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Posted on Sep 25, 2007 in For Kids | 28 comments

Bento box song


There seems to be a technical problem today over at Flickr affecting photo uploads, so instead of my bento photo backlog, I bring you a little children’s song in Japanese about bento boxes and counting that I learned in my son’s playgroup. It’s more of a little chant with hand motions alluding to the wordplay of food words that sound similar to numbers in Japanese. So children learn about counting and lunchbox food at the same time! I haven’t been able to locate video of the song on YouTube, please comment with a link if you know of one! (UPDATE: Here’s a quick little video I made showing the bento box song with hand motions.)

Obento-bako (Bento Box Song)

(Japanese version here)

Kore kurai no, obento bako ni (trace a rectangular bento box with both index fingers)

Onigiri, onigiri choitto tsumete (shape a rice ball in hands)

Kizami shouga ni, goma furikakete (right hand makes cutting then sprinkling motions)

Ninjin san (put up two fingers, then three fingers)

Sanshou san*, shiitake san, gobo san (put up 3 fingers, then 3 again, then 4, 3, 5, 3)

Ana no aita renkon san (make a hole with index finger and thumb, move hand left and right)

Suji no touta fuuki (run right hand up left arm from hand up to shoulder, then blow on your right hand’s fingers as if blowing a kiss)

*instead of “sansho” peppers, you also hear “sakuranbo” cherries


In a bento box about this size

Put in a few rice balls

Minced ginger, sprinkle with sesame seeds, 3 carrots

3 peppers, 3 shiitake mushrooms, 3 burdock roots

3 lotus roots with holes in them,

and butter burs with the strings running through them

*instead of “sansho” peppers, you also hear “sakuranbo” cherries



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  1. Neat! I’d love to teach my daughter that! Any chance of a little video?

  2. My daughter loves to sing this song. XD

    I’m pretty sure on okaasan to issho they’ve done this song many times by now.. but because of it being NHK I’m also pretty sure if it was ever uploaded on youtube, it gets deleted pretty quick. :(

  3. I just printed this for the 9th grader taking her first year of Japanese class. She happily worked her way through it, slowly. She might take it to school and get her teacher to help, but I’m doubtful. You have such fun resources. The 9th grader is why I’m learning all about Bento Boxes to begin with, your blog is a great and wondrous thing.

  4. Oh… it is so natsukashi. Brings back all the preschool days. Does Bug-kun learn this song from his preschool? Japanese kids also sing “obento obento ureshina” song before opening the lunch box.

  5. @1 from Monica: Hmm, video’s a little beyond my capabilities right now; I’m hoping someone will chime in with a link… Cross your fingers, and I’ll keep looking.

  6. @2 from FUYU: I wouldn’t be surprised if Okaasan to Issho’s done it; that’s how I learned most of those children’s songs. That and Inai Inai Baa!

  7. I knew you’d know about that- I can tell from your icon! ;) I was just pointing out how quick they are to delete it since NHK is really strict about copyright. I’m positive someone must have uploaded it- but it never will stay on youtube for more than a few weeks. :(

  8. @3 from Penelope: Actually, this song might be about the right level for first year what with the counting — it’s a popular preschooler song for Japanese. Thanks for the kind words, BTW!

  9. @4 from yumimb: Bug hasn’t actually started preschool yet — this coming Monday will be his first day (something about their licensing, the kids need to actually be 3 or turning 3 that month to start). It’s hard to believe that as of next week our lives will be so different! I’m sure he’ll pick up a lot of things at Japanese immersion preschool that’ll be new to me.

  10. @7 from FUYU: You know, for a second I actually forgot about my icon! It’s so obscure for non-Japanese that there’s not much recognition or talk about it. That’s fine, it can be our little potty-training in-joke. ;-)

  11. Biggie! You know what? If i remember correctly (she hasn’t watched it for a while) but, my daughter has a shimajirou dvd with that song in it — but an okinawa-ver since it was part of that year’s summer edition. LOL it won’t have the same lyrics, but I’ll see if I can rip it -given if I can get past the copy protection. I’ll write again and let you know. I’m also pretty sure that my daughter has a song CD with that song in it somewhere, so I’ll go and see if I can find that also.

  12. Oh my goodness! This is too cute.

    My family and I spent the summer of 2003 on Okinawa. Maybe you can help me find another song. When we would go to the grocery store in the evening, there would be an advertisement playing on a small TV by the bento boxes. It was a man and a woman singing about onigiri. The only thing I can really remember about it is that they sounded out the vowel sounds and sang “onigiri” at the end. Something like:

    “a-e-i-u onigiri…”

    The line at the end of the song sounded like a question, but not being fluent, I couldn’t understand it. To this day, every time my children see rice, they try to sing this song. I would love the know what the real lyrics were.

