The vast majority of our bento box manufacturers are located in Ishikawa Prefecture, north of Kyoto. You may know the city Kanazawa, which is nicknamed “Little Kyoto”. It is definitely worth a visit if you go to Japan.
Few days ago, I visited one of these manufacturers, and also had the chance to take pictures of the whole production line of bento boxes, (I had you all in mind, of course!) The mold used to make raw plastic boxes, the artisans who apply the color and patterns to the boxes, the machines they use, you can see everything related to the manufacturing process here. No hidden tricks, folks! (^-^)
Our boxes may be used by people all over the world (over 80 countries), but the manufacturing is all local—everything is located in the countryside in an area of two to three kilometers.
Except for the rice production and the timber trade, the great activity is the production on bento boxes and other products, such as bowls (for miso soup) and chopsticks. The production happens in a beautiful surrounding, as you can see.
Now, on to the production.
As for the plastic boxes, in order to make the boxes, a mold is necessary. The molds are used by some impressive machines which “sculpt” the plastic into the desired shape. You can see the machines and the molds below.
The next step is the fabrication of the boxes and other elements, like covers and dividers, are done in the press. The press works by heating and then blowing small plastic beads into the mold, which then forms the box. All of this happens a few hundred meters from the company which made the mold. Here is the man who cares for the plastic box fabrication, which he has been doing for 15 years.
Behind him, the bento box lids come out of the press and are deposited by a robotic arm on the table. At this company, there are about five or six presses and about a dozen people.
The last step is where they make the box look pretty. The plastic parts are now given their color by passing them under a paint gun. (This paint is a food-grade paint.) Each piece is examined—you can’t find any dust or particles on the surface of the box. If there was this kind of imperfection, it would be fixed immediately, of course!
“There we go”, the craftsman paints this box white. Now it awaits it’s motif.
The motifs are something a bit more technical. For most boxes, a screen-printing technique is used. The colors are applied where necessary using perforated screens. The more complicated techniques are need for boxes that are round, like the heads of our Kokeshi Bento!
This artisan here works for several manufactures, specializing in screen-printing, as I am sure you can see from the amazingly creative Kokeshi Bento above. These are all designs he created while playing around, thus, you will not see them anywhere else.
During our visit, he was busy applying the small red circles on the cheeks of the Kokeshi Bento with a machine that turns the plastic bento part and gives a few well-placed brushstrokes.
One by one, part by part, he adds his contribution to the pieces. It’s work, but is is a work that we and our craftsmen love. What a pleasure to know that these boxes made here will find their way into into the lunch bags of so many people in so many countries around the world.
Wait, wait! It’s not over yet! The last stop for the boxes before their delivery to Bento&co is at Hakoya, one of our favorite manufacturers. It is here that the elements of bento boxes are assembled and packaged.
Many small highly skilled hands pack assemble and pack the boxes, and also check that the job done right. That’s everything. Now, it’s time for us to our job: to promote the pretty boxes and export them worldwide. The fact that we can do that is all owed to these craftspeople.
Today in Kyoto, Aoi Matsuri was held. It it a beautiful festival where hundreds of participants dress in anicent garb and enact the festival as it was held hundreds of years ago. The festival began in the 6th century as a way to appease the gods that were seen to be causing the great number of hardships the people were experiencing at the time, such as disasterous rains that devestated the local crops. The festival gets its name from the word for hollyhock, aoi, which was believed to guard against natural disasters.
The emperor at the time, Kinmei, sent messengers to the local shrine in order to try to appease the gods, which wrere seen as causing the people’s hardships. The appeasement was done by the performance of vairous acts, such as horse riding. The sending of the messenger was then done year after year and developed into the festival that it is today.
Now, the messanger leads six hundred people, thirty-six horses, four cows, adn two ox carts to the two temples associated with the festival, Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine. Before beginning the procession, the festival also has horse racing and mounted archery demonstrations.
It is a truely beautiful sight to behold, and the people in the ancient outfits make you feel as if you have a view into the past. If you would like to know more please take a look at the Wikipedia page on Aoi Matsuri.
Here are a few pictures that we took today. We hope you enjoy them.
Come see the whole thing and all the results from our 2013 International Bento Contest (^-^)
Our 2013 International Bento Contest recently finished, and the International Grand Winner, Yunita won a trip to Japan, which was provided by Bento&co, as the grand prize. While she is visiting, she may want to travel around Japan, and we know a great way to do it, so we thought we would tell you about the Japan Rail Pass…
Two thousand kilometers separate snowy Hokkaido and the sunny beaches of the Kyushu coast. Yet, one can traverse this amazing land with all its beauty, pitfalls and dazzling scenery on an amazing rail network of over 20,000 km. The best way for the traveler to enjoy these benefits? Put a Japan Rail Pass in his suitcase
This single ticket, valid for periods of 7, 14 or 21 days is the golden ticket of Japanese travel. This ticket has no restrictions or complicated calculations to limit travel; you can traveling without constraints while fully enjoying all the nature and culture the country has to offer.
The train is an integral part of Japan and the Japanese people; locomotives cutting through the mist in pages of Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country, or the shinkansen (the bullet trains Japan is so famous for) are jewels of high technology and genuine national pride. They hold a position in society far beyond that of simple transportation.
After a few moments on board one of these trains, you can understand this well enough. On the main lines, trains offer comfortable reclining seats that can change directions so you can enjoy the company of friends or family. These flexible seating arrangements also allows travelers to fully take in the the sparkling waters of Lake Biwa or visage of of Mount Fuji while traveling between Tokyo and Kyoto.
You can purchase the Japan Rail Pass a maximum of three months before your trip, after which you will receive a voucher that you will use to exchange for a ticket once you arrive. And you can do this at any of the major train stations across the country. Quick, easy and convenient, it is the best way to experience all Japan has to offer.
Our friends at Japan Experience, who were extremely generous sponsors of the 2013 International Bento Contest, are experts at this whole Japan travel thing, so check them out and see what this Japan Rail Pass is all about.