Cute Japanese bento boxes


Character bentos, or kyaraben (キャラ弁), started as a way for parents to encourage their picky children to eat a wider variety of food, especially vegetables. The more aesthetically pleasing these Japanese bento boxes are, the more attractive they are to the children.

But character bentos don’t have to be for children only. Here’s a list of 12 cute Japanese bento boxes you can make on your own to brighten up your work-from-home meals.


1. Rilakkuma


japanese bento - rilakkuma bento
Image credit: @ochikeron

Rilakkuma is a brown bear created by San-X and launched in 2003. Besides Rilakkuma stationery and plush toys, there are also Rilakkuma-themed cafes and even weddings.

This Rilakkuma bento recipe doesn’t use artificial food colouring. Instead, it uses ketchup to colour the rice. If you don’t like ketchup, swap it out for a small amount of soy sauce.

japanese bento - rilakkuma bento
Image credit: @bentographer

japanese bento - rilakkuma bento
Image credit: @nomnomnom_bento

Serves 1

Ingredients:

Rilakkuma

  • Cooked rice
  • Ketchup (or soy sauce)
  • Salt
  • Sliced cheese
  • Seaweed

Yellow bird (Kiiroitori)

  • Boiled egg
  • Sliced cheese
  • Nori seaweed sheet

Steps:

  1. Add ketchup to rice and mix it up until the desired colour is achieved. You can replace ketchup with soy sauce.
  2. Place a portion of rice onto a cling wrap and shape it into Rilakkuma’s face. Do the same for Rilakkuma’s ears.
  3. Line the bento box with 2 pieces of lettuce.
  4. Unwrap Rilakkuma’s face and ears and place them in the bento box.
  5. Cut the boiled egg in half and place it in the bento box.
  6. Cut sliced cheese and seaweed into the appropriate shapes and sizes for Rilakkuma and Kiiroitori’s features. Arrange them onto Rilakkuma and Kiiroitori.
  7. Add your preferred side dishes, such as potato salad, fried chicken, sausage, and vegetables to fill up space in the bento box.

Watch the original recipe video here:

How to Make Rilakkuma Bento Lunch Box リラックマ弁当の作り方 - OCHIKERON - CREATE EAT HAPPY
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How to Make Rilakkuma Bento Lunch Box リラックマ弁当の作り方 - OCHIKERON - CREATE EAT HAPPY

Video credit: ochikeron


2. Doraemon


Doraemon never gets old. It is a well-loved manga character that many of us grew up with. 

japanese bento - doraemon
Image credit: @okaeri_recipe_channel

This Doraemon bento recipe uses seaweed to colour Doraemon’s head instead of using blue food colouring like other recipes. It is suitable for those who are health conscious and prefer to avoid artificial food dyes.

Simple ingredients are used to create the details in this bento box, including Doraemon’s bell and take-copter. 

japanese bento - doraemon
Image credit: @myumyu.shiozawa

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Seaweed
  • Fishcake
  • Sausage
  • Egg

Steps:

  1. Lightly salt a portion of rice. Place it onto a sheet of cling wrap and shape it into Doraemon’s face. Make smaller rice balls for Doraemon’s hands. 
  2. Cut out a piece of seaweed for the “blue” portion of Doraemon’s face.
  3. Stick the seaweed onto the rice and wrap everything with the cling wrap again.
  4. Cut out the seaweed, fishcake, sausage, and egg into the required shapes for Doraemon’s features.
  5. Line the bento box with pieces of lettuce.
  6. Unwrap Doraemon’s face and hands, and place them in the lunch box.
  7. Arrange seaweed, fishcake, sausage, and egg onto Doraemon.
  8. Fill the lunch box with sides.

Check out the original recipe video here:

Doraemon Bento Lunch Box (Kyaraben) ドラえもん キャラ弁の作り方
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Doraemon Bento Lunch Box (Kyaraben) ドラえもん キャラ弁の作り方

Video credit: Okaeri Recipe Channel


3. Hello Kitty


japanese bento - hello kitty bento
Image adapted from: @braladyjapan

One of the world’s most well-known characters is Sanrio’s Hello Kitty. From Hello Kitty home appliances to Hello Kitty themed weddings, you can find everything adorned with Hello Kitty these days.

