Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bento Art

On the subject of bento....

The Japanese bento 弁当 is more than a mere lunch box, and I like to call it a work of art. Forget about sandwiches wrapped in cellophane paper and a juice box: every morning, mothers across Japan are up at the crack of dawn, arranging lunch boxes for their little ones. Back when I was a kindergarten teacher, I used to witness the most amazing lunch box creations, such as panda-shaped rice balls and octopus sausages that were way too pretty to eat.

A variation on the traditional bento is "character bento", kyaraben, which is typically decorated to look like popular Japanese cartoon or video games characters. I don't think most mothers make those specific ones on a daily basis, but some definitely do.

Supermarket aisles and entire sections of lifestyle shops such as Loft are dedicated to the art of the bento, and luckily you can find an array of accessories to help you compose your own chef d'oeuvre: stencils, special scissors, seaweed cutters in all shapes, dividers, and obviously the cutest lunch boxes and chopsticks sets.

I've been leading a pretty low-key lifestyle lately (did I mention that?!), and after numerous visits to nearby shops, I stocked up on cute items (I'm in Japan, so cute is acceptable) such as a strawberry-shaped bento box, pink chopsticks, rice ball molds in the shape of a bear and a flower, to go along with the adorable onigiri box I already own.

This triangle-shaped treasure
should contain a rice ball

Those can be used to shape the rice into flora and fauna
Let me explain what's inside.

A traditional bento contains rice, fish or meat, and a few types of pickled or cooked vegetables, and is arranged with great attention to aesthetic detail. Personally, I want to have fun with my bento, and I like filling the container with foods I love, such as strawberries, blueberries, pasta and other things I regularly cook. I think any foods are acceptable, as long as they are tastefully put together.

For your viewing pleasure I rounded up some eye candy bento. Just don't expect me to re-create them.

Hello Kitty decked out in kimono, YEAH

Christmas bento: Santa, reindeer, snowman, oh my.

This character is Totoro. He's very popular.

A simple but cute one. How about that egg?!

Pink rice? Nintendo DS?! I could never even eat that one.

Credits: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]


Christine loves to Travel said...

Wow, super creative bentos! I don't think I would eat the food if it looks that good ;)

Susie said...

I've got a new bento obsession too! They're so much fun to make. I've been trying some really simple charabens, but mostly I just focus on simple and tasty! I've even started up a (mostly) bento blog, but my creations are nothing like those pictured. That Hello Kitty one is incredible...I can't tie a kimono on myself, let alone on a rice ball!

PS - If you want some simple bento inspiration, has some awesome recipes.

Susie said...

PPS - Just saw you already linked to justbento, so that was probably a pointless suggestion!

Nicole Marie said...

i've seen these on pinterest! i mean that's an awful lot of work to make your food like too good to eat :)

LH said...

Love this post! Bentos are one of the gems of Japanese culture.. Thanks for your insight ;)