If you are looking for a Japanese art form to explore but haven’t found a traditional art to your taste, you might want to try the art of Kyaraben, also known as Charaben, short for “Character Bentos”.
These are bentos where the assortment of foods to go in the lunch box are made in the shapes of your favorite animation characters. If you develop a flair, you may even want to branch into landscape-bens, portrait-bens, or even abstra-bens. The latter three being as yet unexplored bento art territory.
To make this 100% edible art, start with a sketch of your favorite character. From Hello Kitty to Hexa-kun (the character from the well-known television quiz show, Hexagon), the world’s your oyster and any vegetable, fish cake, meat morsel or seaweed sheets can form the materials.
You will find a scissor helpful for cutting seaweed; and straws are good to punch small circles in slices of ham or cheese that can be used as buttons, on faces, as polkadots, etc.
Think about your palette, and how to make colors from plain white rice adding such condiments as tomato ketchup, mentaiko or pink fish powders, or an autumn orange using pumpkin.
Sharpen your knives, get out your bento supplies, and discover that you too can sculpt rice into onigiri of various shapes and sizes that can be wrapped with colorful tastes to resemble your favorite characters.
The bentos pictured are made by my daughter, 11-year old Y., who is getting an early start in the art. She made these bentos for her fall school excursions (ensokus). BTW, the Chara-bens are also ECO and can be adapted for all ages. If you enjoy this art, you might be inclined to use your own bento more and purchase the disposable variety less.
Aikawarazu Life in Japan