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Posted on Sep 29, 2009 | 25 comments

Poll: How many American bento-makers are men?

Poll: How many American bento-makers are men?

American men & bento?A Japanese radio station asked me to do an on-air interview about bento lunches in the United States, and they seem to think that there’s a growing trend of American men who pack bentos. This may be because of a recent trend in Japan of “bento danshi“, or men making bentos for themselves or their families, often as a way to cut food bills in rough economic times. (See the recent Guardian article and video on the subject, or a Japanese TV clip about bento men.)

Although I know of a few men who make bento lunches (Mr. T on the Lunch in a Box forum, A Man’s Bento blog), my impression has been that the vast majority of U.S. bento-makers are women. If you’re a bento-packer in the U.S., weigh in via the poll so we can either prove or debunk this theory!

Do you know of other men who pack bentos in the U.S.? Bento blogs or Flickr streams by men? Are you a man who packs bento lunches? Feel free to weigh in or share links in comments. The radio interview is slated to air in Tokyo late this week, and I’ll provide a link to the podcast afterwards. UPDATE: The bento segment aired on J-Wave Friday morning Japan time, with a Japanese write-up in the Global Frontline section of the station’s blog.

If you're a bento-maker in the U.S., are you male or female?

  • Female (82%, 874 Votes)
  • Male (18%, 196 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,070

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Poll voting closes at midnight Pacific on Wednesday, October 28, 2009.

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25 Comments

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  1. That is very interesting… my son (14yo) asked me recently to go back to lunchboxes as well, he is tired of school lunches (that he was begging to have on the beginning of this year)…

  2. My husband helps with packing the lunches somewhat often… he single-handedly packed the girls’ lunches for the first day of school, and they LOVED them. He doesn’t do that regularly, though :)

  3. I haven’t answered the poll – being that I am not in the US and all ;). Anyway, I find myself using “men’s” bento-boxes since women’s boxes are too small to fit my calory need. The male box being too big though. Men’s boxes are, I know, supposed to be cool but they lack colour and are all in all pretty boring. Can’t they make bigger boxes with some colour?

  4. Hi there,
    Thank you so much for linking my site.

    Your Bento are amazing!!
    It’s embarrassing as a Japanese mom, but I can’t pack lunches as good as you.

    I want to know how many men are lunch-packer in US.

  5. @3 from Jessika: I’ve seen some kind of cool-looking men’s boxes from Hakoya and Tatsutomi (? might be wrong on the brand — going from the top of my head), sort of muted lacquered-look plastic. If I find an online source that ships internationally I’ll let you know.

  6. @4 from Yvette: I didn’t actually have a poll in the NYT article; was it something that the NYT itself was putting on?

  7. When I first showed Bento to my husband, he said “that looks like a lot of work.” Then he said “please don’t go touching my food that much.”

  8. @8 from jomamma: Just read your comment to my husband — had a good laugh about touching the food. Happily, I don’t sculpt food much, so not so much concern with that here.

  9. @9 from April: I think I must have been out of coffee when I wrote my comment. What you wrote makes sense, although traffic to that NYT article has died down considerably from a couple of weeks ago.

  10. I think men are much less likely to reply to an online post, too. May skew the results.

  11. I voted for myself(female)because I consider myself to be the main bento packer in our home but my husband packs bento for himself many days a week. Due to a constantly changing work schedule and varied lunch arrangements, if he wants to take something from home, he must pack it himself, and he is doing so as often as possible to help cut back on the family expenses. I simply can’t keep tabs on his work situation to know if a bento will work for him on any given day. I will occasionally prep things ahead for him. He will occasionally make things for both his and kiddo’s bento and will pitch in for family bentos for special activity days. He is Japanese, born and raised there, traditional in many ways but a bit independent in spirit.

  12. Hi Biggie, I’ve just known about you on the Japanese radio show. I am a Japanese living in Tokyo. I make Bento for my husband for years (I prefer using the word, Obento to Bento).

    I have my own Bento websites in Japanese and in English. Many people in the world who like cooking and are interested in Japanese cuisine come to my website. They are also interested Bento, and some of them try to make it. It is a little surprise for me to find Bento is getting so hot in the U.S. seeing your website. It’s amazing! So exciting!
    Hope many Americans know and try to make Bento :)

  13. @16 from hime: Wow, that was fast! Feels like I just got off the phone from that radio interview. I’ll have to check out your J/E bento sites; thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a link.

  14. Just starting the bento making process my hubby has showed a real interest in the decorating aspect of the meal. He loves the cut outs and arranging but i’m assuming because he eats his meals alone there is no embarassment of having a cute lunch haha. I normally make the base things and then he adds faces and etc. So i guess it’s really a team effort in our home.

  15. i would say women just because we like to decorate things, and bento is so much about how you present it!

    naimah

  16. My husband packs funny bentos. He loves it. He used to be a fine dining chef so loves the aesthetic behind it. He’s just not so good with small. We both pack them for work a bit.

  17. @4 Yvette, I’ll check those out! Thanks for the tip!

    @6, Biggie, would be nice of you if you could if you run across the brand names.

  18. Biggie,
    I live in Atlanta, Georgia and have recently discovered Bento’s. Bento accessories are hard to come by in this area, but I am flying to San Francisco on Saturday and have promised my son a bento box as a souvenir. Where would you say has the most stuff for Bento’s in the area? I’ll be staying around the Muscone Center and won’t have a car.
    Thanks,
    Wendy

  19. Biggie Biggie Biggie!
    Daiso opened a new store in SF’s Japantown!
    It’s in Kinokuniya center. :)
    They take cash only right now, and are still unpacking a lot of stuff, but I defintely saw bento ware!

  20. Your blog is adorable; I love reading these posts…I’m looking forward to meeting you at the Foodbuzz Festival in San Fran on Friday! Bentos are so much fun to pack and eat too!

  21. @25 from Healthy Apple: Look forward to meeting you Friday as well! Should be a good time.

  22. I’m 18 and I usually am the one who makes the bentos in my house, but recently I’ve been teaching my father how to make them. I guess that kind of counts as one, right?

  23. My husband packs the bentos sometimes, but it’s usually my job. He does breakfast, I do lunch. :)

  24. Our 4 year old son just started preschool and wouldn’t eat the catered school lunch. We could tell because after school he had an insatiable appetite. I started packing his lunch, and found that a two-story bento box with a cold pack and his thermal bottle fit easily in an insulated fabric lunchbox. We wanted to feed him nitrate-free meats and well-washed organic vegetables, and there was no better way than to pack the meal myself. In the lower compartment, I make a sandwich with his favorite ingredients: Turkish-style nut paste, kalamata olives, lettuce, mozarella cheese, and a meat (leftover teriyaki steak, roast chicken, nitrate-free bacon or pepperoni). In the upper level, I put sliced fruit (seedless grapes, apples dipped in lemon, persimmon, strawberries, asian pear, etc.) and leftover steamed broccoli, peas, or edamame. Everything is finger food. He eats pretty well, and we share the few leftovers during the drive home from school. The bento takes me about 15-20 minutes to prepare in the morning, usually while I’m simultaneously making the family breakfast.
    I’m a practicing neurosurgeon, and my wife is a practicing orthodontist, so we are both very busy. Some days, she helps me make our son’s bento, but I’m more the morning person, so the bento is mostly my responsibility.

  25. I bought a 4 compartment Inomato 1.1l bento box for my daughter. The lid fell off when she was pulling it out of her lunch bag and the lid broke! Any idea how I get in touch with the manufacturer to get a replacement lid? I tried a Google search and cant find a site for them anywhere.