Is it simply a culture or is it also a competition between moms to see who can come up with the most kawaii bento lunches?
No doubt, we are all for healthy eating and eating a well-balanced meal, but this culture has somewhat placed extra pressure upon Japanese mothers who must wake up super early to prepare these bento lunches for their kids to bring to school. For one, it is not just about thinking of new recipes daily to constantly excite them about the food, but it is also about having the patience and creativity to make the intricate carvings so as to make it visually appealing. This visual aspect is especially important and is what makes this bento making a competition between moms. Basically, the school children are the judges of these competitions. During the school lunches, it is inevitable to see curious little munchkins looking over their shoulders at their classmates’ bento boxes. If it is more visually stunning than their own, they may bring this comment back to their moms. The mother might feel crushed inside after hearing this from their child and feel even more pressured to do better next time. This mindset may be stemmed from the fact that Japanese have been known to take pride in whatever they do. Bento making is no exception, regardless of how insignificant it is to the economy.
It is common in Japan to see mothers-to-be and young mothers leaving the workforce to take care of their young. From the outside, one might think that these mothers make these pretty-looking bento lunches because they enjoy doing it, however, one must not generalise. There will bound to be a group of mothers who just do not want to spend the time to make these bento lunches visually appealing; nutrition is way more important to them. But these mothers may face pressure from both their families and society to make these kawaii bento lunches. Furthermore, this may be extra difficult on working mothers who must wake up even earlier to “fulfil this duty”.
Having said this, the other side of the coin would naturally be mothers who enjoy going the extra mile to make their bento lunches look kawaii. The latest trend which has surfaced on various social media platforms for a good number of years is the kyaraben which means character bentos. Below are some examples of kyaraben.
To top it all off, Japanese mothers who are lacking in their bento making skills can even attend classes to learn how to make kyaraben. A few years ago, a Japanese mother named Tomomi Maruo, who is dedicated to this field of work, established a company called Obento4kids, where she conducts kyaraben classes. Having been interviewed by various media channels like BBC, we can see how kyaraben is slowly gaining popularity amongst Japanese mothers. If you cannot get enough of these kawaii-looking kyaraben or are looking to try them out yourself, you can easily find more creative and inventive kyaraben from different countries on the web.
After knowing that so much time, effort and patience goes into making these bento lunches, we sure do hope that the children of Japan are appreciative of them! Ganbatte moms!!!
So, is spending your mornings making kyaraben worth it? We will leave it to you to decide!