Recently a lot of attention has been directed at Japanese mothers’ painstakingly crafted packed lunches called charabens (character bentos). It’s something of a competition for mothers to send their children off to school with not just the best tasting or healthiest food, but also the most creatively arranged. The BBC ran a feature showing how housewives attend classes to arrange rice, seaweed, and other ingredients into characters ranging from Hello Kitty and Totoro to Michael Jackson and Barack Obama.

However, like many trends, when they get mainstream attention an underground subculture begins to appear. Tired of the typical kittens and pandas that usually adorn a child’s lunch, these artisans of food challenge themselves to create objects we don’t always associate with a delicious meal.

A blogger on Rico & Coco prepared this lunch in the image of a tube of Nivea skin cream. It was made over five years ago but recently resurfaced via @hayashou on Twitter. Most people’s reactions were a reluctance to eat it either because of the skill and attention to detail that went into making it or because, well, it looks like a bottle of skin cream.

A further look into the original blog reveals a wide range of lunches that pay homage to various household items like batteries, health drinks, Playstation controllers, and bathroom cleaners. You can also find some edible logos for companies such as Master Card, IBM, or Yamato Transport (a Japanese version of FedEX). Someone even went so far as to make a bento featuring Takafumi Horie, the former internet mogul who created the popular Japanese web portal, Livedoor, and who was sentenced to prison for securities fraud in 2007.

Sadly the original blog went inactive in 2007. It is uncertain whether the thrill of creating commercial charabens was short-lived or if they just went back underground. Nevertheless these creations should continue to be seen and appreciated for their absurdity as well as their artistry.

・Rico & Coco Blog:
・BBC Report on Charabens:

▼Yunker, a popular health tonic in Japan often promoted by Ichiro Suzuki

▼A bottle of sauce used for Takoyaki (fried octopus balls), it tastes a lot better than it sounds

▼A tube of Nivea skin cream

▼A four –pack of AA batteries

▼The website banner for Livedoor with a portrait of its founder looking reasonably upset

▼A bottle of mold and mildew remover

▼A popular brand of alcohol drunk for health, Yomeishu

[ Read in Japanese ]