Tuesday, September 9, 2008


The overexcited commentators over at Pitchfork recently ran a post on a Japanese bento artisan who's been redoing all of his favorite album covers as bentos. What a find! His site, Jacket Lunch Box, is dedicated almost exclusively to this audible-cum-edible addiction.

His site is loaded with examples, both in video and still form. If you have time to kill... (Ed: nevermind the fact that he seems obsessed with Rage Against the Machine!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I'm blushing a little today (red food coloring on white rice face... ok, I'm soooo not funny...) at the press that's come my way (or, I should say, Face Food's way) lately. Yesterday a friend pointed me toward a review (below) in this month's FADER... which is the most down-to-earth critical quip I've read so far.

And today I came across another all-too-positive review in GRAFIK. Woah... I love that mag. Wish I had a scan of it... but they never sent me a copy! If you're at a newstand, do check it out. (It's the PINK issue!)

Thursday, July 10, 2008


France is au dessus in the battle for the #1 spot of Countries That Love Face Food. Ok... this isn't an actual category, but the book is performing well there! The love affair between France and Japan continues on... even in bento form. This quip is brought to you by the letter F, and the magazine MarseillePLUS, who recently ran a piece on the book. C’est le dernier cri!

mi emoción con los almuerzos bento decorados...

Hola! Nanay over at It's A Typical Situation blog has a post up of her recent charaben creation, featuring Cartoon Network's grim duo, Billy & Mandy! Check out her blog, Spanish speakers...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In Italy!

Ambra, in italiano, has posted about Face Food on her blog. Check it!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Le Blog Cook'cotte

I don't know about the "head of broccoli" pun, but the blog for Paris's Bienvenue à la Cocotte has something up on Face Food. Give them your French love here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tim Anderson on Face Food

Though he spelled my name wrong (forgiveness, forgiveness...) Tim Anderson wrote some lovely words on Face Food over at his blog, Media Studies Gateway. I'd like to share a passage of it here:

I have often wondered about the symbolic terrain of the logos and brand imagery but it wasn't until I saw this book that I think it really hit me that the possibility of affective connections that can be created through the reproduction and digestion of such material. The child and adult who consumes these faces must, at some level, do so with a level of care that must resonate throughout their psyche. What it means that these are symbols that are not necessarily generated by contract, but rather by fans (or parents of fans) suggests a deeper level of affective attachment, one that I had not considered before. Why I hadn't is clear to me. On my fifth birthday I clearly remember asking my mom for a "Batman cake", which she did as best she could. It's one of the better memories of my childhood, one that, if I am lucky, won't go away any time soon. I miss those cakes, my TV show lunchboxes and my mom, all of whom swirl together in memories of TV shows shared and time spent at tables in cafeterias, birthday parties and first communions. For better or worse, these mediated images of Christ, Batman and Family cannot be disaggregated, nor would I want them to be.

Tim touches on religious ritual and its association with imagery/food, something I've never really thought about until now. The Last Supper... First Communion... Catholic or otherwise, religions are borne out of image incorporation and idol "ingestion." Religious meals can symbolize rights of passage, markers for our own maturity. Charaben, in many ways, represent the wide-eyed splendor, the anything-is-possible dreamlike innocence of youth - albeit a branded representation of this idea. But one can't really hate on using the image of a Powerpuff Girl, a Mickey Mouse or Goku-san... these characters, all corporate-owned and copyrighted creations, are no different than a generic image of a deer, puppy dog, or what have you - at least when it comes to charaben. The great thing about charaben is the time/skill involved in making them, something no machine or corporation could duplicate (at least not yet). It's the care involved in their creation that really sets these bentos apart; the end result is simply the icon in our memories, the marker left to remind us of our parents' love, care and charity.

Nesting Pooh

I recently came across this charaben on the blog circuit, and was immediately struck by the adorable notion of the bento box itself as a "nest" for this cute little sleeping Pooh. It's not often that the charaben artisan uses the box itself as a "prop" in the mise en scène de nourriture, so I feel the need to call it out: who has seen, or crafted, a charaben using the bento box as "object?" What other scenes/backdrops might a bento box represent?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Franco Face Food!

For you French-speaking bento lovers out there, Cocooking.fr has a review up on FACE FOOD. Check it out through the jump.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Face Food on Core77

Long time no blog! I know, but things have been hectic here in the Big Apple... I promise more and more charaben images in the days to follow. But for now, please read this great review from the folks over at Core77, one of the few blogs I read on a daily basis. Kudos!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Chew On This: Tuesday

When it debuted as an original series in 1998 (wow, that long ago!), The Powerpuff Girls breathed new life into animated programming, flying alongside other Cartoon Network hits like Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, and the underrated Courage the Cowardly Dog. (If you recall, the all six shows first appeared as shorts on the program World Premiere Toons.) It was/is an American's hyperactive take on tokusatsu, with a wicked sense of humor and an inventively minimalist/mod style. I remember loving it, though I don't know how I'd feel about it now... or is this simply another case of The Weezer Factor? (i.e., was I even right about loving it then?)

