The animated world of kyaraben boxed lunches

Character bentos, or キャラ弁 kyaraben in Japanese, are bento (boxed lunches) usually made by parents for their kids during their school years and featuring the likeness of their favorite characters from manga, anime, games, mascots, etc.

Although a bento doesn't have to be a kyaraben to convey the love of the parent(s) who made them or, likewise, be appreciated by their recipients, many parents who make them do so out of a desire to make their kids happy.

Hitomi's kyaraben creations

Hitomi (@hitomi.1103) is a Japanese mother and full-time homemaker who has been making kyaraben for her son throughout his kindergarten years. Her cute and caringly planned and composed bento creations cover a wide variety of characters, including her original designs.

For example, here's a bento she made last fall featuring onigiri rice balls and adorable little sausage octopuses with faces on them:

Her son loves Pokémon and often has specific requests for her mom. For example, here's Snorlax:

Another day, it was Umbreon:

A heartwarming thank you message

For three years, Hitomi regularly made kyaraben for her young son. But then, the last day of kindergarten arrived. It's not uncommon to see parents crying at their children's graduations, so you can imagine Hitomi had many feelings welling up inside when it was time to make the last kyaraben for her son who had never once left anything uneaten in the bentos she made.

For this special kyraben, she had Pikachu holding a plaque with a simple but heartwarming message:

Letter of thanks: Thank you for finishing your bentos for three years. From Mom.

As always, she posted the kyaraben to her Instagram account, but this time, she captioned it with a special message in which poured out her feelings of gratitude to her son and her Instagram followers and revealed what the experience of making kyaraben meant to her:

Pikachu's Thank You Bento✩. *˚
Good morning (๑′ᴗ‵๑)
Finally, today is the last day of making bentos for kindergarten.
What should I make for the last bento?...
I couldn't decide at all until nighttime yesterday.
I thought about it long and hard,
but in the end, I entrusted Pikachu with a letter of thanks!
My son loves Pokemon.
I love Pikachu.
He was always happy to see you, so
this last time, I chose you, Pikachu!
These kindergarten bentos...
At first, I didn't plan to keep making kyaraben like this.
My son was shy with others and shy in new surroundings.
He clinged to me and didn't want to leave my side.
He was the kind of kid who wanted to hold hands with me even when just walking around the house.
There was no way he could easily go to kindergarten by himself.
At the time, I cried every morning.
He was passive-aggressive.
He was soft-spoken.
For better or worse, he wasn't a standout.
I was worried that he might feel overwhelmed in a large kindergarten.
What if neither his teachers nor his classmates cared about him?
Would he be able to make friends without me?
It was out of such concerns that I began making kyaraben.
I originally thought that people who could make kyaraben were amazing
and I'd always wanted to make them too.
I wished I had had kyaraben made for me when I was younger, so
that feeling also had something do with it
but I think the number one reason was
I wanted my son to be the center of attention with his kyaraben.
I hoped that, thanks to kyaraben,
classmates would talk to him
and teachers would pay attention to him.
I hoped that my son could be the kind of person who gets noticed inside a large group of people, if even just a little.
At the same time, I started uploading them to Instagram as a way of documenting the experience.
But then, many people complimented my bento.
As a full-time homemaker singlehandedly taking care of my son since his birth,
I didn't get compliments from others.
I felt alienated and isolated from society.
Even though he went through serious 'toddler refusal' issues, I was alone with my son every day.
When I think back on it now, maybe I was going though a kind of childcare neurosis.
In the midst of all this,
I was so happy to read everyone's praise here (on Instagram).
I felt validated for the first time in a long time.
Interacting with all of you really saved me.
I'd never had anything last long before
but I've been able to continue making kyaraben for three years without a break.
It's all beacuse my son appreciated them.
He told me that his teachers and classmates always came by to see his lunch!
It's because I felt relieved to know that everyone gathered around my son.
It's because of the many compliments I received from my followers.
It's because many people became friends with me on Instagram because of the bentos I made.
It's thanks to these many happy events
that I was able to keep making (kyraben) until the end.
And my son, despite of all my worrying,
made many friends all by himself.
He's made the kind of friends with whom he can really fight and then make up.
He's grown up to be an outspoken, energetic and active child.
To my son and everyone on Instagram,
I really, really appreciate you.
Thank you for the past three years ♡
I still have a few more bentos to make after this.
And I'm planning to make bentos to eat at home, too.
I'd like to continue making kyaraben on this account.
I hope you all will continue to be friends with me.
And now for those who have read my long-winded thoughts
all the way to the end,
thank you very much.
I'm writing this while crying.
So, then,
I wish you a happy and healthy day ♡
With many thanks to everyone... ♡

The loving message and the cute bento elicited many comments, such as:

  • "It's so wonderful. This really made me happy. You've worked so well on these for the past three years."
  • "Such a nice message!"
  • "You're making me cry. I have nothing but respect for you making kyaraben every day (...)"
  • "For three years, my heart has been soothed by your adorable bentos (...)"
  • "I'm so grateful we've connected through Instagram. Your love-filled bentos always brighten my mood and lift my spirits (...)"
  • "Congratulations on graduating!"

If you'd like to see more of Hitomi's cute kyaraben creations, follow her on Instagram.

By - Ben K.