Naturally, there are Hello Kitty rice ball shapers that you can use to create your Hello Kitty bento. But you don’t have to get the shaper especially for your bento – you can use cling wrap and your fingers to mould the rice into the right shape. Don’t forget her whiskers and iconic red bow that make Hello Kitty instantly recognisable.

japanese bento - hello kitty
Image credit: @eriri_bento

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Seaweed
  • Crab stick

Steps:

  1. Sprinkle some salt over a bowl of rice and mix well. Put an appropriate amount of rice onto a sheet of cling wrap. Wrap it up and shape it into a ball.
  2. Pinch the rice gently to form the shape of Hello Kitty’s ears.
  3. Cut up seaweed into ovals and strips for Hello Kitty’s eyes and whiskers.
  4. Using the crab stick, cut out 1 small oval and 2 larger circles to form Hello Kitty’s ribbon. 
  5. You can also cut out heart shapes from the crabstick for other decorations.
  6. Place the rice ball into the lunch box and arrange Hello Kitty’s features and ribbon.
  7. Fill up the box with other ingredients such as egg, meatballs, vegetables, sausages and tomatoes.

Refer to this original recipe video while attempting your Hello Kitty bento:

How to Make Hello Kitty Bento (#19 Hello Kitty Bento recipe) ハローキティちゃん弁当
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How to Make Hello Kitty Bento (#19 Hello Kitty Bento recipe) ハローキティちゃん弁当

Video credit: BraLadyJapan


4. Totoro


japanese bento - totoro bento
Image adapted from: cook kafemaru

Totoro gained its popularity from the movie My Neighbour Totoro, to the point of becoming Studio Ghibli’s mascot.

This recipe doesn’t use any food colourings. Instead, Totoro’s grey-coloured body is made by mixing ground black sesame seeds with rice. Black sesame is a good source of fibre, which aids in digestion, and magnesium, which can help in reducing blood pressure. 

The acorns are made of mushrooms and sausages, while the pink flowers are made of fish cake.

japanese bento - totoro bento
Image credit: @aohareru

Totoro lunch box
Image credit: @jwa_ar

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Seaweed
  • Sausages
  • Mushrooms
  • Cheese
  • Ground black sesame seeds
  • Spaghetti (1 strand)
  • Fish cake
  • Cucumber, in long thin slices

Steps:

  1. Lightly salt a portion of rice and mix well.
  2. Place a portion of rice onto a sheet of cling wrap and shape it into a ball for Totoro’s belly.
  3. Add ground black sesame seeds to the remaining rice and mix well until the rice turns light grey.
  4. Place a layer of grey-coloured rice onto another sheet of baking paper. Transfer the white ball of rice onto the grey-coloured rice. Shape the grey-coloured rice around the white rice without covering it. Mould it into Totoro’s body shape.
  5. You will also need 2 boat-shaped grey-coloured rice for Totoro’s ears.
  6. (Optional) Wrap a ball of white rice in seaweed to make makkuro kurosuke. Wrap it in cling wrap to ensure that the seaweed sticks to the rice.
  7. Cut up seaweed into arrow shapes to decorate Totoro’s belly. Cut out circles for his eyes. Cut cheese into small circles for his eyes as well.
  8. Fry a strand of spaghetti on a frying pan until it turns brown and crispy. Break this into small pieces to make Totoro’s whiskers.
  9. Place the mushroom cap on top of the sausage and spear a toothpick through the 2. You can also use the remaining spaghetti to attach them together. Pan-fry the sausages and mushrooms to make the acorns. 
  10. Cut some fish cake into thin slices. Roll them up to look like a flower. 
  11. Roll up the long thin slice of cucumber over the fishcake to complete the flower.
  12. Place Totoro’s body into the lunch box. Place his ears above his head.
  13. Fill the rest of the box with meat and vegetables. Place the acorns and flowers in spaces where you need to fill up.

Watch the original recipe video of this Totoro bento here:

Totoro Bento lunch box トトロ弁当 まっくろくろすけもいるよ!
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Totoro Bento lunch box トトロ弁当 まっくろくろすけもいるよ!

Video credit: cook kafemaru


5. Pikachu


japanese bento - pikachu
Image adapted from: @o_cubic

Pikachu bento
Image credit: @h.takahashi.1320

Pikachu is arguably the most well-known Pokemon out there. Even if you’re not a fan of Pokemon, you probably know of this distinctive yellow creature with its lightning tail and red cheeks.

japanese bento - pikachu bento
Image credit: @mico.manma

Pikachu is an easy character to make in a bento because it doesn’t require complicated details and cut-outs. You can colour the rice using turmeric or curry powder instead of yellow food colouring. While there isn’t scientific evidence that consuming turmeric has health benefits, its most active compound – curcumin – is said to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

japanese bento - pikachu
Image credit: @papabento24

You can make a huge Pikachu that fills your whole bento box, or a mini version. With this straightforward recipe, you can catch ‘em all – children or adults.

