cute

Animal sausage magnets!

Just how ubiquitous are decoratively cut wiener sausages in Japan? Well recently, Suntory, the Japanese distributor for Pepsi, included some plastic magnets made to look like wieners (specifically ones from Nippon Ham Co.) made into cute animal shapes as giveaways with 1.5 liter bottles of Pepsi NEX (aka Pepsi Zero).

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The animal sausage magnets are 2.3 cm - 3.9 cm in size (around 1 to 1.5 inches), and they come in 8 shapes: elephant, lion, octopus (with a headband), sheep, bird, seal, hippo and penguin. Each one came with instructions for making the same animal out of a real wiener.

I’m not sure if these were aimed at kids or at their kawaii-things mothers, but judging from the blog reactions in Japan they seem to have been a big hit with the mothers in any case. This blog entry has photos of all 8 figures and how they come packaged. (The Silvania bunnies are there to demonstrate the goods.)

The figures are already showing up on Yahoo! Japan Auctions and such. continue reading...

Car themed bento!

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Before we start the weekend - car themed kyaraben eye candy. continue reading...

Kyaraben (charaben) how-to links for all skill levels

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Whenever I post about kyaraban/charaben (cute bentos) from Japan, there are often comments bemoaning the lack of how-tos on those kyaraben sites. There are how tos out there, but in many cases you need to read Japanese to follow them. But here are some links to how-tos with a lot of photos that you could follow along even without understanding the accompanying Japanese text. continue reading...

The 2nd Sanrio Character Bento Contest winners are announced

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the first Sanrio Character Bento Contest. The results of the second round of the contest, which will hopefully become an annual event, have just been announced. The winner of the Gold prize (called the Golden Kyarabenist award) is this tour de force picnic lunch!

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The winner has a kyaraben blog (in Japanese of course), and she talks about her winning entry. She says she got her inspiration for this bento from the cute egg carton. (I like using egg cartons as disposable bento containers too, though mine are not even close to this level of cute). [Update:] Digging deeper into her blog, it turns out she was also the winner of the Yokohama bento contest too. She is one talented bento artist.

More after the jump… continue reading...

Yokohama Kyaraben contest

Here is another kyaraben or character bento contest to enjoy. This one is a little different - it was sponsored by the Sotetsu Group 150 Project, an ongoing event by a railway and transportation company in Yokohama commemorating the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Yokohama. The winners of the contest were announced on April 1st.

This is the top winning entry, a truly impressive tour-de-force that depicts the landscape of the Yokohama area. I especially love the blue jelly or kanten (agar-agar) cups that represent the ocean.

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Natural ways to make your bento colorful

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If you love character bentos (kyaraben), you may wonder how the creators manage to color some of the elements. Do they use food dyes? Not necessarily. Bentobako.net, called Ranchi-ryuu Obentoubako Community (Lunch-style Bento Community) is an attractive and very useful bento resource site in Japanese. One of the most interesting sections that they have recently set up is the Bento Coloring Dictionary, a reader-contributed section with lots of ideas for making various bento elements colorful without resorting solely to food dyes. Here are some of the ideas listed there, arranged by color, with my notes in parentheses.

I’ve added the formulas for deriving 3 (or 4) different colors from one ingredient - red cabbage juice! continue reading...

Takupapa, a father who makes cute bentos

The author of the book Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes (my review here) Christopher Salyers, has an excerpt of the interview he did with the one father/bento creator that appears in the book.

Takupapa (meaning the father of Takkun, his son’s nickname) started making cute kyaraben for his son when his wife was hospitalized. Quoting from the interview:

What is Charaben to you?

Charaben is a collection of precious times I spent with my son. Each and every Charaben has an episode, and I hope they will become good memories when he grows up.

And here’s the link to Takupapa’s bento blog (in Japanese). Takkun has one year left to go in kindergarten, and Takupapa plans to continue making those cute bento for him until he enters first grade in the spring of 2009.

(Incidentally, someone asked me if there is a difference between charaben and kyaraben. There isn’t - it’s just two ways of spelling out a Japanese word. The original is キャラ弁, and it’s a combination of キャラクター (character) and 弁当 (bento). I prefer the phonetic kyaraben, since I keep reading charaben with the ch part pronounced as in chair.) continue reading...

Bento items of the week: Hello Kitty theme bento making tools and more

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The kyaraben (cute character bento) artist in Japan does not have to go it alone, armed only with basic tools. There’s a big array of specialized tools that she (or the rare he) can use. I saw this company’s products mentioned in several Japanese kyaraben blogs as being easy to use and innovative. And indeed they seem to be. continue reading...