In 1945, Takeo Tatsumiya co-founded a lacquerware business, and in 1949, the company TATSUMIYA SHIKKI was established. At first, we mainly produced lacquer tableware using wood but have gradually moved towards plastic lacquerware which can be massed produced.
In 1990, we reached the first turning point in our business when the bubble economy collapsed. More and more people started turning towards homemade lunches rather than eating out. With that in mind, we took over the “HAKOYA” business from a designer group and fully started our bento business. Hakoya transformed the bento industry from bulky and shapeless bento boxes to colorful 2-tiered bento boxes. We are the first to offer a wide range of bento box products from traditional Japanese styles to modern styles.
The first bento box boom emerged in 1993. We launched the “Ajiro” series which is still one of our most popular products. Afterwards, we continued to release hit products, such as the Japanese-style “Onigiri Bento” and the “Cloth-Covered” series.
In 2008, the second bento box boom was launched after the global financial crisis. During the recession, consumers became more careful with their spending and began to bring their lunches to work as opposed to eating out. It was around that time that, the bento culture started to enter the overseas market.
Originally, bamboo skin and leaves were used to carry and cover food,
keeping it fresh and protecting it from bacteria. Most these were disposable. In the earliest records of packed lunches in Japan, people typically carried around dried rice (called “kareii”), which was eaten either in its dried state , or after being rehydrated with cold or hot water.
During the Edo era, under the Sankin Kotai "alternate attendance" system, Daimyo (feudal lords) were obligated to alternate their residences on a regular basis between Edo and their domain. Thanks to this system, many samurai travelled throughout Japan, bringing many creative bento boxes along with them.
Another factor that contributed to the popularization of bento boxes is Japanese classical theatre, such as Kabuki, Kyogen and Bunraku. Because these acts were quite long, people ate bento during the intermission, creating the term .“Makunouchi Bento”(between act-bento). Therefore, bento is said to have derived its name from the fact that the audience ate it during intermission.