Kyaraben (charaben) how-to links for all skill levels

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Whenever I post about kyaraban/charaben (cute bentos) from Japan, there are often comments bemoaning the lack of how-tos on those kyaraben sites. There are how-tos out there, but in many cases you need to read Japanese to follow them. But here are some links to how-tos with a lot of photos that you could follow along even without understanding the accompanying Japanese text.

Beginner level

Beginner-intermediate

Intermediate-advanced

  • Asami-san, the creator of the kimono clad Hello Kitty in the Sanrio bento contest, has two tutorials for making penguin bentos. The second link includes instructions for making goldfish-shaped wieners, which I tried out:

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Very easy to make, though I had a bit of trouble with the eyes (made of cheese and nori). We can't get those day-glow red wieners that she uses in her tutorial here, so I sautéed mine in a little oil with some paprika. The oil is probably why the cheese didn't stick, and the paprika did speckle the surface. (The fish in the foreground just has a hole made with a skewer for the eye.) I think the fish still look cute and I like the way they curl up as though they are dancing in the water.

Advanced

  • Mihochin-san (who also seems to be a serial bento contest entrant - winning a lot of them too) has another tutorial, for making an amazing Naruto bento. She uses pale pink ham for the face, thin omelette or _usuyaki tamago_ and sliced processed cheese for the two-tone blond hair and eyebrows, some cooked kombu seaweed, fish sausage and nori for the hair band, kamaboko (dyed blue with something called "Blue Hawaii" for the pupils) for the eyes, darker pink ham and more white kamaboko for the mouth, and nori for the line details. She says that while it takes her about 30 minutes to make such a bento, for a beginner "it might take a lot of time". No kidding!