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Kyaraben, short for “character bento”, are insanely popular in Asia and Japan in particular. Young mothers, and some fathers too no doubt, spend hours crafting special lunch boxes, using all manner of foodstuffs to create shapes, faces and designs, and there are even entire books and monthly magazines containing hundreds of ideas. Over the years, we’ve seen lunch boxes based everything from Nivea hand cream to video game smash Metal Gear Solid, but it’s easy to forget that the practice of dressing up a packed lunch has, in fact, been around for quite some time.

Shared via Twitter earlier this week by a user named Clicohibi, these kyaraben were apparently made and photographed some 10 years ago, proving not only that the concept has existed for quite some time but that it wasn’t always lunches based on popular characters that were all the rage.

The first photo sees a selection of cucumber sushi rolls, known as kappamaki, with a goblin-like creature sitting in the middle of one. In Japanese folklore, Kappa are spirits that take the form of a child-sized entity and dwell in or near rivers. Although often mischievous and in ancient times often blamed for drownings, these spirits are thought to occasionally befriend humans, particularly if they share food with them.

As you may already have guessed, Kappa are said to be especially fond of cucumbers, so it’s fitting that the creator of this little lunch set has taken the idea of kappamaki to the extreme and crafted a miniature river spirit popping his head out from the middle of one of the rice rolls.

▼ The quality of the photo leads us to believe that this really was taken 10 years ago. Thank you, modern smartphones for your high megapixel cameras!

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The second photo offered up by the same Twitter user shows what appears to be an elaborate bento based on kids’ TV series Nihon Mukashibanashi, which ran for almost 20 years, beginning in 1975.

▼ Isn’t he a little cutie? It’s easy to forget that this is lunch, sometimes!

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It just goes to show: the subject matter may change as quickly as the four seasons Japanese people keep banging on about having, but when it comes to creativity with food, it’s been around for aeons.

Source: Togech JP