Serves 1

Ingredients:

Pokeball

  • Rice
  • Seaweed
  • Cheese
  • Crab stick

Pikachu

  • Rice
  • Curry powder or turmeric powder
  • Seaweed
  • Cheese
  • Carrot

Steps:

Pokeball

  1. Place an appropriate amount of rice onto a sheet of cling wrap. Shape it into a ball.
  2. Cut out a long strip of seaweed that can almost wrap around the ball, and a circle for the centre of the Pokeball.
  3. Cut out a circle of cheese that is slightly smaller than the seaweed circle. Cut out another circle of cheese that is even smaller than the first.
  4. Cut out 4 strips of crab stick and line them up horizontally.
  5. Wrap the 4 strips of crab stick over half of the rice ball to form the red part of the Pokeball.
  6. Place a long strip of seaweed in the centre across the rice ball. Place a seaweed circle in the middle of the rice ball.
  7. Stack the 2 cheese circles and put it on top of the seaweed circle.
  8. Wrap the rice ball in cling wrap again to secure the shape.

Pikachu

  1. Add curry or turmeric powder to the rice. Mix well until all the rice has been coloured evenly.
  2. Wrap the rice with a sheet of cling wrap and shape it into a rounded triangular shape.
  3. Mould 2 boat-shaped portions in cling wrap for Pikachu’s ears. Wrap the tips of the ears in seaweed.
  4. Cut out 2 circles from a slice of cooked carrot for Pikachu’s red cheeks.
  5. Cut out 2 circles from a piece of seaweed for Pikachu’s eyes, and a piece shaped like “3” for Pikachu’s mouth.
  6. Cut out 2 tiny pieces of cheese for Pikachu’s eyes.

Assembling the lunch box

  1. Place Pikachu’s ears above the head.
  2. Arrange his eyes, mouth, and red cheeks.

The original recipe video for this Pikachu bento can be found here:

Pokémon GO-Kawaii Pokemon Rice Balls Bento
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Pokémon GO-Kawaii Pokemon Rice Balls Bento

Video credit: MASA’s Cooking


6. Kumamon


japanese bento - kumamon
Image credit: @akiracooks

This Kumamon recipe doesn’t require any food colouring – it uses seaweed for Kumamon’s black fur. Kumamon’s facial expressions can vary depending on its mouth shape and eyebrows – unleash your creativity and have fun creating different expressions.

japanese bento - kumamon
Image credit: @yurico1009

Although the video tutorial below uses a mould to cut out Kumamon’s features, you can use a toothpick to cut out the features from a slice of cheese.

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Seaweed
  • Cheese
  • Crab stick

Steps:

  1. Place the rice onto a sheet of cling wrap and mould it into an oval shape. Pinch the sides of the ball gently to create Kumamon’s ears.
  2. Wrap the whole thing in seaweed and cover with cling wrap to secure its shape.
  3. Cut out shapes for Kumamon’s ears, eyebrows, eyes, and mouth from the cheese. Cut out circles from the crab stick for Kumamon’s red cheeks.
  4. Place Kumamon’s features and red cheeks onto the seaweed. You can use some mayonnaise to adhere the features to the seaweed if needed.

Check out the original recipe video here:

Kumamon onigiri set【100均】くまモンおにぎりセット【ダイソー】
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Kumamon onigiri set【100均】くまモンおにぎりセット【ダイソー】

Video credit: bonobos25


7. Snoopy


Snoopy lunch box
Image credit: @_y_512_c_cooking

Snoopy lunch box
Image credit: @luv_nana__

Making a Snoopy and Charlie Brown bento only requires 2 main ingredients – rice and seaweed. There’s no excuse to not try your hand at these adorable variations of this iconic Peanuts duo. To make Snoopy look like he’s blushing, add 2 dots of ketchup on his cheeks. 

japanese bento - snoopy
Image credit: @sweets_food___

japanese bento - snoopy
Image adapted from: @deboraprihatna and @cafewisp

You even can cut out shapes from a sheet of seaweed for Snoopy’s features and arrange them on your bowl of porridge, or make a Snoopy rice ball and surround it with Japanese curry.

