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Posted on Nov 16, 2009 in admin, Bento, For Kids | 24 comments

Bento Box Song: Sandwich Version


While watching Shimajiro, a popular Japanese cartoon of a tiger cub that teaches kids little songs, manners and safety, I stumbled across an uncommon variation of the classic Bento Box Song (“Obento Bako no Uta”) that features more Western food — sandwiches! It’s kind of a chant with hand motions referencing food words that sound similar to numbers in Japanese. It’s less of a counting exercise than the original, but fun nonetheless. I also dug up a comedy show riff on the bento box song that Japanese speakers may get a kick out of — the Osaka comedienne in the video clip takes issue with the vagueness of the original lyrics and makes up new ones after bullying her fellow singers.

I don’t want to infringe on the Shimajiro copyright, so I made a quick YouTube video of me singing the song and doing the associated hand motions (what was I thinking? Thanks to my Twitter followers for humoring me!). Full lyrics and an English translation follow. While I was at it, I made a little video for the original Bento Box Song to show the hand motions, and added it to the old post.


In a bento box about this size
Put in some sandwiches
Minced parsley, top it with mayonnaise
3 strawberries, 3 mandarin oranges, 3 eggs, 3 bananas
3 macaronis with holes in them
and bacon with sinews running throughout

Bento Box Song (Sandwich Version)

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

sandoichi sandoichi choitto tsumete (hold up 3 fingers, then 1, 3, 1, then mime packing a bento box. “Sandwich” in Japanese sounds like the words for 3 and 1.)

kizami parsley ni mayonnaise kakete (make a squeezing motion like squeezing out Kewpie mayonnaise)

ichigo san (put up one finger, then three fingers. “Ichigo” strawberry sounds like the numbers 1 and 5 in Japanese)

mikan san (put up three fingers, then three fingers again. The “mi” in “mikan” sounds like 3 in Japanese)

tamago san (hands over head like an egg, then put up three fingers)

baanana san* (do “jazz hands” on either side of your face like “peekaboo!”, then put up three fingers)

ana no aita macaroni san (make a hole with index finger and thumb, wave hand left and right)

suji no toota bacon** (run right hand up left arm from hand up to shoulder, pull down one lower eyelid, then make a muscle with the other arm)

* The “baa” in “banana” is a sound-alike joke referencing the “baa” in Japanese peek-a-boo (called “inai inai baa”). To play “inai inai baa“, the adult hides their face with their hands, saying, “inai inai,” then uncovers their face while saying, “Baa!” Coincidentally, “Inai Inai Baa” is also the name of a long-running TV show on NHK for toddlers and their parents, teaching them little songs like Guru Guru Dokaan (click for video). It’s along the same lines as “Okaasan to Issho” (With Mom), both popular with the preschooler set in Japan.

** The “be” in bacon sounds like “akanbe“, a teasing gesture used by Japanese kids like “neener neener”. When kids do akanbe, they pull one lower eyelid down to show the red inner eyelid and stick out their tongue. Not polite!



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  1. Re: The “mi” in “mikan” sounds like 3 in Japanese

    I thought 3 in Japanese was “san.”

  2. That parody was amazing! My daughter and I always sing the music in Japanese but I will teach her your version with Western food. Loved your video!

  3. i’m sorry.I failed in the comment. I listen to Sandwich Version for the first time.
    Thank you!!

  4. @1 from Lisa: You’re right, 3 in Japanese is generally “san”, but when you count certain things it’s “mittsu” (hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu = 1, 2, 3). It’s the “mi” in “mitttsu” that this is referring to.

  5. @2 from Akiko: Glad you like it! I don’t know that I’d necessarily claim it as “my version”, though — it’s something I saw on Shimajiro. I got a kick out of the different food that it talked about as I’m more likely to make that kind of bento than a strictly traditional Japanese one.

  6. @4 from Babykins: Not your fault! When I upgraded WordPress my blog stopped accepting Japanese comments and turns them into question marks. :-( Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Hi!

    I can’t thank you enough for the japanese lyrics and translations! (both original and sandoichi versions). I’ve never wanted to ask the other nihongo speaking mothers, for fear that it was too complicated of a song.


  8. I love your site. My son and I love making lunch bento together when I have time. I also work at a museum that would love for you to visit and share what you do with families. How best to contact you?

  9. I loved it! Is there a tune, or is it just a rhyme and finger play? I appreciated the translation and knowing that sandwiches and mac and cheese are OK in a bento.

  10. @8 from felicia: So happy it’s useful to you! Not that hard, but the first time I heard it I didn’t really get all of the wordplay either.

  11. @9 from Amy: I sent you a private e-mail, so we can chat more that way about a museum visit. Thanks so much for thinking of me!

  12. @10 from Holly: There can be something of a background tune to it, although it’s done as more of a rhyme than a proper song. I’ve heard different background music for it; one would be at the comedy riff video linked above, and here’s another: In this video, the kids repeat the song making tiny, tiny hand motions for an ant’s bento. You can also do HUGE hand motions and a deep voice for an elephant’s bento.

  13. OK, I giggled - and thanks for the ‘mi’ explanation, I’m lucky I can count to (Gotei) 13.

    As to the character support, take a look at this thread and see if it helps:


  14. woah, this is pretty classic.
    The translation is hilarious.
    it was fun running into you at the foodbuzz conference (again)

  15. I love your video =)
    And your Japanese is pretty good! I’m impressed =)

  16. LOVE LOVE LOVE this video! You rock!

  17. I love!

  18. Your video is awesome! Love it!

  19. hi biggie!
    I love learning little tidbits like this!! :)

    why is it “kurai” and not “gurai,” though? must be a dialect thing I’m not aware of.


  20. Girl, you look fantastic! Love,

  21. @21 from Rarely: Hey, thanks Rarely! Haven’t seen you in a while. Hope all’s well!

  22. I just stumbled across your site when looking for Bento boxes for my kids, and I LOVE your site! Thank you so much! You have such good ideas and links on you site! Keep up the GREAT work!

  23. Bento box song, that’s amazing.

  24. The translation is hilarious.