) I inherited all her bento gear she couldn’t take with her!! I am in bento heaven!

  37. @40 from Biggie:

    Indeed. I’ve only gotten a couple of things from her, but they weren’t horrendously overpriced (thank heavens!). I mostly look at her stuff to see what’s out there, and then go find it elsewhere. LOL

    Ichiban Kan will be at the TOP of my links list for places to buy bento.

    My site is back up, but the url changed slightly, and the name is changing. It’s not 100% up yet, because I need to make a new banner, but the site is THERE. (The link is on my name now, if you click it.) Going for a new concept. I’ll email you later with more information. :)

  38. I just wanted to say that i visited san fran today and hit many of the stores on your great “san fran” guide to bento shopping. I bought so much from itchakan ! Gotta love it !!! Can’t wait til the website is up and working !

  39. Opps totally mispelled that.

  40. @42 from Sile: Good luck getting your new site up and running how you like it. Let me know when you’re ready for me to put it up on my Lunch Links page!

  41. There is a seller on ebay selling those egg molds for 4 for $25.00. Blows my mind… I picked them up at Ichiban Kan for $3.00.

  42. @47 from b: Those eBay prices are INSANE, aren’t they? The sad thing is that there are probably people out there who don’t know that they can get them cheaper, and waste their money. It’s fine if they’re rolling in money, but I doubt that’s the case for everyone. Quite opportunistic (yes, I realize that can be seen as entrepreneurial praise as well as moral condemnation).

  43. Oh wow, thanks! I’ve been looking and looking, trying to bento supplies and I just couldn’t! (in Portland, Oregon too! It’s not like I’m in the back woods or anything!) And so cheap, even with shipping the cost came out to about $2 per item, and that’s including the lunch boxes! WOW!

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