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Posted on Oct 8, 2008 in Bento, Equipment, SF Bay Area Local, Shopping | 32 comments

SF Shopping: Additional bento stores

SF Shopping: Additional bento stores


It’s been a while since my last bento shopping update for San Francisco Bay Area locals, so there’s quite a bit today. I’ll be updating the San Francisco Bay Area bento shopping guide, the online bento shopping guide, and the store entries in the Bento Store Locator with this information for quick reference.

  1. Sassy lunchbox at Kawaii Corner, San FranciscoKawaii Corner: Selection of cute kids’ character boxes, plus online store with international shipping (SF Richmond Dist.)
  2. Kamei: Tiger thermal bento kits and Asvel bento boxes (SF Richmond Dist.)
  3. Ichiban Kan: New branch of Japanese-style discount store to open March 2009 in Tanforan Mall  (San Bruno)
  4. Kukje: Tiger thermal bento kits, Asvel bento boxes, and Lock & Lock boxes (Daly City)
  5. Katachi: Touristy sword & knife store in Japantown with Hakoya boxes (SF Japantown)
  6. Nijiya: Some men’s Asvel boxes in stock (SF Japantown)
  7. Sanko: Depleted bento stock, more due in December (SF Japantown)
  8. Target: 5-packs of silicone baking cups for US$1 (U.S. nationwide)

Read on for the full details on each store.

(Alert: Due to ongoing issues with my hosting provider, I’m going to be changing web hosts over the next few days to reduce site downtime and speed up loading time. The transition *should* be seamless to readers, but some of the latest reader comments might appear to go temporarily missing in the transition. I’ll do my best to move any stray comments to the new server — rest assured that they’re important to me, and haven’t disappeared into the ether!)

1. Kawaii Corner 

I was tooling around the Richmond and stumbled across Kawaii Corner. With a name like that, I figured they might have bento gear. I was right:

They’ve got 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 above.

Kawaii Corner
5406 Geary Blvd.  (between 18th Ave & 19th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 666-3826

Hours:  Mon-Sat 11:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

2. Kamei

In addition to the variety of traditional, small Hakoya boxes that I wrote about earlier, 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), so you’ll have to ask the somewhat grumpy sales clerks to show them to you (tip from the manager: use clear, simple English when speaking).

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, a good Lock & Lock selection, and good-quality large Asvel boxes (950ml) with insulated carrying bags.

Hakoya boxes at Kamei, San Francisco

There’s no one single section for bento gear: look on the far back wall of Aisle 6 for cheap thermal lunch jars and multi-person Lock & Lock picnic sets, in Aisle 7 for the GlassLock and Asvel boxes, and in Aisle 4 for Hakoya boxes and multi-person jubako serving boxes. Whatever bento gear you find at Kamei will likely be the cheapest price in San Francisco.

3. Ichiban Kan to open store in San Bruno, March 2009 

Reader Tiphanie tipped me off that Ichiban Kan, a popular Japanese-style discount store with lots of bento gear, will be opening a new store in the Tanforan Mall in San Bruno. Thanks Tiphanie! Ichiban Kan manager Rumi confirmed that the store is planned to open in March 2009, so it’s still a ways off. Nonetheless, it’ll be a welcome addition so that shoppers on the Peninsula won’t have to drive all over or pay for shipping via Ichiban Kan’s online store. Stay up to date via the Ichiban Kan blog or the Tanforan Mall website.

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

4. Kukje

This Korean supermarket in Daly City has always had one of the best Lock & Lock selections in the Bay Area, but they’ve expanded their other bento offerings as well. They carry a variety of standard bento boxes (including Leaflet and Asvel brands), as well as thermal lunch jars and the Tiger thermal bento sets described above. Prices are generally higher than Kamei, but their selection is quite good.

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

(650) 992-0333

5. Katachi

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 (see the San Francisco Bay Area bento shopping guide). Thanks, kuzatab!

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

6. Nijiya 

This Japanese supermarket in Japantown 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. Prices for the boxes are quite competitive — I was a little surprised.

