Yokohama Kyaraben contest

Here is another kyaraben or character bento contest to enjoy. This one is a little different - it was sponsored by the Sotetsu Group 150 Project, an ongoing event by a railway and transportation company in Yokohama commemorating the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Yokohama. The winners of the contest were announced on April 1st.

This is the top winning entry, a truly impressive tour-de-force that depicts the landscape of the Yokohama area. I especially love the blue jelly or kanten (agar-agar) cups that represent the ocean.

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But my favorite bento entry is this one. It depicts the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry with his Black Ships (Kurobune) at Yokohama Harbor in 1853. He came as a representative of the United States, demanding that the Tokugawa Shogunate open their ports to American ships. This was a really significant historical event in Japan, as it ended the feudal period and eventually catapulted the country towards modernization. Here's the Wikipedia link. (In school the kurobune episode was right up there in terms of must-know events, like 1066-Norman-Conquest in England or 1492-Columbus-blabla in the U.S.)

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Note the huge, menacing and pink face of the Commodore, who is blond (though if you look at his photo on Wikipedia, this doesn't seem to be historically accurate), the Black Ship with its kamaboko sails and the Stars and Stripes, asparagus-spear guns at the ready - and the puny little quail-egg samurai warriors bravely facing it all! A history lesson in a bento box. Marvelous.
See the rest of the winning entries here (Japanese link).