Review and Book Giveway - Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes

book-face-food-cover.jpgAs you may know already if you’ve been following Just Bento for a while, cute, highly decorated bentos known as kyaraben (or charaben, short for character bento), or oekaki bento (picture-drawing bento) are not my style, or what this site is largely about. But I am drawn to the sheer work and creativity that goes into those bentos, most of which are made for little kids, as I’ve noted before.

Now there is a new book in English about this type of bento. Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes by Christopher D. Salyers is a compact hardcover book with page after page of full color photos of kyaraben, mostly made by Japanese mothers (and one Japanese father) for their little children. Avid bento fans may have already seen some of the bentos included, such as the famous three little pink pigs bento pictured on the cover. There are also works from two American bento artists, including Spa Woman from Sakurako Kitsa, but the focus is on the Japanese creators.

The book is not really a how-to book, but rather a sort of pocket sized coffee table book (it’s from an art and design book publisher). There are a couple of how-to pages, but the most interesting text is the introduction and the too-short questionnaires with a few of the bento creators. It’s a nice intro to kyaraben . (My one hope though is that it doesn’t further perpetuate the misconception that every Japanese mother makes such elaborate bentos for their children, which I like to repeat a lot is definitely not the case.)

Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes will be available on March 10th on I have the advance copy I received for review to give away, with the publisher’s blessing. If you’d like to get this book, leave a comment to this post, being sure to put your email address in the ‘email’ field (don’t worry, it isn’t exposed to spammers) and stating you’d like the book, before the end of Tuesday, February 19th wherever you happen to be. One winner will be selected at random.

[Update:] The drawing is now closed. The lucky winner is Hope, who blogs at The Sinister Scribe. Congratulations Hope!

(We determined the winner with this bit of JavaScript, which generates a random number: Math.ceil(Math.random() * 73) (73 is the number of people who commented).)

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This book looks really neat! I couldn’t spend so much time on something, then eat it!

Awesome! Nice to see such

Awesome! Nice to see such spiffy Japanese subject books in English now too. ;)


a new English book on bento. I’d love to have it!

Book Giveway

As one who has always liked to play with her food, I’d really like to have this book. Thank you for the opportunity!


I’d have so much fun perusing this book. Thanks for the chance to win, Maki!


i bought my wife a bento box for valentine’s and have been using your site as a reference to create healthy and delicious lunches.

I would love to win this

I would love to win this book, please enter me in your drawing!! Thank you.



Great gift

This would be make a wicked gift for my husband, who is Japanese, and loves all things bento. Thanks to your site, I’ve been getting lots of practice making yummy lunches for him. Thanks Maki, and keep up the good work!

Book Giveaway

Oh what a cool idea! I love that you get a book to review. The joys of being an awesome blogger :D.

Neat Bentos

I love reading or looking at creative character bentos. It is like looking at a miniature work of art, but with the added bonus that it’s edible! Truly takes a lot of dedication, meditation, and work. Like any work of art really!

Face food!

I’m new to bento and currently totally and completely obsessed! Your blog helps feed my creativity. Thanks for the opportunity to add this to my library!

I love Bento and would like

I love Bento and would like to add this book to my library.

Amazing art form!

Konnichi wa!

That book looks amazing. I can’t imagine creating anything like it but you never know! I would love the chance to read it. :) My son is interested in visiting Japan someday; even to live there. So we are learning all we can.

I’ve only been reading your blog for a short while but I’ve incorportated many recipes from it into my family’s menu. (osekihan, char siu bao and no oven pitas for example). Oishii ne!

Arigato Gozaimas!

Beautiful book

Looks absolutely fantastic! Please put me in to the draw…


Adorable. I wish I had the time/patience to make cute food like that. Seriously, all my food basically ends up in a big pile in my bento.

If the inside’s as good as

If the inside’s as good as the cover…include me too! Arigato.

Blog about the book...

There’s also a blog up by the book’s author, as an extension of the book. See it here: Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Charaben! Bloggo

Love your website!

You have a great website and I enjoy reading it. Add me to the draw, as well.

I’ve seen the book on

I’ve seen the book on and it looks pretty darned cute. Please add me to the giveaway, Maki!

Thanks for everything you do on this blog, too— I’ve learned SO much and have really started enjoying lunch again!

bento love

hello, i am loving this blog, thank you! yay for bento recioes, ideas and pics! gochisosama ;)

bento love

hello, i am loving this blog, thank you! yay for bento recioes, ideas and pics! gochisosama ;)


Sounds like a wonderful book! Thanks for your terrific blog!