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Seaweed

Steps:

  1. Place an appropriate amount of rice onto a sheet of cling wrap. You can even make an onigiri with your favourite filling.
  2. Wrap the rice ball with cling wrap and mould it into the shape of Snoopy’s head.
  3. Cut out Snoopy’s ear, eyes, eyebrows, nose, and mouth from a sheet of seaweed.
  4. Place Snoopy’s features onto the rice ball.

Refer to this recipe video to make your own Snoopy bento:

Snoopy onigiri recipe スヌーピーおにぎりの作り方(キャラ弁)
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Snoopy onigiri recipe スヌーピーおにぎりの作り方(キャラ弁)

Video credit: tesio


8. Anpanman


japanese bento - anpanman
Image credit: @okaeri_recipe_channel

This recipe does use food colouring for Anpanman’s hands, but you can replace it with natural colouring such as turmeric powder or soya sauce, or leave it out altogether.

japanese bento - anpannan
Image adapted from: @emi_sato_shigi

Anpanman can be made in different sizes. Plus, you can change his expressions just by arranging his eyebrows and mouth differently.

Anpanman lunch box
Image credit: @yuki3652g

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Seaweed
  • Sausage
  • Ketchup
  • Yellow food colouring

Steps:

  1. Add ketchup to a portion of rice to make Anpanman’s head. Mix well.
  2. Wrap the rice in a sheet of cling wrap and shape it into a ball. 
  3. Add yellow food colouring to a smaller portion of rice. Make 2 small rice balls for Anpanman’s hands.
  4. Cut 3 slices of sausage. These 3 slices will form Anpanman’s iconic nose and red cheeks.
  5. Cut out shapes for Anpanman’s eyes, eyebrows, and mouth from a sheet of seaweed.
  6. Remove the cling wrap and place Anpanman’s head slightly above the base of the box. Fill the extra space below with white rice.
  7. Place Anpanman’s hands on top of the white rice. Add ketchup to fill up the space in between his hands.
  8. Arrange Anpanman’s eyes, eyebrows, nose, cheeks, and mouth onto his face.
  9. (Optional) Add 3 dots of mayonnaise onto Anpanman’s nose and cheeks for highlights.

The original recipe video for this Anpanman bento can be found here:

Anpanman Bento lunch box Recipeキャラ弁アンパンマンの作り方(レシピ)
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Anpanman Bento lunch box Recipeキャラ弁アンパンマンの作り方(レシピ)

Video credit: Okaeri Recipe Channel


9. Mario


Mario lunch box
Image credit: @kyarabennko

A Mario bento looks complicated, but it can be accomplished just by putting a few shapes together. 

This recipe uses ketchup and soy sauce to colour Mario’s hat and face respectively, but you can use sakura powder instead of ketchup for his hat. That’ll give you a nice pink hue.

japanese bento - mario
Image adapted from: @_____kn1229

Mario lunch box
Image credit: @haruma_no_obento

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Ketchup
  • Soy sauce
  • Seaweed
  • Cheese
  • Crab stick

Steps:

  1. Prepare 2 portions of rice. Add ketchup to 1 portion and soy sauce to the other.
  2. Shape the soy sauce-coloured rice into 1 large ball to form Mario’s face, 2 smaller portions for Mario’s ears, and 1 small ball for Mario’s nose.
  3. Shape the ketchup rice into 2 portions to form Mario’s hat.
  4. Cut his moustache, eyebrows, eyes, and sideburns out from a sheet of seaweed. (Tip: fold the seaweed in half so you only have to cut once to get 2 of the same shape.)
  5. Cut out 2 ovals for Mario’s eyes from a piece of cheese. Cut 2 out tiny circles for the sparkle in Mario’s eyes. Cut 1 circle for Mario’s hat.
  6. cut out an “M” for Mario’s hat from the red part of a crab stick. 
  7. Put all the parts together. Arrange Mario’s hat above his head and his ears on the left and right of his face. Put on his moustache, eyebrows, eyes, and sideburns. Add his nose on top of his moustache. (Tip: use cling wrap to gently press on the seaweed and cheese to attach them to the rice.)

Watch the original recipe video here:

How to make Super Mario rice ball!  スーパーマリオのおにぎりの作り方☆
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How to make Super Mario rice ball! スーパーマリオのおにぎりの作り方☆

Video credit: obento4kids


10. My Melody


my melody bento
Image credit: @kiku.aka

This recipe uses a sheet of baking paper to trace out My Melody’s shape before shaping the rice and cutting the ham. If you’re feeling confident, you can cut it freehand.

