Further delay of Ichiban Kan online store launch

Molds for hard-boiled eggsI recently touched base with Ichiban Kan, a Japanese-style dollar store chain in the San Francisco Bay Area that carries inexpensive bento lunch gear, and they tell me that the launch of their online store has been delayed again. They’re currently looking at opening January 2008 at the earliest, but there’s no firm date, which may be part of the problem. I wish I had better news for people in the U.S. looking for specialty Japanese bento gear at dollar-store prices without shipping — maybe cross your fingers that a Daiso opens near you! Remember, too, that you can repurpose everyday items in a bento context by being creative.

As I wrote in the Bay Area bento gear shopping guide, Ichiban Kan is a good bargain store with a changing selection of matching bento boxes, insulated bento sets, bento accessories, collapsible sandwich cases, bento bags (kinchaku, insulated bags), egg molds (2 for US$1.50), rice molds, character bento goods (Cinnamoroll, Hello Kitty, Shinkansen, Pokemon), cute food cups, chopsticks and utensils with cases, etc. Most products are US$1 to $1.50 in the store. Last week the Japantown branch was out of egg molds and insulated bento sets, but they did have a new line of sleek, stackable black boxes with matching bento bands, chopsticks and case, two kinds of kinchaku lunch bags, etc. It’s a suitably masculine line that men won’t be embarrassed by. (Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Ichiban Kan, I’m just a fan.)

A Round of Thanks:

I’m tickled to have been tagged with the “Be the Blog” award from JD at the humorous I Do Things So You Don’t Have To.

Be The Blog award

Award creator MeAndMyDrum describes what it means to “Be the Blog”:

[it] really sums up what a successful blogger does. And what I mean by successful is that they make it their own, stay with it, are interactive with their readers, and just plain have fun.

Well, thanks, JD! I’m having a great time doing my thing here — it somehow brings together things that I’m passionate about: family, food and cooking, Japanese, writing, and finding ways to make my life easier. Packing lunches shouldn’t have to be a depressing obligation with the same old foods every day, and a bento lunch doesn’t need to be filled with all Japanese food or time-consuming food art to be “authentic”.

I’m passing this on to my friend Cenk at Cafe Fernando, whose mouth-watering photos and recipes for baked goods and Turkish food just knock me out. His creations and blog itself are things of beauty, and I have him and a few of his friends to thank for turning me on to Turkish food when he lived in San Francisco. Cenk, you ARE the blog!

I’d also like to mention that the respected 2007 Food Blog Awards are now accepting nominations, and anyone can nominate their favorite food blogs here in 14 categories. Nominations end on December 5th, at which point the top five blogs in each category will be determined by a panel of judges and then opened up to public voting for a one week period. Thanks to Habeas Brulee and reader Anna for nominating this blog in some different categories!


Published by Biggie on December 3rd, 2007 tagged admin, shopping | Print (no photos) Print (no photos) | Email this post Email this post

22 Responses to “Further delay of Ichiban Kan online store launch”

  1. Sophie Says:

    Whis our dollar stores would sell these things! But bento are not so popular in Quebec…

    Can I give you a list? ;-)

  2. Stephanie Says:

    I’ve fallen in love with Ichiban Kan. Shopping there is like an addiction now. We’re moving from the Bay Area soon so I hope they get their online store up and running.

  3. Yvette Says:

    I just placed an order with J-List.com, they have lots of bento accessories for less than I’ve seen it on e-bay ($2-$3 range). Bento boxes are a bit more, but with all the great characters (I ordered a Totoro one I would never find this around here - North Carolina).

    The shipping was not bad, just $15 for an order total of just over $100.

    I do love going to the Don Quixote dollar store in Hawaii, they have many fun bento gear, (all generic) for $1.00!

  4. JD Says:

    Biggie! What a gracious winner you are! We’re all so happy that you’ve found a way to combine the things you love into a blog WE love!

  5. Roy Says:

    Maybe this is a dumb question, given that Ichiban Kan is a Japanese dollar store, but is a lot of their stuff made in China?

    I guess I just find it inconceivable that you could buy things so inexpensively and have them NOT be made in China. Maybe it’s just me being from the East Coast and seeing only dollar stores with cheap Chinese-made products.

    By the way, I realize the bentos, etc., are Japanese-themed and have Japanese-language packaging, but that doesn’t tell me where they’re made.

    Like many others, I’m sure, I’m trying to avoid buying Chinese-made items, for a multitude of reasons. It would be nice to know that Ichiban Kan is an alternative.

  6. Bansheesmama Says:

    I cannot wait for the online store to open. Ebay seriosly is a ripp off. Egg molds for 9 dollars..no thank you. And shipping from Japan is pricey. Even tohough I have to admit I did brake down and bought some bento starter stuff from a nice Ebayer in Japan since we live in the boonies thanks to the US Military ( grrrr ). I am eagerly sitting and waiting. Please keep us posted!

