Art to Lunch: Japanese Character Bento
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever found in your lunch box? Pudding? Fruit cup? Candy?
How about Indiana Jones?
Beyond the artistry of food preparation itself, we’ve all seen art made from the medium of food, from cookies and cakes created in special shapes or decorated for particular themes to sculptures and mixed media creations like those featured in the article “Incredible Art Made From Food” by msaleem on weburbanist.com. Japanese bento single-portion lunches, usually packed into small box containers, can feature bite-size morsels made from rice and seaweed in an incredible variety of shapes, including cartoon characters, toys, and even real people. You can see some amazing examples of kyaraben or charaben, “character bento,” pieces that portray laptop computers, household items, Tiger Woods, and even a PlayStation controller in msaleem’s article.
The BBC News recently featured character bento in a video, “Japan’s Amazing Lunchboxes,” that highlights the amazing designs that children appear to love and the creativity and effort of mothers who take classes in this art form so they can create the perfect bento in what is also a competitive social arena.
Here are more character bento examples featured in the video.
A means for creative self-expression, an art form, a display of social status, and a great way to get kids to eat healthy all rolled up into an ephemeral, consumable piece.
If you’re interested in learning more about bento, there are numerous websites you can visit. Here are two that would be great for beginners.
If you’d like to see how character bento pieces are created, there are many videos on YouTube. Here are just a few.
How To – Chicken Charaben offers an ingredients list and step-by-step instructions in captions set to catchy pop tracks.
This time-lapse video for the creation of a Mario charaben is a great way to get a sense of the bento preparation process, but you can also follow the detailed instructions on Tei Amarinthe’s blog.
If you have more information or personal experiences with character bento or other forms of food art to share, please leave your comments.