Nijiya Market
1737 Post Street (in Japantown)
(between Buchanan St & Webster St)
San Francisco, CA 94115

(415) 563-1901

7. Sanko

Sanko’s bento inventory has been a bit depleted, and they no longer have the microwave-safe donburi bento boxes (”Don Don Lunch Box”) or the best selection of men’s bento boxes in San Francisco. Still worth checking out if you’re in Japantown anyway, but ratchet down your expectations. They expect to get more bento inventory in December. (See my full store review.)

1758 Buchanan Street (in Japantown)
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 922-8331

8. Target

I’m a little late to the party on this one, but Target’s dollar sections currently stock packs of five reusable silicone baking cups in red, yellow or blue for US$1. Go quickly — these are getting snatched up like nobody’s business and their inventory rotates out regularly.

Disclaimer: I have no commercial affiliations with the stores reviewed above.


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  1. Thanks for the update! I’ve got to plan a serious Japantown/Sunset/Richmond shopping expedition next time I’m out there.

  2. The first illustration really cracked me up. Hard to believe what I’m seeing!

  3. HAHA!!! Love the cartoon on that lunchbox :-D

  4. I really wished I lived where there was access to bento supplies.

    I asked this question in a different post but do you have any recommendations on easy-to-open condiment containers? Unfortunately I can’t tell from looking at photos from online shops if the container will be easy enough to open for my 5yr old daughter. I bought her a really cute apple one but it’s nearly impossible for me to open! I’ve looked at non-bento stores (Target, etc) but I haven’t found anything that is leak proof. I would love it if you could give me any recommendations!

    Love your blog! :)

  5. WOOHOO! A store with a website. Now I don’t have to overpay for everything! Thanks!

  6. For small condiment containers, has anyone considering the camping supplies section of REI? (If there’s one near you).

    The containers aren’t itty-bitty, but they do have a fairly good sized collection of small containers that would fit into most of my containers (that I’m currently using until I find a real, live Bento box). They would also fit my thermal lunch jar. For condiments, I currently use a set of three teeny jars that I found in a hardware store in my neighborhood.

  7. Wow, I haven’t been up to Kamei in a while, they’ve really expanded! Thanks for the info!

  8. Thanks for the Target tip.

  9. I went through the “small things” bin at a nearby “Container Store” one day and found 1 and 2 oz plastic bottles with wide mouths that my husband and I like a lot for condiments. They’re easy to fill, the caps are interchangable across sizes, and they’re easy to open.

    Good luck.

  10. My sister has a purse that has the angry little girl’s motif. Hilarious.

    My target has heart-shaped silicone muffin liners and cute chinese takeout box style purses done in teal, wine or a bright blue.

    I want that green L&L bag from Kukje! Mine doesn’t have straps! :(

  11. Thank you so much for the update.

  12. Hey Biggie! I just wanted to give you a heads up. Ichiban Kan USA has thermal sandwich box bags. I just saw them today.

  13. @4 from Astrid: What kind of condiments are you looking to pack inside? Spreads (like peanut butter, cream cheese), small amounts of liquidy sauces (soy sauce, vinegar, dumpling dipping sauce), larger amounts of lumpy, viscous liquids (salad dressing), or thicker condiments (ketchup, mayo, mustard)? I’ve got different recommendations for each.

  14. @9 from TNT: Nice tip on the Container Store 1 & 2-oz bottles — thanks!

  15. @10 from Monica: The only problem with the green Lock & Lock multi-person picnic set with strap is that the bag isn’t insulated. :-( When I stopped by there the other week with reader Yvo, though, we found that they now stock a really cool insulated multi-person picnic set with built-in ice packs in some of the containers. Lock & Lock lust! Can’t justify the purchase, though.

  16. @12 from Laural: This is excellent info, Laural — thank you so much! I added it as an update on the combo sandwich case/bento box post.

  17. I’m searching for a good thermal set for the winter months… Would love to hear your comments on the brown Tiger thermal bento set vs. a Ms. Bento. Is either better at retaining heat? I like that the Tiger set has a locking lid… I’m hoping it’s leakproof? Thanks so much for all the info.!!

  18. I love that tiger thermal set. It looks so neat!

    Also, I saw those sillicone cups at target a few weeks ago and was so happy! I absolutley love the Target $1 bin. Such a strange place to find so many bento goodies. :D

  19. It’s weird to ask this, but you ever seen bento boxes that are made from wood? Is there a standard to be met for using wood boxes? I’ve been wondering about boxes that are more mature in theme but still qualify as ‘bento’.