  7. Bansheesmama Says:

    can I just add my spelling absolutely sucked in that last comment…lol! Fat fingers on the keyboard I guess….yikes!

  8. babesmom Says:

    Wish there’s a branch here in Singapore. Currently, we only have Daiso so here, but very limited in bento boxes and stencils. I had to splurge SG$36 on an authentic hello kitty rice mould, sauce and stencil set from Yahoo auction. Can’t find them in our local Hello kitty stores too.

  9. Biggie Says:

    @1 from Sophie: You might want to try the Bento Swap group on Flickr — there are always people looking to swap bento gear (and they might have a special request for something only found in Quebec if you don’t have bento gear to swap). Good luck!

  10. Biggie Says:

    @2 from Stephanie: Aren’t they good? It’s a good complement to Daiso. Last time I was there I got a silly toilet seat cover for my son that makes the toilet look like a blue hippo opening its mouth when you lift the lid. For $2! Gotta love it.

  11. Biggie Says:

    @3 from Yvette: Glad to hear you’re happy with JList; I’m certainly tempted by some of their boxes but can’t justify the expense when I’m surrounded by so much bento gear locally (no shipping costs).

  12. Biggie Says:

    @4 from JD: My pleasure, and thank YOU! (Sorry your comment got caught in Akismet’s spam filter — I cleared it.)

  13. Biggie Says:

    @5 from Roy: It’s not a stupid question at all, Roy! I think a good number of people are avoiding products made in China (including a number of Japanese parents at my son’s preschool). I went into the kitchen to examine a number of bento goods I bought at Ichiban Kan, and most of them are actually made in Japan (egg molds pictured here, Comment vas-tu snack box, Shinkansen chopsticks, Urara chopstick case, Pokemon baran food dividers, decorative sauce containers, etc.). That said, bento boxes made by the Nakano Company (including the popular blue 2-tier Urara box and my new Clickety Click triangular onigiri box) are made in China, so I think I’ll test those with my surface lead test kit from the hardware store.

  14. Biggie Says:

    @6 from Bansheemama: I’ll definitely keep you updated; I’d love to have good news to report about cheap bento gear available online! I hear you about the US$9 an eBayer is charging PER egg mold — pretty unbelievable (esp. because Ichiban Kan clerks tell me that seller buys their inventory from them; quite the markup!).

  15. Biggie Says:

    @8 from babesmom: I think any time you’re looking for licensed character goods you’re likely to pay a premium. There are exceptions (like the Hello Kitty, Shinkansen & Pokemon stuff at Ichiban Kan, or the Hello Kitty boxes at the Dollar Store), but they’ve pretty much got us over a barrel unless you customize your gear on your own. Good luck finding other gear in Singapore, and enjoy your Daiso!

  16. Jeannette Says:

    Hi, I’ve been reading your blog for a few months and have become disgusted with the crazy prices on ebay for bento gear!

    I found a site that has 3 types of bento boxes for sale. The site is called Mod Cloth and here’s the link:


    Two of the boxes are $15 and the other (a two tier) is $20. Not bad considering some of my bento boxes cost me $30 or more after shipping from Japan!

    I’m absolutely desperate for Ichiban Kan to go online! I can’t find a SINGLE BENTO BOX in SC!

    Thanks for the blog and thanks for the updates!!!!

  17. Biggie Says:

    @16 from Jeannette: Thanks for the Mod Cloth link, Jeannette! The more options we all have, the better (some eBay prices are INSANE, although you can find some bargains if you look). I’ll keep you all posted on the Ichiban Kan store; I really wish they would get that rolling…

  18. Lisa Says:

    Oh, I was just wondering about this - what a disappointment! I’m kinda jonesin’ for some new picks. They must put crack in the plastic or something :)

  19. Jeannette Says:

    Thanks, Biggie! I found great prices on oshibori a couple months ago but when I sent an email about combining many items for a single shipment, they never responded. Oh well.

    Lisa, if you have a World Market near you they have some cute picks. I’ve also gotten some from walmart in the part section and from Michael’s. =)

  20. Biggie Says:

    @18 from Lisa: I hear you about the crack! It’s a sickness, I tell you! *bows head in shame* (BTW, reader Jeannette wrote a comment to you on the blog in case you’re not checking…)

  21. Cenk Says:

    Thank you Biggie! This is extra special coming from you. By the way, I have to mention that you inspired quite a lot of Turkish moms who were struggling with the morning traffic in their kitchens.

  22. Biggie Says:

    @21 from Cenk: You deserve it, Cenk! I had noticed a Turkish presence in my reader stats and thought of your blog… :-)

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