Ok, all doubt has been erased by this pic - The Powerpuff Girls were, are, and always will be freakin' awesome. (Much like the first two Weezer albums...)

Let's see what Buttercup has to say:

Youtube-thumpin' aside, Makiko Ogawa created this charaben, a perfect likeness of our fav little ladies, imho:

This image © MAKIKO OGAWA.

Now if only someone would make a charaben of Billy and Mandy... *nudge nudge, wink wink*

Face Food on KCRW!

I had the intimate pleasure of speaking with Good Food's Evan Kleiman last week, on the NPR affiliate station KCRW in Santa Monica. What a treat it was to be on the radio again!

Listen to full broadcast, or download the podcast here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Chew On This: Tuesday

Finally, a Chew On This entry we can all agree on: Smile's spring bunnies! Have a gander at these cute and (mostly) delicious little things...

Sample 1: White Rice Bunny with Bunnish Smile.

This image © SMILE.

Sample 2: Spring Colors Bunny. The detail of the little chick in the egg... so adorable!

This image © SMILE.

Sample 3: Excitable Bunny on Rice with Clovers.

This image © SMILE.

Sample 4: In all honesty, this one might be a squirrel.

This image © SMILE.

Smile (aka Fumie, but you didn't hear that from me) is a Tokyo local with a love of obento design. She really is awesome!

See more of her work here. (Sorry, the site's in Japanese only!)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chew On This: Friday

There are two American charaben artisans profiled in Face Food, and they certainly outdo themselves in terms of creative food manipulation. One such success is Mari Baker Natakiya of Athens, Georgia (...of all the wonderful places!).


I asked her a few questions for the book, so here's a taste:

Why do you think so many Japanese mothers make these obentos?
I don't know that I can truly answer this question. I think perhaps that every mother has a different reason for making obentos. And, at least for me, it can change day-to-day depending on whether my daughter is sick or upset, happy or sad. In general, I would guess that it is because bentos and the personalized decorations are such a sweet way to remind children that they are loved and have their mother's full support even when they can't be right there beside them.


How much time and money do you spend making them?
More time than money goes into my bentos. Often I will make huge batches of food and freeze them which cuts down a lot on both the time I spend on individual bentos and the amount spent on food. When I am making three very decorative bentos at the same time I can spend as much as an hour to an hour and a half. Usually it takes me about thirty minutes to put three bentos together.

What separates this from an attractive-looking arrangement of food in a box?
That's a difficult question. I think maybe I would say that bento making is a hobby. Because the bento boxes, accessories and ideas make it such a special, enjoyable and creative expression of individuality it becomes more than just making a lunch. There is this great feeling when bento boxes are pulled out, a lot like when special plates come out for holidays. Bentos are completely unique and suited exactly to the tastes and needs of individuals and that makes them almost magical.


For more with Mari Baker Natakiya, check out Face Food.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chew On This: Thursday

Now here are two charaben I can really get behind the table for: Le Petit Prince and Tin Tin, two of Europe's most cherished children (as opposed to _____ or _____ ). Which would you rather swallow? (...and don't be dirty-minded, please... kids are looking at this stuff!)

This image © KUBO.

This image © KUBO.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Face Food in Greece & Italy!

Face Food is making its rounds around Europe. Huge, multi-spread articles were recently published in the Italian magazine, Flair, as well as the Marie Claire of Greece. How awesome is that!?

Ohhhh Greece, how I'd love to come show you the ways of the charaben!

Here's the same idiot checking out both featured articles:


Chew On This: Wednesday

The following are charaben by Maiko Nihei. They're both Power Rangers, but... I honestly don't know a thing about Power Rangers! (...aside from what Wiki tells me, and we all know not to believe anything one reads on Wiki, right?? *smiley emoticon*) When I first saw Power Rangers (...god, the 90s!!?) I singled it out as an Ultraman knock-off and never really gave it a proper chance...

This image © MAIKO NIHEI.

This image © MAIKO NIHEI.

Does anyone know the difference between Rangers? Which would you rather chew on? I call dibs on the Pink Ranger!

(retro ooo la la!)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Papaben AKA Takupapa Interview

This image © DETACH.

The above image was one taken during my lunch with Papaben (aka Takupapa) and his son, Takkun - two of the cooler bento wiz's featured in Face Food. (As you can see above, I'm being presented with my Mario w/ raccoon tail bento, an image taken from the box of Nintendo's Super Mario Brothers 3... how freakin' cool is that!?) Active on the Tokyo bento blog circuit, Papaben approaches his charaben designs with a cool air of worldly confidence and just a pinch of dry wit. See further examples in the book... for now, here's some nuggets from my interview:

Since when and why did you start making Charaben? How often?

Since April 2006. My wife was hospitalized for some time, so I started making obento in place of her. About four times a week.

Who do you make Charaben for? How is his/her response?
I make them for my son in kindergarten now. He used to love anything I make, but now he is happy only when I make a character that he likes. He seems to have had enough.

