Bento making is very popular amongst Japanese people. Some even turn it from a hobby into a serious business.
Aside from paintings and drawings, bento making is also one of the ways to express your creativity. It is actually incredible how people can replicate popular anime characters, movie characters, or even kindergarten imaginary drawings, out of just… food.
Where else do you find the pictures of these tasty arts besides Twitter? With the hashtag #キャラ弁 (“kyaraben”, derived from the word character & bento), and with the help of Japanese pop news site Naver Matome, we have collected some of the most clever, creative, and cute bentos for your browsing pleasure.
Now, what characters come to your mind when we say about character bentos? Probably the cliche Pikachu (because you saw the thumbnail) or maybe something famous like Attack on Titan, right? Well… you’re right! LOL.
I don’t know why but everyone seems to love Pokémon so much that most popular bentos on Twitter are of Pokémon mascot and its beloved yellow star, Pikachu. For example, this Pikachu bento is a double score because both its lunch box and its food are shaped like Pikachu.
˅ This bento is specially made to celebrate the last day of high school.
— ののくす (@no2xnox) January 26, 2016
Alright, the next cliche one is Attack on Titan. A lady made this special bento for her husband but it didn’t quite elicit the response she’d hoped for from her husband because it got shaken up in transit. She probably won’t make another one of this for it wasn’t rightly appreciated. Too bad!
˅ Apparently, she was inspired by a TV segment on character bentos.
— Ｄ子 (@nattougatabetai) October 11, 2017
Anpanman is a Japanese superhero with a red bean filled head. Surprise or not, Japanese children seem to prefer Anpanman over Pikachu. His female nemesis Dokin-chan is equally popular, hence she’s often featured in bentos too.
— にこちゃん (@NIKOchan25) October 9, 2017
Of course, the designs are not limited to anime characters alone. Some bento makers even make designs out of real people! There is this one school girl who fancies Momo, a member of K-pop idol group TWICE. So her mom made here a special edition bento for her field trip to Osaka Castle.
— Mika🌹✨ (@Crescentmoon923) October 10, 2017
Bento designs aren’t necessarily famous characters either. According to this netizen, their mom is known for her effort to faze her child with unknown characters. But hey, random characters could look good too!
˅ The Twitter user said it’s cute. I don’t think so though.
— yuon (@yuon0819) April 26, 2016
Wild lives want to make appearances too. The wife of this particular man made some special inarizushi so he was very looking forward to eating them. For those who didn’t know, inarizushi is a type of sushi where vinegared rice is wrapped in a fried tofu skin. The sushi turns out to be a panda so cute that he hesitated whether he should or not eat the sushi.
˅ We don’t know whether he ate it or not in the end
— 犬の会長（5/6:文フリ ｱ-32） (@inunokaicyou) July 17, 2016
Sometimes, we just want to run away from the hectics of a busy life. On days like that, it’s nice to take advantage of an easy request. This mom seized the chance to do so when her daughter asked for one of her favorite animals; a toy poodle.
— ぬ。 (@sayan_o_under) October 25, 2014
Clearly, sometimes a little bit can be ‘a little bit exaggerating’. And when you’re not really strong on the creative side, that’s a helpful tip to remember. When one businessman’s wife couldn’t make him a bento, he made one himself, but he must have tried to replicate his wife’s slightly more refined lunch art since this quirky rabbit was the result.
— 🍃おみそ🍃@帰国 (@HonoMin8) September 22, 2017
When it comes to creativity, children are on par with the adults too. One dutiful older sibling was making bentos with the little sister for their younger brother’s Sports Festival. And they came out with some kind of… I don’t know what to call this… Birds? Whatever it is, kids sure have bizarre imaginations.
˅ Birds, maybe?
— もえー (@tirolcube) September 29, 2017
Just like Attack on Titan, not everyone likes cute designs. Some people just like to do crazy stuff like this one. Apparently, this kid is a big fan of bugs so his mom made him a bento with ‘a beetle in it’.
— ちゃぴ*お弁当垢 (@cyapi108) October 9, 2017
Props to those who have the stomach to turn delicious food into gross bugs. Although this bento is a little less realistic than the one above, this mom had to make it feel like something was crawling on her as she made it. Try as she might, she could not make the legs of this beetle because it gave her the creepy crawlies, but I’m sure her child loved it anyway.
— いもこ☆お弁当がんばる。 (@easy_kyaraben) July 12, 2017
Bento making is considered a form of art because of the food presentation. It requires creativity to make cute (or even bizarre) designs and patience to ensure precision in cutting the seaweed. On account of that, it’s no surprise that character bentos can be serious business.