Asakichi: Hidden gem for bento in SF Japantown
Part of my personal tipping point to restart blogging has been my proximity to Japantown, and the many other families at Bug’s school who pack bentos. I’m in Japantown pretty much every weekday and have been enjoying exploring little stores that I haven’t been in before. I was surprised to find that Asakichi now carries about 100 high-quality boxes, which hasn’t had much attention yet from the bento blogs. (Disclosure: I don’t have any commercial affiliation with Asakichi, just like their bento selection.)
I chatted with the owner, and it turns out that there are four Asakichi stores in Japantown: one for iron teapots & most bento boxes, one for antiques (the main store with high-end bento boxes), and two others stocking incense & kimono. The Asakichi main store is the first space on your right as you walk in to the West Mall from the Peace Plaza — I found some exquisite bento boxes there, like this bento box finished with Sakura cherry wood (pricey at $67, but drool-worthy).
The main store also carries a variety of hand-crafted magewappa wooden bento boxes from Akita, Japan that are out of my price range ($100-$125 each), but beautiful. Magewappa is bent wood, and the boxes shown below are made from the Japanese cedar tree (sugi, or cryptomeria). They’re often unfinished, making them a bit finicky in terms of care (hand wash, air-dry thoroughly for a day before putting lid back on, don’t put staining or liquidy foods inside), but evidently rice packed in magewappa boxes takes on the lovely aroma of the wood. Maki at Just Bento did a wonderful post about her visit to magewappa workshop Shibata Yoshinobu Shoten in Odate, Japan.
Asakichi is the only store I’ve found in San Francisco that carries magewappa bento boxes, so is definitely a go-to destination for bento fans. Here’s their magewappa (or “wappa“) bento box selection, in a glass case at the counter.
The Asakichi bento & ironworks store is on the bridge between Japan Center’s West Mall and the Kinokuniya Building, on your left as you walk towards Kinokuniya. This shop carries about 100 bento boxes ranging from $20 to $40 (many from Hakoya and Kotobuki), although the highest-quality/price boxes are in the other Asakichi store with antiques. The guy at the Asakichi ironworks/bento store said that he’d love to get in some thermal bento boxes, so keep an eye on their inventory for those.
I noticed that the Asakichi incense shop has an online store, but the owners say that they don’t sell their bento boxes online (just incense). Oh well.
Evidently the animal-themed bento boxes below are their best-sellers.
For email subscribers to Lunch in a Box, I’m sorry about the email late last week with a draft version of this post. I boneheadedly hit “publish” before the post was done, so you received my mid-process brain dump (d’oh!). I’m switching the RSS feed & email updates away from Feedburner to FeedPress. Email and RSS subscribers shouldn’t have to do anything extra, but if you’d like to be sure of receiving RSS updates you may want to delete the FeedBurner feed and add http://lunchinabox.net/feed.
Next post here will be actual food! :-)
Where to buy:
- Amazon: Wappa bento boxes (cheaper but lower quality), wooden bento boxes, Hakoya brand, and Kotobuki bento store
- Bento&Co: Magewappa bento boxes (pricey but high quality), non-plastic bento boxes, Hakoya collections (incl. modern)