Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kawaii Food

When you think of packing lunch, what comes to mind? Brownbag, GLAD, napkins? Well, that’s what I use and trust me, it’s a mess and there’s little creativity. However, in Japan, packing lunch can be fun and creative. In Japan as well as in the US, we can find bento box lunch as an item on Japanese restaurant menu. However, the difference between the US and Japan is that in Japanese culture, packing lunch is seen as an art form (

I usually think of it as simply the box that holds the food I am going to consume. However, there are more to bento boxes than just lunch boxes. Below are some examples of bento box arts where there are little boundaries to imagination and creativity.

I found this example during a search on different blog sites where I was reading about a girl who likes to make bento boxes for her boyfriend as gifts. Cute isn’t it? Although I probably wouldn’t do it myself, she does it quite often. The process is messy and wasteful as lots of food are thrown away to make the cute shapes that goes into the bento box. It is definitely not economical, especially if it is done on a daily basis! However, I guess that’s the trade off you have to make – art or food, or both.

In “Cuties in Japan” by Sharon Kinsella, there are such things as “cute” food in Japan. I find it interesting how she talks about dessert and ice cream being seen as popular and fashionable. When I visited Japan in 2004, I swear I had soft served green tea ice cream everyday, even in the middle of no where. I saw it as much as I saw Japan’s vending machines of weird and crazy items like cigarettes.

Furthermore, Kinsella mention how there is a marketing strategy geared towards selling cute food. The food should be presented with some of the following characteristic (Kinsella):
  • Small
  • Gathered/pleated like
  • Fairy- tale like
  • Old or rustic (Victorian)
The bento box art have at least two of these characteristic. I was able to see some of the bento box art while I was in Japan because my host mother would pack me lunch in boxes. I always question why every portion was so small and perfectly laid out. Learning about this art form explains a lot. On that note, I found a video to teach me how to cook cute food:


All in all, according to Kinsella “Cute culture started as youth culture amongst teenagers, especially young women. Cute culture was not founded by business.” This form of art could be considered a part of these movement and trend.

In one way, cooking with bento boxes helps us because it is a step away from using brown paper bag and disposing them every time versus packing our lunch in a reusable container. However, after the cutting and shaping, too much food is being thrown out!

And in terms of the compact challenge for this week… All I can say is shame on me…I allowed my mom to buy me two new shirts... is that okay??

Phung Kim Vo
blog # 3

Sharon Kinsella. “Cuties in Japan.”

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