Now that bentos are becoming more and more popular outside of Japan, the question arises:
What do you call someone who makes bentos?
Personally, I’m inclined to call a bento maker a bentoist. I think this term is in fairly wide use on English language bento blogs and such. I like the term myself because it seems somewhat related to “artist”, and many bento creators are quite artistic. Bento artist works for me too, as does bento creator or bento chef/cook.
A new Japanese magazine called Obento Biyori (お弁当日和） whose premier issue just came out the other week, uses the term Obenter. (I was going to post a review of the magazine, but on second thought I probably won’t unless there’s a big demand for it. Short review: it’s ok.) I have no idea if they coined the term themselves, and Googling the term doesn’t really show it in common use on Japanese websites. But they use it in the English portion of their Twitter profile, which says “This is the magazine of Japanese Bento for OBENTER.”. I’m assuming, perhaps erroneously, that they think that it’s a term used outside of Japan. I tweeted them suggesting (in Japanese) that this was not really used in English speaking circles, but so far no one has responded to me. (I also checked how they spell it out in the actual magazine, and they just do so phonetically in katakana (オベンター), the character set usually used for foreign import words.) Personally, I can’t stand the term. It doesn’t make any kind of sense etymologically speaking. It sounds like the worst kind of wasei eigo, or made-up and twisted around Japanese version of English. (Even though I’m supposed to be like native-level fluent in English, not to mention Japanese, I am quite frequently brought up short by such wasei eigo terms in Japan. It drives me up the wall.) If it does indeed enter the vernacular, I’ll be quite pissed.
Perhaps an equally bad wasei eigo term for a bento creator, especially applied to charaben makers, is karisuma (charisma) character bento (or food) artist. It’s used in the English version of the iPhone app Charaben, reviewed here , and makes no sense when used outside of Japan. Karisuma applied to ‘experts’ in various fields is widely used in Japan, so I’m resigned to its use there even if I hate it personally, but I doubt it will spread anywhere else, because you know, in ‘real’ English terms is pretty silly.
What do you think? If you’re a bento creator, what do you call yourself? What term works for you, and what doesn’t? (Is it even worth thinking of a term? ^_^;)