cute

Onigiri Pon!

One of the questions asked during the Anniversary Giveaway was why Japanese people like cute (kawaii) things so much, as is evident in the cult of kyaraben or charaben. I’m not really sure of the answer to be honest, but it is true that from children to adults, women and even some men, love things that are cute and childlike. It may stem for the appreciation for detail in small objects like netsuke. Or maybe Japanese people are just a bit childish?

Or, maybe it’s because from a very young age, Japanese kids are exposed to kawaii culture. This is from a childrens’ program that airs on the NHK Education channel (NHK is the state-run TV station, equivalent to the BBC) called いないないばあっ! (inai inai baa), which is also the name of the game you play with babies ‘Now you see me…Now you don’t!’. It’s aimed at 0 to 2 year olds, and is the highest rated kid’s show on the NHK. This song is called おにぎりぽん!(onigiri pon!) continue reading...

Bento no. 54: Hallowe'en Zombie Kitty Bento

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Bento contents:

Total calories (approx): 480 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: Way too long! (About 2 hours)

Type: Japanese, kyaraben/charaban, special occasion, Homage to The Kitty continue reading...

Quick tip: Easy cute bento components with stickers

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No patience or time to make cute bentos? How about using stickers? continue reading...

Bento no. 52: Special Occasion Omuraisu (Omurice) Bento

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Bento contents:

  • Fried rice made with 2/3 cup brown rice and assorted chopped vegetables, 250 cal
  • 1 1/2 wiener sausages, 200 cal
  • Omelette made with 2 eggs, 230 cal
  • Broccoli, 20 cal

Total calories (approx): 700 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 20-30 minutes

Type: Japanese, kyaraben-ish, special occasion bento! continue reading...

Print publications from two top charaben/kyaraben artists

wakuwakukyaraben1.jpgAlthough the school year starts in April in Japan, September still means back-to-school time after the summer school holidays, so there are a slew of new bento books and such coming out. Two of top Japanese charaben/kyaraben (character bento) artists and bento bloggers have published things in print this month, which you might be interested in taking a look at if you are into this genre of bentos. (Yes they are all in Japanese, but they both are guaranteed to have big beautiful full color photos!)

First up is a mook (large magazine format book) from the lady who blogs under the nickname akinoichigo, titled akinoichigo’s Fun Fun! Character Bento (akinoichigoのわくわく! キャラクターのお弁当). Her work featured prominently in the Face Food book. I’ve always admired her elaborate, very cute yet refined bentos, especially her wonderful sense of color, which really sets her apart. Being a mook, it’s not that expensive either - only 980yen base price from Amazon Japan. Ms. akinoichigo also conducts bento seminars, so I’m assuming she’s a good teacher too!

The other publication is a supplement to the October 2008 issue of Ohayo Okusan (おはよう奥さん, which translates to Good Morning Mrs. Housewife), a women’s magazine aimed at well, housewives. (It’s sort of like Good Housekeeping in the U.S.) Anyway, the supplement, titled Asa tsukuranai! obentou (Bentos not made in the morning!) is all about bento lunches that are composed of make-ahead components that are just assembled in the morning. It’s authored by the bento artist asami122 (her blog post about it is here, where she has a photo of the supplement too), and includes some quick tips for charaben/kyaraben too. Ms. asami122 is the creator of the traditional kimono-clad Hello Kitty bento mentioned here. The attention to detail in her bentos is simply mind boggling. She too teaches charaben bento skills in small classes. The October issue of Ohayo Okusan isn’t available directly from Amazon Japan at the moment, but most Japanese bookstores such as Kinokuniya should carry it. One issue of Ohayo Okusan is only 540 yen, so it’s a bargain if you can find it!

More fun bento and related links

It’s the weekend, so time for some more fun links…

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Have you seen this photo? It’s a Lego recreation by Mike Stimpson, aka flickr user Balakov, of a famous photograph called Lunchtime atop a Skyscraper. The original is a great classic, but I love the Lego version too. Both photos remind me how much fun opening up a lunch box after a morning of hard work can be. (You can buy a print of the Lego photo — how cool is that? ) continue reading...

Around the bento blogs

Here are some links of interest from bento blogs around the world: continue reading...

All natural vegetable based green, pink and orange rice

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Previously, I showed you how to make orange colored carrot rice. The make-in-a-few minutes microwave method was especially popular. So, here’s how to make pink (or purple) and green colored rice just as easily. The best thing about them is that they are colored just with vegetables - no hard to pronounce ingredients in sight.

I’ve used white rice for color clarity, but you could use regular or sprouted brown rice instead. I used leftover rice from the night before; you could also use defrosted frozen rice. continue reading...