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Posted on Feb 14, 2009 | 14 comments

USB bento warming bag

USB bento warming bag

USB bento warming bag

Here’s an ingenious specialized contraption from gadget-crazy, bento-friendly Japan. It’s a USB-powered bento warmer bag from Thanko Co. that plugs right into the USB port on your desktop computer and warms your bento lunch to 60 degrees C (140 deg. F). I could see this as being handy for people working in offices without a proper kitchen, or who use pack lunches in metal containers that can’t go into the microwave. It’s a little disappointing that it won’t work with laptop computers due to power requirements, though.

A Thanko staff member developed this when he wanted to heat up the bento lunches that his wife made him. The company already made a line of USB gadgets, so coming up with a USB-powered bento warmer was a natural solution.

USB bento warming bag (guts)

  • The bag opens wide to accommodate even large bento boxes.
  • There are two heaters inside the bag, incorporated into the top and bottom.
  • The webpage says it can heat up bento lunches bought in convenience stores as well as homemade bento lunches.
  • Due to power requirements, this can only be used from a desktop computer, and not from laptop computers, AC chargers, or some USB hubs.
  • Price in Japan: 1,980 yen (approx. US$21.50)
  • Dimensions: 140 x 200 x 90mm (5.5″ x 7.9″ x 3.5″) (W x D x H)
  • Handle: 170mm (6.7 inches)
  • Weight: 175g (6.2 oz)
  • USB cable length: 125cm (4 feet 1 inch) (Can you tell that I used to translate consumer electronics specifications as part of my job in Japan?) (Read on for information on availability.)

To use this, you’d want to pack your lunch carefully with heating in mind, packing fruit and other cold dishes separately or in a removable subcontainer (see my post on Hot vs. cold lunch packing considerations). If you’re not comfortable with heating food in plastic, tempered glass or metal bento boxes would be an excellent option.

The USB-powered hot lunch bag is currently available only on preorder through the Japanese-language website, and Thanko expects to have more in at the end of February 2009. If they don’t turn up on eBay, one of these overseas shipping services may be able to help you get them (albeit at a premium).

It might turn up eventually on Thanko USA’s online store Rare Mono Shop, which also stocks other USB gadgets like a USB coaster that can both cool and warm cups and bottles, USB cordless warm slippers, and even a USB head refresher! People have also posted on the Lunch in a Box forum about looking for a source for these USB bento bags, so keep an eye on that thread and comments here for leads.

(Disclaimer: I have no commercial affiliations with Thanko.)

FURTHER READING:

14 Comments

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  1. Thanks so much for the information!! This is such an interesting item!

  2. This is freaking awesome! I totally need one of these. My workplace has 30+ people going to lunch at the same time, and only 5 microwaves for everyone to use. Lunch is only half an hour long. There have been days when I wait in line until 5 minutes before lunch is over. >:( We get penalized for clocking back in from lunch late.
    But, I do have a computer in my office….

  3. This is pretty nifty. Like Bunny dais, there are lots of places that have many employees and computers but only one microwave which can be a commodity to get to. It may seem silly to some, but I can see the practical aplication of this.

  4. What’s the list price for this?

  5. You used to translate technical specs! I have a friend in Vancouver, BC who does the same thing for Nintendo. I’m hoping that someday my Japanese will be good enough to be able to translate things.

  6. I do hope that there’ll be a laptop friendly version soon — then that’ll motivate me to create more bento boxes.

  7. @5 from Aann: List price is 1,980 yen, or about US$21.50.

  8. @3 from Bunny: Very good point about the lines for the microwaves at your office — that’s something that hadn’t occurred to me!

  9. @6 from Jeff: One of my first jobs in Japan was straight translating ad copy and technical specs at a consumer electronics company in Osaka. That was great for my Japanese, as I was essentially getting paid to study Japanese and get my language questions answered. Later on I worked at a different consumer electronics company where I needed to be able to read technical specs in Japanese as part of my job, but it wasn’t straight translating. Challenging.

    Keep on studying, and I’m sure you’ll get there with Japanese! But because it’s so dissimilar to English, I find that I only got out of it as much as I put into it (takes a great deal of study).

  10. THAT IS SO AWESOME!!!
    We only have two microwaves here (in the cafeteria), and they just took one away. But they do sell hot food so I guess they figure less people bring their lunch or something. I have waited in the past for like 15 minutes for a thing to free up because I swear this woman was cooking her lunch or something, she kept putting it in. And I cringe when I see people heating things up in plastic for like 5 minutes. 1-2 minutes is my limit.

  11. @14 from Ellena: Um, because they didn’t read (or understand) the Japanese-language specifications clearly written on the Thanko website?

  12. I already knew that this gadget existed I dream I can find it in France!!
    Thank you for all this information and these great receipts!!

  13. this is so cool!
    But I can’t imagine it being good for your computer. :/