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Making Bento and Charabens: The Japanese's Crafty Way to Eat

Updated on February 12, 2012
Three Little Pigs charaben
Three Little Pigs charaben | Source

The Edible Art

Last time, I was planning of 'redeeming' my old photo blog site at tumblr. To do so, I have to think of a theme about something I have not yet posted or encountered before. And since I was hunger-inspired that time, I decided to search for food photography in the internet. Everything that comes out in my searches were kind of ordinary, not to mention, BORING. So, I narrowed down the search by typing in "cute food" as keywords. Who would have thought that I'd be able to find a LITERALLY cute food.

Further readings took me to the origin of these things I'd like to call "food artworks". Just like what you see in the photo, they are dishes arranged neatly in a food box known as the Bento. Each Bento serving guarantees its consumer a well-balanced and nutritious meal. It is a container of food comprised commonly with vegetables, meats, fruits, rice, and fish. For the Japanese (who are, by the way, the proponent of such food art), Bento is their way of expressing their creativity. They care much about designing these wonderful food boxes and treat them as their very own art projects. Such craze explains why there are wide range of bento-making tools and accessories available in their local market.

As mentioned earlier, the Japanese use these cute Bentos as an avenue of expressing their artistic skills. Along with decorating them, these crafted meals can also be transformed to whatever character they want them to be. They can make riceballs resembling three little pigs, panda bears, or even turn an ordinary mushroom in to a pink and smiling cartoon image. They even create meals inspired by their favorite anime characters. The possibilities are endless. The limits are just within the boundaries of imagination! These creations are popularly known as the Charaben ('kyara-ben), a contracted term for "character bento".

I also found out that the primary purpose of making these charabens is to engage young children to eat healthy. Since toddlers tend to be very picky and neglectful in terms of eating their meals due to play, this is something Japanese moms devised to obtain their children's attention for food consumption. This initiative eventually evolved in to a national interest prompting nationwide contests for Bento designing.


Funny how an online endeavor of just finding photos of cute food for my tumblr site turned out to be a new discovery on my part. I must say, I am loving these edible art! :)

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    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      The title caught my eye and I had to investigate seeing as I didn't know what either term meant! Thank you for explaining in a very interesting hub! Voted up!

    • precy anza profile image

      precy anza 5 years ago from San Diego

      I am like Bard of Ely here. The title is interesting and wondering what it is! Those foods are so cute! Specially the three pink piggies! ^-^'

    • thesingernurse profile image
      Author

      thesingernurse 5 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

      Thank you very much for stopping by Precy. :) Yeah, I have to agree. They are so cute. And if something like that would be served to me, I am afraid I won't eat it at all. :)

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      An engaging hub on Japanese food creativity! The picture of 3 rice-pigs surrounded by carved food looked very cute and colorful! Bento and Charaben are 2 terms that I have not heard till now thanks to you. This is an useful way to get young picky eaters to eat these edible artwork! The Japanese people are always great patrons of creativity in many art categories and it is no wonder that they organized the exciting Bento contests! An informative & well-written hub! Well-done!

      Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome & Interesting. Voted up & Socially Shared.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I would love to eat those little piggies. Just the picture made me want to read this article. Very cool topic to write about.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      This is to cute! I love it!

    • thesingernurse profile image
      Author

      thesingernurse 4 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

      I have to agree Ish! I can't imagine how Japanese moms manage to do something extraordinary out of regular staple food they have back there. Sometimes, whenever I surf the net to look for other bento photos, I realize... I can't eat them at all. They are too beautiful to be eaten! Lol.

      Thank you very much for dropping by sis. :)

    • thesingernurse profile image
      Author

      thesingernurse 4 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

      Hi truthfornow! Those three little pigs rock! I wonder how much time it took for its creator to bring them to life - the charaben style. Haha...

      Thank you for taking the time to read. Take care! :)

    • thesingernurse profile image
      Author

      thesingernurse 4 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

      They are, indeed, Angela! I'm glad you loved checking them out.

      Have a great day ahead! :D

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