These creative Japanese lunches are sure to tickle your fancy (and probably make you hungry too).

Bento making has become a popular hobby and even a sophisticated medium for creative expression. From creating popular movie characters to replicating a kindergarten-aged girls’ drawing, the amount of beautiful, cute, and funny designs that can be constructed out of ordinary lunch box food is kind of incredible.

How do you find pictures of these tasty works of art? Twitter, of course! Using the hashtag #キャラ弁 (“kyaraben”, character bentos), you can find all kinds of creative designs, and with the help of Japanese pop news site Naver Matome, we’ve collected some of the most clever, creative, and cute bentos for your browsing pleasure.

Now, when you think of character bentos, what’s the first theme that pops into mind? Probably popular anime and game characters, right? Unsurprisingly, some of the most popular bentos on Twitter are of Pokémon mascot and its beloved yellow star, Pikachu. For example, this Pikachu bento is a double whammy because not only is the box Pikachu-shaped, but the food inside the box is also Pikachu-shaped!

▼ This particular box was made in celebration of this student’s last day of high school.

While Pikachu is an icon and an ambassador for many things, young children seem to love Anpanman, the Japanese superhero with the red-bean filled head, even more. His female nemesis Dokin-chan is equally popular, so it’s no surprise that she’s often featured in bentos too.

But the designs are not limited to cute characters. One woman made this special Attack on Titan bento for her husband, but sadly it got shaken up in transit, so it didn’t quite elicit the response she’d hoped for. She assures her followers that she’s only made it once, and especially since it wasn’t rightly appreciated, she probably won’t make one again. Too bad!

▼ She was apparently inspired by a TV segment on character bentos.

Some talented bento-makers are able to go well beyond animated characters, and can even replicate real-life idols! One school-age girl is a big fan of Momo, a member of K-pop idol group TWICE, so her mom made her a special edition bento for her field trip to Osaka Castle.

Bento designs don’t even have to be well-known characters, either. According to this netizen, their mom is apparently regularly increasing her efforts to baffle her child with strange unknown characters. It turns out they’re actually stylish and well-crafted, which impressed the netizen enough to share it, even though it confused them.

▼ “It’s cute, but who is it?”

Of course, cute animals make regular appearances too. One man was looking forward to eating some of his wife’s homemade inarizushi, a popular sushi dish of vinagered rice wrapped in a fried tofu skin, but he was more than a little surprised when he took it out of the fridge and realized that she’d shaped one of them into a tiny panda!

▼ It’s unclear whether he ate it or not in the end; as good as inarizushi is, it’s gotta be hard to eat such an expertly (and cutely!) crafted panda.

Naturally, when you make beautiful and creative bentos every day, sometimes you want to take a break and make something simple. On days like that, it’s nice to take advantage of an easy request. One mom seized the chance to do so when her daughter asked for one of her favorite animals: a toy poodle.

Clearly, sometimes a little bit can go a long way. And when you’re not really strong on the creative side, that’s a helpful tip to remember. When one businessman’s wife couldn’t make him a bento, he made one himself, but he must have tried to replicate his wife’s slightly more refined lunch art, since this quirky rabbit was the result.

It’s not just adults who make the best bentos either. One dutiful older sibling was making bentos with their little sister for their younger brother’s Sports Festival, when the little sister created something unexpectedly great: some kind of mysterious, small-eyed, big-beaked creature.

▼ Are they ducks? Dinosaurs? No one knows, but we can all agree that they’re kinda cute.

Perhaps not all of the designs are cute, depending on what you’re into, of course. Imagine if you opened your bento to find a bunch of bugs in it!! Only to realize that it’s just a bit of expertly cut seaweed and some cleverly shaped tomatoes and sausages. Phew. This mom’s son is apparently a huge fan of bugs, so it was a big hit for him!

Props to those who have the stomach to turn delicious food into gross bugs. Although this bento is a little less realistic than the one above, this mom had to actively try not to feel like something was crawling on her as she made it. Try as she might, she could not make the legs of this beetle because it gave her the creepy crawlies, but I’m sure her child loved it regardless!

It really must take quite a bit of patience and skill to make such cute and creative works of art out of food. Not only do you have to cook the food, but you have to plan how you’re going to arrange it, and with what ingredients, too! Honestly, when laser-cut seaweed is a thing, it’s no surprise that character bentos can be serious business.

Source: Matome Naver
Featured Image: Twitter/@no2xnox