Kyaraben (character bento): The cutesification of Japanese food in and beyond the lunchbox | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2051-7084
  • E-ISSN: 2051-7092



The recent boom in cute characters (kyara) has permeated Japanese popular aesthetics to the extent that character-shaped foods have displaced the former emphasis on recreating natural objects in bento (packed lunches) created for preschoolers. Prior to this development, Anne Allison described bento as an ‘ideological state apparatus’. Under this rubric, learning to make a proper bento was a part of training women to be proper mothers of preschoolers, just as eating it quickly and completely helped train the children as model citizens. Contemporary mothers of small children, having been reared on Hello Kitty and her ilk, are now no longer simply the targets of character merchandizing, but the promulgators. Performing the domestic and educational rituals of kyaraben encourages women’s and children’s production and consumption of ‘character culture’.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): bento; characters; cuisine; cute; gender; Japan; kawaii; mascots
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