  13. Hi biggie. Do you know which obento song these kids are singing?

  14. @11 from FUYU: Ooh, cool! Do what you’re comfortable with in terms of the CDs. It may come down to just recording someone singing it into a mic and throwing up a link.

  15. Hi Biggie!
    Here’s the link to the ripped song:

    I will write again once I’m done with ripping the dvd and etc.

  16. Here’s the video! My daughter hasn’t watched it for a while, so I didn’t remember that before the okinawa version, they did the normal version!! So I just cut the okinawa version out.

    Sorry that this is the only way that I can offer this video to you and your blog readers. Benesse is also strict about their material on youtube & etc so I did not want to risk my viddler or youtube account to be suspended.

  17. @16, 17 FUYU: Thanks for the audio and video clips, they were fun.

    My daughter has the ShimaJiro orange frying pan with the bento song built in! You push the green Shima-jiro-shaped button, and the pan sings the bento song! Hard for this Gaijin to make out, my Japanese is not so good :( but now I have the lyrics.

    The frying pan came with a small bento box and some cloth bento items, like velcro broccoli crowns, carrots (or more likely hot dogs, I’m not sure which it’s supposed to be), a hard-boiled egg in a removable shell, and a cloth Onigiri with a crinkly nori layer! Hannah has such fun playing with it, I found it very clever with a high play value.

    Oh, and if you drop something in the fry pan, it senses the movement and plays a sizzle sound! So Hannah can cook and pack her obento any time she likes :)


  18. @16/17 from FUYU: THANK YOU, FUYU! I just edited the post to point to your comment with the links — they’re perfect. I like that they’re both slight variations on the lyrics I posted above. The first one leaves out the middle counting lyrics, and the second one uses sakuranbo (cherries) instead of sansho (peppers) as well as “gomashio futte” instead of “goma furikakete”. Variations in songs are so interesting! Thanks again. (P.S. My son has been asking to watch the video over my shoulder repeatedly this morning — you’ve got a fan!)

  19. @12 from Rebecca: Sorry, I’m no help to you as I left Japan in 1999 so I’m out of the loop on recent TV commercials. Maybe someone reading this knows which “a-i-u-e-onigiri” commercial you’re referring to and can help out…

  20. @18 from Darryl Papa-sensei: Man, some Japanese toys are so much fun! Nice linking of the song and the hardware — I bet Bug would enjoy that too!

  21. @22 Biggie: Thanks and thanks to FUYU. My daughter loves it and is trying to copy them. This is actually better than youtube because I was able to save it to my computer.

  22. @24 from Uly: Thanks for the downloading tip, Uly!

  23. > @18 from Darryl Papa-sensei:
    > Man, some Japanese toys are so much fun!
    > Nice linking of the song and the
    > hardware — I bet Bug would enjoy
    > that too!

    We wanted our daughter to have lots of exposure to Japanese so she can communicate with my wife’s family in the future :) so we got a subscription to the Benesse Shima-jiro mailing. You get a SJ book of about 30 pages with new fold-out paper engineering toys and scenes, a new DVD every other month, and a new toy alternating with the DVD. My daughter loved all of the parts, we still play with the books and toys and of course the DVDs. As an engineer in real life ;) I was amazed at how versatile and clever the toys were, and the ingenuity that went into the paper fold-out models.

    Yes, even the kid’s toys in Japan are very well thought out with lots of value. Worth the about $30 per month, especially in the middle of the Midwest where we don’t have a Daiso around every corner-or ANY corner.


  24. hear is a link to the song on youtube

  25. Hi, totally happened upon your site today by accident while looking for another bento site and was delighted by it. I’m a Japanese native who took obento to SF Japanese School every Saturday, so this isn’t a new concept, but I love that it’s becoming popular world-wide and that you’re presenting it so helpfully and amusingly. Myself, I’ve no time to make bento in the mornings with my work day starting so early (and so NOT being a morning person), but I’m a wannabe bento-maker and have unnecessarily collected egg shapers and nori cutters (from Daiso).

    I just wanted to mention that the “Obento Bako no Uta” my mom sang had “maarui onigiri” instead, continuing the shape theme started by the obento box.

  26. Hi!
    We are so in love with this cute kawaii song!
    I have a hafu girl called Tomie and she is so happy to learn with you this song!
    Thank you!
    And regards from Brazil.

  27. Wow, I’ve not heard this sung in English before! Great work.

    My friends made a song in Japan about lunch boxes. Its for Japanese Kindgarten Children, written in English.

    Free legit download if you would like a copy.

    Thank you