Our Story

From the verdant farmlands of Miyagi to a nationwide movement

Meet Akiko Sugawara.

Akiko was born and raised on a farm north of Sendai, Japan. A lifelong cooking enthusiast, she started working as a cook on her family's farm by age 7. The days were long and the work was hard, but she used the next 15 years to diligently master the family recipes and culinary principles, which drew heavily from traditional Japanese practices such as using an abundance of whole-foods to create hearty and healthy vegetable heavy dishes. After another 10 years in Canada, which saw her meet her future husband and start up (and close) "BentoYa Catering", she returned to Japan and settled near Tokyo.

The beginning of BentoYa Cooking

Akiko started offering plant-based Japanese style cooking classes in Tokyo. The hearty food and Akiko's passion for her dishes attracted both foreigners and Japanese foodies alike. Fast forward a few years and BentoYa Cooking was training other instructors who set-up shop throughout Japan, while a who's who of Japanese (and international) food brands were knocking on Akiko's door wanting to do collaborative events with BentoYa!

What's with the name?

"Bento" is Japanese for "boxed lunch". It could refer to an intricate school lunch lovingly prepared for a child by their mother, or it could refer to a professionally made "eki" (station) bento hungrily wolfed down by a harried commuter in a train station. Either way, bento inspires emotions of lovingly prepared, delicious & healthy food throughout Japanese society. "Ya" simply means "place", and often refers to a vendor or shop. So, BentoYa literally means "Boxed Lunch Place".