kyaraben

Natural ways to make your bento colorful

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If you love character bentos (kyaraben), you may wonder how the creators manage to color some of the elements. Do they use food dyes? Not necessarily. Bentobako.net, called Ranchi-ryuu Obentoubako Community (Lunch-style Bento Community) is an attractive and very useful bento resource site in Japanese. One of the most interesting sections that they have recently set up is the Bento Coloring Dictionary, a reader-contributed section with lots of ideas for making various bento elements colorful without resorting solely to food dyes. Here are some of the ideas listed there, arranged by color, with my notes in parentheses.

I’ve added the formulas for deriving 3 (or 4) different colors from one ingredient - red cabbage juice! continue reading...

Takupapa, a father who makes cute bentos

The author of the book Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes (my review here) Christopher Salyers, has an excerpt of the interview he did with the one father/bento creator that appears in the book.

Takupapa (meaning the father of Takkun, his son’s nickname) started making cute kyaraben for his son when his wife was hospitalized. Quoting from the interview:

What is Charaben to you?

Charaben is a collection of precious times I spent with my son. Each and every Charaben has an episode, and I hope they will become good memories when he grows up.

And here’s the link to Takupapa’s bento blog (in Japanese). Takkun has one year left to go in kindergarten, and Takupapa plans to continue making those cute bento for him until he enters first grade in the spring of 2009.

(Incidentally, someone asked me if there is a difference between charaben and kyaraben. There isn’t - it’s just two ways of spelling out a Japanese word. The original is キャラ弁, and it’s a combination of キャラクター (character) and 弁当 (bento). I prefer the phonetic kyaraben, since I keep reading charaben with the ch part pronounced as in chair.) continue reading...

Bento items of the week: Hello Kitty theme bento making tools and more

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The kyaraben (cute character bento) artist in Japan does not have to go it alone, armed only with basic tools. There’s a big array of specialized tools that she (or the rare he) can use. I saw this company’s products mentioned in several Japanese kyaraben blogs as being easy to use and innovative. And indeed they seem to be. continue reading...

Another character bento contest: Tamagotchi bento!

Here are some more achingly cute and amazing kyaraben (character bentos) to enjoy, from yet another contest. This time it was one sponsored by Bandai, makers of various video games and the infamous Tamagotchi. The bento contest had three divisions, and the results were just announced yesterday. This is the winning bento in the Tamagotchi division.

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Yes I know, I said “!!!!!!!!” when I saw that too.

You can check out the creator’s own blog (in Japanese of course), where she has many more closeups of her amazing creation in this entry. Her blog has lots of how-to entries and closeup photos of various bento goods, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of the cute bento style. (Her profile says she makes kyaraben for her 2 year old and 4 year old kids.) continue reading...

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. continue reading...

Sanrio character bento contest

Oh rats. It seems I’ve missed the deadline for submissions for the 2nd edition of the Sanrio Kyaraben Contest, which was on the 7th. Well ok, I’m kidding - since cute kyaraben or character bentos are not really my style. I do admire them as a sort of edible art form though - the time and patience required to make something that will, ultimately, be eaten in a few minutes (more often than not by a kid who will stir it around and mess it up first) is mindboggling.

This bento was the grand prize winner of the first edition of the contest, starring of course, Her Royal Kittyness. Wow, just wow.

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Check out the other winners on this page. continue reading...

Bento decoration: Gerbera-like wiener flowers

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(See the Bento Decoration master page for my general thinking on decorations.)

Japanese people love wiener sausages. They appear quite often in home cooking recipes. Wieners are the Play Doh of the bento making world since they are colorful and easy to manipulate.

I don’t like to use wieners their relatives very often, though living in a Germanic area of Europe we can get pretty good ones that aren’t dyed a bright pink and actually contain real meat. But once in a while they do appear in my bentos. continue reading...