This image © PAPABEN.

On average, how much time and money do you spend on making one Charaben?
Varies, from 30 minutes to 4 hours. About 200 yen.

Describe a typical Charaben-making day’s schedule.
The day before I come home at 12AM and spend 1-3 hours preparing the character. I wake up at 8 and make the obento in 30 minutes. I photoshoot for 5 minutes and give the Charaben to my son who leaves home at 8:50.

How do you choose which character to make? Which character is your favorite?
I choose characters that my son knows. The easiest characters to make are the characters with big parts and less lines.

This image © PAPABEN.

What is the most difficult/challenging thing when making Charaben?
The biggest challenge is choosing the character. I am careful about nutritional balance and visual color coordination.

What do you think draws people to Charaben?
Seeing children smile!

List the following three in the order of importance: nutrition, taste, and visual.
Nutrition, visual, taste.

What is the moment that makes you love/hate Charaben?
I love Charaben when I see my child with a big smile on his face.
I hate choosing the character to make the night before.

This image © PAPABEN.

What is Charaben to you?
Charaben is a collection of precious times I spent with my son. Each and every Charaben has an episode, and I hope they will become good memories when he grows up.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

JustBento.com Gets Some Face Time w/ Face Food

There is a positive review of my book over at JustBento.com, a "site about making tasty, quick and healthy bento box meals." It really is a well-informed blog, and worth the daily visit (if you're that into bento boxes, that is...).

The article's writer, Maki, nutshelled Face Food as such: "The book is not really a how-to book, but rather a sort of pocket sized coffee table book... but the most interesting text is the introduction and the too-short questionnaires with a few of the bento creators... a nice intro to kyaraben."

Ok, I'll bite: you really like it for what it is, and that's cool... Thanks, Maki!

And, as if she needed further Kawaii Points, Maki and JustBento.com are raffling off their advance copy of the book... to one lucky commenter! So jump over to the site and leave your info before the deadline: this Tuesday, February 19th.

Kawaii bento heads!

Friday, February 15, 2008


This image © KUBO.

If anyone missed last night's Lost, hit up iTunes: it really was one of the better episodes I've seen, and proof that this season (though short... thanks, Writers Guild of America!) will continue to deliver.

On other J.J. Abrams-related topics, the rumor mill is churning for the new Trek feature:

Alternate realities?


(two Trek posts in one week? Ouch.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines Day

I love you all... in that way. :-P

Waiter, There's a Hair in My Potter!

I'm pretty outspoken in my detest for the Harry Potter series (I just think there are loads and loads of better books out there (esp. for adults... yes, I said it...), all of which should garner just a spec of the sort of attention Potter commands, etc.), but I can't deny the numbers, and the world-wide fanaticism is simply impossible to ignore. Even in charaben, we have Potter. Face Food contributor KUBO sends me these from her vault:

This image © KUBO.

This image © KUBO.

This image © KUBO.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not against immature prose, or even geekdome for that matter. I just have a hard time following the exploits of a little boy as he fights off magical owls instead of the pangs of his own sexual maturity. F*ck... read Huckleberry Finn for cripes sake... or, ok, this is the fantasy genre we're talking about... and for an audience of "young adults." So how's about R.A. Salvatore's Forgotten Realms series involving Drizzt Do'Urden? Those are loaded with mature themes, and are a hoot to read. But back to Potter: it all looks great as charaben, no? Albeit just a tad creepy.

And for the geek record: I own an original box set of Choose Your Own Adventure books, and the first two seasons of the original Star Trek on DVD. Ouch. Where the heck is my Spock bento, eh!!!????


Interesting from dietary and cultural perspectives, yes, but ultimately these carefully constructed meals are driven by the same passion that lies at the heart of all truly great design. Thereby serving as yet another reminder of what makes anything we do worth doing—love.

Some very kind words via Chris Dickman's Photos.com blog. Thanks, Chris!

Monday, February 11, 2008

The World According to Junko

This image © JUNKO.

Mother Q: Ok, you can use my Hello Kitty bento images but I want written permission from the Sanrio Company so I don't get sued... please have your lawyers contact me at the following...

Mother P: Thanks! I'm so so happy you want to use my charaben in a book in America! I have always dreamed of New York City! Unfortunately I have no high resolution images... will that be a problem?

Mother X: My fees will be $1000 per image for international rights, etc etc...

Compiling images for Face Food was an exciting yet disheartening process. Not every charaben expert responded to my messages, and some (after an initial contact) disappeared off the face of the earth.

This image © JUNKO.

One such Japanese blogger was Junko Terashima. Her designs, which have a surreal angle and distinct Western influence, would have brought a little more of the absurd into the book... unfortunately, Junko failed to get to me in time for printing... but thanks to the web, she'll still turn stomachs with her unique takes on the bento. I still loves ya, Junko!

This image © JUNKO.

This image © JUNKO.

This image © JUNKO.

This image © JUNKO.

This image © JUNKO.