I saw this book during a search of a local bookstore’s catalog and I was so excited. It looks so cool. I teach in Korea and I can’t help thinking some of my students would love it, too. I want this book! Please enter me in the drawing.

And you blog is great, too. ^^

thanks for posting about this book!

Thanks for posting about this! I’d love to win it (and I’m sure I’ll be buying it if I don’t!)

I’d like a crack at that

I’d like a crack at that book!

Awesome book!

O-hai-o! I would love this book!

me! Pick Me!!

I would love to have it of course. I have a bday coming up on the 27th, so could I get it for my bday. check my blog if you don’t believe me. :)


Your blog is fabulous! I’d love a chance to win the book. Thanks for all the bento inspiration.

OHH they finally gave it a release date!

I’ve been looking at this book on amazon for a while waiting for a date for it to be released. Please enter me in the drawing. I am just getting into bentos and started a blog a few weeks ago. Your website has been a great inspiration to me and has taught me so many good techniques. I’ve even passed on many of the ideas to my mom and she loves it. (freezing rice, she is amazed that you can do this lol) This book would be a great jumping off point of inspiration for me. I know a lot of people say its too much work to then eat but life is short and I’m an artist so I say go for it!

I have been making bento

I have been making bento since last year and found your website to be very informative. The book looks very interesting and I would like to have it, unfortunately it’s still not avaiable in…:-(

Wow, finally.....

I really like seeing how the bento culture is starting to take root in other countries. I know that the majority of bento are not character-based, but this would still be a lovely book to add to any collection!


It’s amazing how popular kyaraben are - a book dedicated to this! My mother would make very beautiful bento when I was growing up, but as you said, she didn’t go to this extent - nor would I have wanted her to. Cute artform that is delicious, what more can you ask for? =) Thanks.


Your website is gorgeous and this book looks beautiful too! I’m just getting started with bento and am gathering all the great ideas and inspiration.


Awesome! I would love this book. Aren’t those bentos just the cutest? :) But they take so long to make xD Thank you for the chance! And for your blogs ^^

I love your site!

Thanks for having such informative blogs. I love both of them and visit them regularly. Add me to the drawing as well. Thanks and keep up the wonderful work!

I’d love to have it! AND

I’d love to have it!



Well, this is great motivation to leave my first comment. I’m new to bento - and mostly inspired by this site. It would definitely be fun to win a new and inspiring book about character bento.

But the proof is in the eating - so thanks for all the great recipes you’ve been sharing!


That is so cool that they have an english version of a kyaraben book!! I think the creations are soooo adorable and would love the chance at the book!! Thanks so much!!

Very cute!

It is always nice to have inspiring eye candy around—even if you never really get to that level with your kid’s bentos, it can still motivate you to do a little more. I would love to have this book!


The book looks so fun! This type is what got me interested in bento about a year ago. The colors and the creativity are just awesome. Thanks for the contest and your blog.


That would be a great coffee table book to have - although it would make me hungry all the time :)

Glad I found a link to your site - it’s a great inspiration to make bentos the way I want to.

I also have your kasutera recipe bookmarked as I’ve been looking for a recipe that seems “right” - I think yours is it! :)

I would love this book! Just

I would love this book! Just the bento with the little frogs on the cover alone make it worth it for me! I would like to try my hand at making kyaraben. Thanks for the chance at a great book.

What a fun book! I just

What a fun book! I just started making snack bentos for my toddler. Can’t wait for inspiration.

Have to get it for my bento item collection!

Hi, I am making bentos like yours since last summer. With this book I could start trying to make kyaraben.

Powerpuff Girls!

That book looks amazing. I need to add it to the Amazon wishlist, unless I win it first.

What a fantastic new book -

What a fantastic new book - thanks for the chance!


I wish I had the kind of patience to make something that awesome.

Awesome looking book!

And you have a great blog…I love your recipes. Definitely put me in the running for the book!

oooh! id love this book- im

oooh! id love this book- im slightly ashamed to say i make ‘character’ bentos for my son- although the best ive made so far are soot sprites! he thinks they are cool though, plus he is the only child at his play group (hes 3) who gets to scoff down ‘mum style’ sushi for lunch instead of soggy-sarnies! (sandwiches!) :) ps- putting this lil comp up sems like a great way to get the site lurkers (like me!) to post- lol!