Kyaraben: BENTOtally adorable!

Gold-leafed pizzas, galaxy-inspired milkshakes, and rainbow cake. We all love our food to look visually aesthetic, snapping and uploading them to our social media. What is probably the epitome and peak of all this is kyaraben!

Rilakuma Kyaraben (character bento)

Kyaraben is the contraction of the romanised Japanese word for ‘character bento’ ( キャラクター弁当). It is a category of bento boxes that feature adorably designed food so that they resemble characters from pop culture. From Rilakuma to Naruto, kids of all ages are in for a surprise as they anticipate what resides inside the bento box.

Japanese words for kyaraben

Despite its cutesy and bright appearance, the kyaraben culture means serious business. The designs of kyarabens are often drawn out before preparing the elaborate and intricate ingredients to form the characters, all the while keeping in mind and making sure that all the elements of the bento box are nutritiously beneficial. Parents would have unspoken competitions online to see who could prepare the most aesthetically pleasing kyaraben. Large corporations such as Sanrio (Hello Kitty’s agency) have begun to pick up on this trend and had even hosted their own kyaraben competitions. The kyaraben craze has even reached Malaysia. With shops such as Daiso making kyaraben tools easily accessible to the everyday person, anyone could make their own kyaraben with sufficient guidance. But what had contributed to the international rise of kyaraben?

The design of the kyaraben

Kyaraben has evolved greatly from traditional Japanese bento boxes, best known for being functionally portable and nutritiously balanced. As parents continuously think of more innovative ways to make their children eat their food, they eventually settled on making the food resemble the characters of TV shows that their children watch. Cut out some nori seaweed, gently place them on rice balls, and you have a cute face! The kids loved seeing their favourite characters from TV right inside their bento boxes. With the advent of social media, more and more people shared their kyaraben creations online, and thus the kyaraben culture spreads like wildfire.

The process of doing kyaraben

Nowadays, finding information and inspiration for kyarabens is simple. If you want to learn how to make your own kyaraben, we have collected several resources for you:

  • Watch Experience’s page for kyaraben classes when they post up their monthly schedules! They have skilled instructors and the prices are usually affordable for students.
  • Inspirations

Featured image from Experience’s page 

Written by Andrew Ng

"I am not a glutton - I am an explorer of food." - Emma Bombeck

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