A thin metal or lacquered wooden box divided into compartments. The bento box is used in Japan for storing separate small dishes that comprise an individual meal (most often lunch). In Japan, the bento lunch, which is commonly available at train stations, represents fast food elevated to high culinary art and design. Each of the country's 5,000 stations sells a unique box lunch that reflects the cooking of the region. The beautifully designed bento boxes can take on myriad shapes including masks, tennis rackets, nuts, golf balls or other objects both traditional and whimsical. More than twelve million bento-box meals are sold to hungry travelers and commuters in Japan each day.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.