Japanese nursery school children, going off to school for the first time, carry with them a boxed lunch (obento) prepared by their mothers at home. Customarily these obento are highly crafted elaborations: a multitude of miniportions artistically designed and precisely arranged in a container that is sturdy and cute. As anthropologists have long understood, not only are the worlds inhabit symbolically constructed, but also cultural symbols are endowed with, or have the potential for, power. Certainly in Japan, much attention is focused on the obento. It is invested with a significance far beyond that of the merely pragmatic, functional one of sustaining a child with nutritional foodstuffs. Since this investment beyond the pragmatic istrue of any food prepared in Japan, it is helpful to examine culinary codes for food preparation that operate generally in the society before focusing on children’s obento.