Japanese bento boxes have become a popular souvenir item among international travellers. Many of them are colourful, plastic boxes that are well designed with small compartments for different food items. Being plastic, they are easy to maintain, but wooden bento boxes are increasingly becoming popular among bento connoisseurs around the world. Most traditional of all is Mage Wappa Bento Box.
Originating in Odate City, Akita Prefecture, Mage Wappa has a long history of over 4oo years. Typically they are made from the indigenous Akita sugi (Akita cedar). The process of making Mage Wappa Bento involves placing shavings into boiling water, bending them while wet and tying up with bark from sakura trees. See the video below to learn the passion of Mage Wappa craftsman.
Bento made by Japanese fans of Mage Wappa – Only for Real Bento Connoisseurs are indeed amazing (source: わっぱdeごはん@http://91799170.blog.fc2.com)
There are roughly three types of Mage Wappa – uncoated, urushi-coated and urethane coated.
Uncoated Mage Wappa looks and smells beautiful. It is often considered as best by many Japanese as it apparently makes even cold rice taste better. Uncoated Mage Wappa keeps bento contents warm, but the only problem is the fact that it’s harder to maintain than coated Mage Wappa bento boxes.
Urushi-coated Mage Wappa bento boxes are much easier to maintain – easy to wash and easy to dry off. This also means it’s very hygienic. You’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of urushi which improves after every wash.
Urethane coated Mage Wappa is durable and can hold even oily bento items. It’s easy to maintain and often cheaper than uncoated and urushi-coated ones, but you won’t be able to enjoy the smell of sugi wood and it does not keep warm as much as the other two types.
What’s common among them is the fact that it’s not microwavable. Mage Wappa bento boxes are not made to fit in the modern living, but perfect for those who enjoy simplicity of life.
It’s up to you to figure out if a bento box made of natural wood is your thing, but do try eating out of a wooden bento box once when you visit Japan. It will make it hard to go back to plastic.