In Japan, there are numerous bento contests, especially targeted at practioners of the art of charaben or kyaraben, cute character bentos. The biggest one of them all is arguably the annual charaben contest held by Sanrio, now in its 3rd year . The one rule of the Sanrio contest, not surprisingly, is that the bento entries must feature Sanrio characters.
The winners of the contest were announced yesterday . Here’s the Golden Grand Prix winning bento :
Like the winning bento last year , it’s a picnic bento, titled “It’s spring! Picnic bento for everyone”, and the Golden Kyarabeniste is a Ms. Harumi Sugiyama from Saitama prefecture. The bento has the following mind-boggling components:
The creator says that she tried to make the bento appeal to adults as well as kids, since it’s a family picnic bento. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t like this amazing creation. Just thinking of the time it must have taken makes my head spin.
You can check out the rest of the winners by clicking on the shiny link buttons below each photo, or the photo itself, from the main page . My personal favorite is another picnic bento, the Okaasan Arigato (Thank you Mother)  bento, which according to the description is an edible Mother’s Day card of sorts (keep in mind that the contest took place in April-May of this year, so many people had spring on their minds when they were making their bentos).
I wonder when the number of charaben/kyaraben fans in the U.S. for example will become big enough so that it becomes worthwhile for Sanrio to hold a bento contest? Or, better yet, an international bento contest? After all, isn’t Hello Kitty a universally known symbol? We shall see…
I’ve found some bento bloggers who entered the contest and have written about their experiences (in Japanese of course) here , here , here , here , here  and here  so far. I’ll add more links as I find them (I haven’t found the Golden Grand Prix winner’s blog yet, if she has one). If you spot anymore, let us know in the comments!