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Japan’s become pretty enamored with latte art over the past few years, with baristas all over the country creating cute characters in swirls of cream and foam. But what if you’re not a coffee drinker, either because you’re watching your caffeine intake or just because your inner child won’t let you drink anything so bitter? Is there a way for you to set your table with eye-pleasing edibles?

Sure there is! All you need is a pile of grated daikon radish, and this new book that tells you how to craft it into adorable edibles.

As one of Japan’s most widely grown domestic vegetables, there are a number of ways to prepare daikon. Just about the simplest is daikon oroshi, or grated daikon. A dollop of it is often added to grilled fish, but daikon oroshi also gets tossed into nabe hotpots pretty regularly, something more and more people are looking to eat now that the weather is getting colder.

The texture of daikon oroshi is fine enough that it’s ordinarily shapeless, but still malleable if you want to build something out of it. While growing up, many of us were told not to play with our food, but I’m guessing we didn’t have quite the mix of culinary and artistic skills as daikon oroshi artist Kimimarokku.

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One of the medium’s pioneers, Kimimarokku’s work features prominently in the simply titled Daikon Oroshi Art, which explains the fundamentals for newcomers to the hobby. Kimimarokku contributed 10 pieces to the printed collection, including the polar bear seen above that was her first big hit and caused a sensation when she shared it on Twitter.

Kimimarokku says she was inspired to make the daikon oroshi for the birthday party of a polar bear-loving friend. The artist also has a younger sister who’s especially fond of pandas, so you know what that means.

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She’s gotten so skilled that she’s moved on from just creating the animals themselves, and has even starting turning her hotpots into mini dioramas. Here, we see a fluffy sheep strolling along a forest path of mizuna herbs next to a grove of mushrooms.

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You don’t even have to limit yourself to animals with pure white coats. By mixing in a little ginger to add some color, Kimimarokku was able to produce what might be her cutest creation yet, a family of capybaras relaxing in a bath with yuzu citrus fruits bobbing about.

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While Kimimarokku is the star of the book, she’s not the sole focus, as it contains 32 entries from other individuals and even companies, such as miso maker Marukome, which made this radish version of its Marukome-kun corporate mascot.

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Daikon Oroshi Art goes on sale this month at bookstores for 900 yen (US $8.25). Pick up a copy and find your own answer to the question, “Does it still count as playing with your food when you end up with a work of art?”
[ Read in Japanese ]