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Posted on Feb 15, 2009 in Bento, Equipment, For Kids, Shopping | 19 comments

Real-life Valentine bentos at preschool

Real-life Valentine bentos at preschool


Real Valentine bento lunches at preschool

I went to my son’s Japanese immersion preschool on Friday for their Valentine’s Day program, and asked permission to take photos of the children’s lunches in Bug’s classroom at lunchtime. I wanted to show the lunches anonymously here so that you all can see that even Japanese moms don’t necessarily go all-out for special occasion lunches. Don’t set the bar too high for yourself! This was the first time that I was in the classroom at lunchtime to see all of the different bentos, and I learned some interesting things…  (Click for larger photos of each lunch, and info on cheap bento boxes sold at Disney Stores in the US.)

First off, I realized that Bug’s bentos are unusual in his class because I don’t usually pack rice (although I did on Valentine’s Day).

Second, I was a little surprised that there weren’t more Valentine-themed bentos. There were a few, but only about a third. This was hugely reassuring to me, seeing that most of the lunches looked like my average speed bento — probably what I would have packed if I weren’t running a Valentine-themed bento contest this month.

My confession is that Bug’s Valentine bento took about 30 minutes to make, which is FAR LONGER than my usual 10-15 minutes. And of course I didn’t budget my time well enough, so was late getting Bug to school. This is why I usually make speed bentos! (Bug’s is the third one in the top row, with red and green heart-shaped rice balls. I’ll post a more detailed description of the contents later this week.)

I’m going to just present the photos without commentary so that the other moms will continue to talk to me! ;-) I don’t want to invite critique, but did want to show the wide variety of real-life bento lunches that you see on a special occasion at a Japanese immersion preschool in San Francisco.

Valentine's Day lunch #9 at preschool

Disney Stores in the U.S. are currently selling a variety of bento boxes in their retail stores, for US$5.50 for one, or $12 for three. They come in a variety of different designs for both girls and boys (Princess, Lightning McQueen, Power Rangers), with two removable subcontainers, and wing-type lids that are easy for small children to manage on their own.  All in all, a pretty good deal for Disney-themed bento boxes, remarkable for being so widely available throughout the U.S. They’re about 360ml (good for a preschooler’s appetite), and forum member koolchicken has posted photos of some here on Flickr on a forum thread about the Disney Store bento boxes. Use the Disney Store Locator to find a store nearby.

Valentine's Day lunch #1 at preschool Valentine's Day lunch #7 at preschool
Valentine's Day lunch #2 at preschool Valentine's Day lunch #3 at preschool

Bug’s bento is the one on the right above.

Valentine's Day lunch #4 at preschool

Valentine's Day lunch #5 at preschool Valentine's Day lunch #6 at preschool

Valentine's Day lunch #8 at preschool Valentine's Day lunch #10 at preschool

Valentine's Day lunch #11 at preschool

Valentine's Day lunch #12 at preschool Valentine's Day lunch #13 at preschool



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  1. Please THANK those moms for letting us see the bento lunches they made!!!!

  2. So lovely!!!

  3. I’m so impressed by each loving lunch that was prepared—thanks to all of you for sharing this personal view of your bentos.
    (Kids obviously DO eat veggies somewhere in the world…wow!!)

  4. thanks for posting the variety of everyday lunches. What a great inspiration.

    Also just a note about the disney bento’s. We have 3 of them and the side snaps keep falling/breaking off. They are cheap & cute, for sure, but for functionality I much prefer the lock&locks. Also something about the disney ones - they keep getting condensation in them so when my little one opens it up the flavors are moist & mixed more than usual. does that make sense?

  5. Thank you for this trip in real life!

  6. They are all tottemo kawaii. Thank you for giving us the possibility of inspiration with all these pics for our own bentos.

  7. Nice! And yes, thank them for the photos! nice to see a whole class set of loving lunches.

    Do you happen to know what the stainless steel boxes just above Bug’s and just below the sippy of apple juice are?

    They look like a good size. I just bought a To-Go ware because of a discount offer, but when I got it realised it is just TOO big for 90% of the lunches I will ever pack.

  8. Hi Dawn,

    Glad you got a To-Go Ware — did you get the 2-tier or the 3-tier? I work with the company and want to let you know we’ll be coming out with smaller sizes in the coming months.

    Please check back at the site!

    p.s. — next purchase, enter GREEN10 for 10% off your order!

    Thanks and hope we can meet your needs in the future. . .

  9. @ Stephanie
    I got the 2 tier. At this point in my life, I’d prefer something oblong, with a moveable divider and quite a lot smaller. I’ll keep an eye on the site for the new products! Thanks.

  10. Thanks for showing - what a great idea.
    What strikes me is the availability of fruits and veggies in the lunches, so much healthier than many traditional bag-style sandwich lunches. Very cool!

  11. I am SO going to the Disney store today for those bento boxes! I love Disney princess and fairy stuff. Even if it’s another five years before I have someone the right size to use them. ;)

  12. Thanks, very interesting!

  13. @7 from Dawn: Those oval aluminum bento boxes are about 300-350ml and have a removable subdivider. They don’t have a watertight lid, so you need to be careful about what you pack, but the upside is that you can cook/broil directly in them. I wrote a blog post about them.

    They’re a little pricey, though (around US$20). JList sells one here.

  14. thanks for posting- I was starting to wonder if I had the wrong end of the stick what with all the artistic bentos people seem to post on communities… one question: do kids ever get western-style lunches there, or is it all bentos?

  15. @8 from Stephanie: Thanks for telling us about the 10% off coupon at To Go Ware, Stephanie! I’ve posted it here in the Promotions & Coupons section of the forum.

  16. Cool, someone’s talking about me on a blog. :)

    Those lunches are so cute, I liked Bug’s lunch and the last one in the pink box the best. I’ve done some lunches similar to Bug’s, I guess now I’ll have to try the other one. I like how the sushi looks arranged in the box.

    Oooh, I just had an idea! I don’t eat seafood so while I was writing this I was wondering what I could substitute for the fish. Spam! I could do a sushi shaped version of my spam Musubi!

  17. Thanks for the heads up on the Disney bentos! I ran out and got them as soon as I saw. Just in time - I got the last princess one! At our store they were 3 for $10. I didn’t like the matching silverware came with a knife instead of a spoon. We picked up an extra Cars one for DD’s little friend.

  18. I am so in love with these bentos. My only question is… what are they?!? :)
    There are several that are quite pretty, I just wish I knew what they were and what they had in them.
    Thanks for sharing!!!
    - BaschaW

  19. Thanks. Yet another exceptional way of looking at things, this is certainly why I come to the blog site constantly.


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