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The culinary custom of bento, boxed lunches, goes back for generation in Japan. What’s a little less clear, though, is how long people have been dressing up their bentos to look like cute characters.

We’re sure some creative people with both artistic and culinary talents have been making character bentos, or chara-bens, for a long time. But recently, media coverage of chara-bens has gotten intense, and it’s inspiring a wave of newcomers to try their hand at making one for the first time.

But you know the saying, “The third time’s the charm?” People say that because you’re likely to screw things up the first two times, as this collection of first-try bentos shows.

Beginner’s luck can apply to chara-bens too, of course, and some cooks turn in a pretty respectable effort for their first time, like this Yo-Kai Watch bento.

Likewise, Anpanman and Hello Kitty aren’t looking too bad, even if the sweet bean bread-headed hero’s expression isn’t bursting with his usual confidence.

Making characters out of food is a tricky endeavor though, and sometimes thing don’t go so smoothly, as in the case of this misshapen Pikachu.

▼ We’re not sure anyone’s choosing you for lunch, Pikachu.

At least you can tell what the intent is with the above chara-ben. On the other hand, if it wasn’t for the chef telling us herself, we wouldn’t have been able to guess that clump of rice with…something on it is supposed to be Hello Kitty.

The next one is even subtler. Those two pieces of half-moon shaped pickles are supposed to be the eyes of…an alien? Bigfoot?

Thankfully, there’s one tactic that’ll bail you out if you find yourself halfway through your chara-ben and realize you’re not going to get the body shapes right: just use dried seaweed to make faces.

▼ Ah! It’s a cat enjoying a sand bath…right?

▼ The sand bath seems to be a popular motif with beginners.

Also, it’s important to know your limitations. Don’t push yourself by trying to get too fancy, like with the nose flourish here.

▼ In all fairness, though, we can’t imagine anything termed a “nose flourish” leading to an aesthetically pleasing ending.

Keep things as simple as possible, and you’ll run into fewer points where you can screw up.

▼ While you can’t call this chara-ben complex, you also can’t argue with the fact that it’s pretty cute.

And if you need to knock the degree of difficulty down just one more notch, we recommend picking a model that already looks like food. For example, remember Kirimi, the Sanrio character shaped like a salmon fillet?

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That’s a chara-ben that practically makes itself.

▼ A few flecks of seaweed, a tiny piece of ham, and you’re done!

And if even that’s too challenging for you? Then maybe it’s time to change mediums, and try grated radish art instead.

Source: Naver Matome
Top image: Twitter
Kirimi image: Sanrio