This recipe uses ingredients such as ham to achieve the desired pink colour of My Melody.

my melody
Image credit: @sunghee0709

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Cheese
  • Ham
  • Seaweed

Steps:

  1. Trace your favourite My Melody drawing onto a piece of food-safe tracing paper.
  2. Place a portion of rice on a chopping board and drape a sheet of cling wrap over it. Place the tracing paper onto the cling wrap and start to shape the rice ball according to the shape.
  3. Cut out My Melody’s shape from the slice of ham.
  4. Cut out a piece of cheese for My Melody’s head accessory. Cut out a small piece of cheese for her nose.
  5. Cut out My Melody’s eyes and mouth from a piece of seaweed.
  6. Place the shaped rice into the box. Arrange her hat, eyes, nose, and mouth on top of the rice.

Check out the original recipe video for My Melody bento here:

How to Make My Melody Bento Lunch Box (Kyaraben Recipe) | OCHIKERON | Create Eat Happy :)
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How to Make My Melody Bento Lunch Box (Kyaraben Recipe) | OCHIKERON | Create Eat Happy 🙂

Video credit: ochikeron


11. Cinnamoroll


Cinnamoroll
Image credit: @r.n_1124

Cinnamoroll is an easy character to make as there’s no need to colour the rice and he doesn’t have many features either. 

2 Cinnamoroll bento
Image credit: @ryotaitai

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Seaweed
  • Cheese
  • Ketchup (or crab stick)

Steps:

  1. Place an appropriate amount of rice onto a sheet of cling wrap and shape it into Cinnamoroll’s face. Do the same for his 2 droopy ears.
  2. Cut out his eyes and mouth from a piece of seaweed.
  3. (Optional) Cut out the shape of a bow from the seaweed and the slice of cheese. Place the seaweed on top of the cheese.
  4. (Optional) Cut out a small strip of seaweed and wrap it around the bow.
  5. (Optional) Using a small straw, cut out small circles of cheese to place on the bow. 
  6. Place Cinnamoroll’s face and ears into the bento box first. Attach the ears to the face by pressing gently with a toothpick.
  7. Arrange Cinnamoroll’s eyes and mouth. 
  8. (Optional) Place the bow on top of Cinnamoroll’s face.
  9. Add 2 dots of ketchup or 2 small crab stick ovals for her red cheeks.

Watch this original recipe video to follow along and make your own Cinnamoroll bento:

Cinnamoroll Bento Box Tutorial (collab with Jellyfishcharms) シナモンロールキャラ弁作り方
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Cinnamoroll Bento Box Tutorial (collab with Jellyfishcharms) シナモンロールキャラ弁作り方

Video credit: minicuteclub


12. Gudetama


gudetama hello kitty bento
Image credit: @s._.home

The key to perfecting a Gudetama bento box is by nailing its expressions – the lazy, “Don’t bother me, I want to sleep” expressions. 

This recipe uses an omelette as the base and adds on seaweed for its expressions. Alternatively, you can also cut a boiled egg in half or use tamagoyaki for his body, and add on seaweed cut-outs for his face. Since Gudetama likes to snuggle, cover half his body with a blanket made of ham or bacon for that extra cute factor.

2 gudetama
Image credit: @snrm28

sleeping gudetama bento
Image credit: @emiiiii_smap

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • Egg
  • Seaweed
  • Cheese
  • Ham
  • Ketchup 
  • Mayonnaise 

Steps:

  1. Cook an omelette evenly so that it has a uniform yellow colour.
  2. Place rice into the bento box and cover it with the omelette.
  3. Cut out 2 eyes from the seaweed and a hollow triangular shape for Gudetama’s mouth.
  4. Arrange the eyes and mouth on the omelette. Add 2 dots of ketchup for red cheeks and a bit of mayonnaise at the side of his face.

Check out this original recipe video here:

【 キャラ弁・デコ弁 】 ぐでたま の お弁当 【 obento /charaben 】Japanese Cute Bento Box
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【 キャラ弁・デコ弁 】 ぐでたま の お弁当 【 obento /charaben 】Japanese Cute Bento Box

Video credit: サニスポ☆ポケット


Cute Japanese character bento box


The amount of effort and detail required to make a Japanese character bento box varies according to how fancy you want it to be. If you’re eating alone, you can quickly mould your rice into the shape of your favourite character. But if you’re trying to impress someone, go all out and add eyebrows, red cheeks, and bows for an Instagram-worthy photo.

Check out these articles for more:


Cover image adapted from (clockwise from top left): @sweets_food___, @akiracooks, @nari_8_obento, and @o_cubic

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