Crafty ladies know how to win a fight with this wicked twist on the bento lunch.

All couples fight sometimes, and most try not to go to bed angry. But when the yelling’s subsided and the anger hasn’t, some women have found an ingenious way to communicate their feelings: through an edible scolding called the shikaeshi bento, or Revenge Bento. Like an undercover agent, she wakes in the early morning and heads to the kitchen to cook up her own special payback. What makes Revenge Bento so brilliant is that her husband or boyfriend doesn’t suspect a thing. On the outside it looks like a typical bento, and his day begins like any other, perhaps even with a kiss on the cheek or the dulcet tones of itte rasshai! (“Off you go!”) He heads out of the house and goes about his business. By lunchtime, he’s probably forgotten all about their fight—until he opens his bento box and learns that revenge is a dish best served cold.

These wicked meals come in a variety of themes. The simplest is the seaweed message in a bento, which features insults carefully cut out of strips of nori, or dried seaweed. The messages can take the form of simple insults, such as “idiot,” or they can be a bit more devious—you can imagine how a gentleman might take pause when he sees the giant character for “poison” gleefully spread across his rice. Some messages may command self-reflection, or sound out her fury in adorable onomatopoeia such as iraira or punpun, mimetic phrases that convey anger or irritation.

Another theme is the bug bento, wherein ladies gently cover his lunch with food shaped to look like creepy crawlers. Edible cockroach silhouettes and winding centipede treats—surely that’ll bug him, and make him lose his appetite to boot. A third theme is the bad character bento, when she artistically shapes the bento ingredients into anything from a zombie apocalypse to a buxom, topless maiden waiting to embarrass him in front of his coworkers.

For the truly vengeful, the final theme is the gag reflex bento, which inverts the classic Japanese esthetic and culinary sense to create a lunch that’s neither a feast for the eyes nor the mouth. Notable styles include the all-rice bento topped with a raw egg, a yellow box full of yellow corn or an inverted Hinomaru bento filled with sour, sour plums (umeboshi) topped with one tiny bite of rice.

Whatever theme she chooses, the bento maker gets to blow off a bit of steam and use her creative energies to communicate her annoyance, and her edible act of revenge is often followed by laughter and reconciliation. Now if only he answered her Revenge Bento with his very own Apology Dinner!


Want to try your hand at making your very own Revenge Bento?
Here are some friendly tips to channel your negative energy into a lunch that he or she will never forget.


Only in Japan_Bento Box MagazineDO adapt to your culinary environment.

If you can’t get your hands on Japanese pickled plum, try cutting up a dill pickle. Substitute spaghetti for yakisoba.

Only in Japan_Bento Box MagazineDON’T forget the “bento” part!

Your revenge won’t be complete without one of these lovely Japanese lunchboxes. Don’t even think about brown-bagging your payback.

Only in Japan_Bento Box MagazineDO keep your plan under wraps.

Avoid snickering, blushing or sweating profusely when you lovingly offer up your afternoon surprise.

Illustration by Chieko Watanabe