  20. Daiso, in Serramonte is a GREAT place for bento things. A $1.50 store (most things are between $1.50 - $5.00), you can find a pretty wide selection of bento boxes, as well as cutesy containers for condiments like kewpie, furikake, etc. They also have fantastic cellophane wrappers for musubi, complete with cutesy stickers to seal the package. These musubi wrappers are the real deal - they keep the nori away from the rice until you’re ready to eat them!!!!

    Oct 10, 1:09 PM

  21. This bento store locator is so completely awesome. It helped me to find a store when I was making my way through NJ. My first Japanese store! I was giddy - yes, I was a dork. But I’m heading there the next time I go that way! OMG, the varieities of umeboshi, fresh onigiri, furikake, candy, sake, etc. - and the lady giving out food samples in Japanese - so cool! Cuz usually anywhere I go that has Japanese food is run by Chinese. lol. Not that most people can tell the difference…

  22. Word of warning on the cheap silicone cupcake liners at Target…we went out to Target after reading about them here…there were only 2 pkgs left…I opened one up to see what they were like and was showing it to my daughter - there was a VERY slight tug on the liner when we were passing it back and forth and it tore. If you see them as disposable they’d be ok but I didn’t buy them b/c I was worried they’d all tear when washed or whatever. I was very disappointed in the quality.

    On the other hand the $ store had some different shaped silicone “molds” …I think a heart, moon and rectangle - they are a dollar a piece and are kind of on the large size - but they are a lot thicker silicone…bought some for my dd’s bento.

  23. Biggie - I’m looking for small leak-proof containers to hold dressing (mostly ranch) and ketchup. I assume that I can use silicone cups to hold the thicker stuff like pb and cream cheese (right?). I have refillable soy sauce bottles. It’s important that they be easy for a child to open. THANK YOU!

  24. I am not so fortunate to be in CA close to everything BENTO, however, I have found that Target has been a haven for some great finds…lunch bags, silicone cups,”bento” forks and spoons(baby stuff really). Maybe I should plan a trip strictly to bento shop ;)

  25. @23 from Poemi: So glad the Bento Store Locator (BSL) is helpful to you! It’s only as good as everyone’s input, though, so be sure to enter comments and new store info as you find things near you… Thank you!

  26. @24 from Edi: Thanks for the feedback about the poor quality of the Target silicone baking cups — I didn’t actually buy any, so I didn’t have this info. Very helpful!

  27. I don’t know if this will help, but I live in Philly and it’s not really a big place for Japanese stuff, especially the small knick-knacks.

    For condiment containers, I finally went to a restaurant supply store and got two sizes (3/4 oz and 2 oz) of the disposable souffle cups and matching lids (125 count). It was about three dollars for each item.

    I’m pretty sure that a toddler can take the lid off, though I wouldn’t say the lid has a long life under rough handling. But these are the same containers used for soy sauce or salad dressing for take-out, so you know they are pretty much leak proof.

  28. Biggie, I am curious what the pricing on the Lock & Lock insulated set you found was. I have some up on my ecrater site and am based in Chicago so I’m always curious as to what things are priced at in the SF area.

    I bought a Mini Bento from Zojirushi for my preschooler and love it, especially since the Chicago winter is looming around the corner. I have to look at it as a long-term investment-it’s pricey but I think it will be worth it!

  29. @32 from Serena B: Yow, your pricing on the non-insulated L&L set looks a little high. At Kamei I got mine (uninsulated, light blue) for under $9. I don’t remember offhand how much I paid for the insulated one, but I think it was under US$15. I found the new, striped, insulated ones last week at a new store for US$14.99 (for the single-person ones, not the multi-person picnic sets).

  30. Wouldn’t you know it? That store locator shows nothing in my town.

    Guess I’ll have to manually search the streets, and add what I find. I do know we have Asian food stores, none of them sell bento, but a lot of them sell Asian food and accessories, chop sticks and tea sets.

  31. Hey, where do u get that lunch box from, cos i really, REALLY want it. do u know any retailers? or maybe you can sell them youself. i am DYING for that lunchbox :D