Spring has finally come over here in Japan. Temperature has risen significantly and the sun is showing up more often !
It is also the Hanami season, cherry blossom season, and it will still last a few weeks so it could be one of the most enjoyable period to stay in Japan !
What better than being able to admire cherry trees in full bloom, a blue sky and... kyaraben... wait...
What is kyaraben ?
As often in Japanese, it is actually an abbreviation of 2 words :
the first part of the English word "character" combined with the first part of the Japanese word bento (yes it is an abbreviation of an expression with one word in English and the other in Japanese !)
Here "character" is to be taken in the sense "character of a story or video game" etc... In Japan, it is often used to refer to the little mascots Japanese people are so fond of, for example Pipo-Kun, the Tokyo Police mascot. It also includes characters of popular national shows such as the cartoons character Doraemon (which is kind of the equivalent of Mickey Mouse in Japan)
Bento is a meal box but it is not a simple meal box ! It is a quite important element in Japanese culture. In most of households, mothers prepare bento for their son/daughter for his/her lunch at school and very often kids don't eat in canteens as much as in the west while it does exit. It is the same thing for employees in companies who often bring their bento cooked by themselves or their wife.
So Japanese people eat a lot more bento than we eat for example sandwitches but the most interesting difference is that cooking a bento can be considered as... an art ! While our sandwiches are rather practical than anything else...
First of all, there are lots of different types of bento boxes, but what they have in common is that they are composed of different compartments so you can put different food cooked in different ways in them. Actually, the diversity of different little dishes you can find in a bento is amazing, especially considering the fact that most of them are somewhat small.
Now let's get back to our kyaraben. I said preparing a bento was an art and it is !
Kyaraben are elaborately arranged bento woth food decorated to look like characters from popular medias.
Look at these :
|Doraemon, a very popular comic character|
|Totoro form Miyazaki famous animated film My neighbor Totoro|
|Anpanman, an other very famous Japanese|
As I said earlier, it is currently the Hanami season in japan, the cherry blossom season and it is time to go out, take a walk or even better have a picnic under cherry trees in full bloom ! Lots of people enjoy the Hanami season with their family and right now some parents may even be preparing a kyaraben for their kids. What about gathering a couple of friends, bring your bento and have a picnic under cherry trees ? If you go with Japanese people, that would be a great occasion to check everyone's bento and be amazed by how they are so elaborate ( they will surely be !) and try yourself to make something nice !