While bento box lunches are often seen on menus at Japanese restaurants worldwide, traditional bento boxes () are served in disposable, compartmentalized boxes or in plastic or lacquer square or rectangular containers. Some are wrapped in cloth, which acts not only as a bag but also as a placemat. While Japanese restaurants in the U.S. have bento lunches that can include white rice, teriyaki meat, and sushi, or tempura, vegetables, a California roll, soup, and salad served in a compartmentalized tray, traditional bento boxes served at restaurants and train stations in Japan are simple, small lunches featuring white rice, meat or fish like broiled salmon, and one or more pickled vegetables.
Bento boxes are also often prepared at home, and making one’s own bento is a high art in Japan. Some bento boxes have stackable compartments and feature cartoon characters like Hello Kitty. Elaborately made bento boxes, in which the food is arranged to look like Japanese cartoon characters, are known as kyaraben, and many parents in Japan spend hours creating edible art for their children or themselves to enjoy at lunchtime.