bento - 032 - Wild things (left)

As children we were always hearing a parental figure disapprovingly say “Stop playing with your food!” Whatever happened to blowing milk bubbles or flying mashed potato bombs? Having fun with your food is just as important as consuming it. That’s why Plato Putas fell in love with Anna and her incredible playful Japanese bento (lunch) boxes, also know as Kyaraben.

In Japan, moms spend time devising ways to create appealing bento boxes usually decorated to look like people and characters from pop culture. It’s a sneaky way to incorporate healthy eating with young children. Born in Japan, but now living in New York, Anna has been using her creative forces to make the most adorable, intricate bento boxes. We caught up with Anna and asked her a few questions about her kyaraben-making passion.

When did your love for creating ornate bento boxes begin?
I’ve been making kyaraben since September 2008. One day while I was packing lunch for my boyfriend, I had an extra 10-15 minutes and made a chicken out of a hard boiled egg, and an octopus out of sausages. They came out horrible. Especially the sausage octopus, it was really wrinkly because I fried the sausages instead of boiling them. But when my boyfriend saw it he went “Awwwwwww,” and it just made me want to hear him say that again. While he was adoring my crappy bento, I was thinking “I can do better!!” You never see my first bento on my blog or flickr because I didn’t think I could call it a kyaraben. I was so embarrassed by it.

What’s your overall process from idea creation to final completion.
I usually start off by making a list of what my boyfriend likes by checking his DVD, video game, and anime collections. I spend time thinking about which characters can be translated into food. Next, I draw up a sketch and write notes about which food to use. If possible, I prepare the food the night before and put the box together the following morning.

Who eats your bento boxes?
My boyfriend is the one who eats all of my bentos. I rarely eat my own kyaraben because I’m way too lazy to make something so time-consuming and elaborate if it’s just for me. While my boyfriends bento typically looks like this…

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…mine usually looks like this.

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Which is your favorite bento and why?
My favourite bentos are the Sleeping Totoro (left) and Katamari (right). The Sleeping Totoro is a very balanced bento, color and nutrition wise. I love how Totoro’s teeth came out. It’s also my boyfriend’s favorite, and that’s a huge plus since he’s the one who ate it. I had so much fun making the Katamari. All of the vegetables, sushi, and animals were made the night before and stuck onto a huge rice ball containing curry. It was an “out of the box” bento. Literally. The lid didn’t close! I don’t think anyone has ever made a bento like that before.

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Be sure to visit Anna’s online gallery containing a slew of photographs of her amazing work. Plus Anna regularily posts “How To” tutorials, so you too can create a sheep rice ball or Totoro cream puff. Be sure to send us a picture of your creation! Happy bento-ing.

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