Art comes in many forms. For Japanese food artist Tomomi Maruo, that form is lunch.
Maruo is a "charabentist," her art is creating edible characters using the ingredients of traditional bento. For up to an hour every day, Maruo works to create one-of-a-kind bento box lunches for her kids; bento box lunches that may feature anything from Pokemon characters or Mickey Mouse, to a rice-and-seaweed portrait of Michael Jackson.
She has been honing her charaben craft for thirteen years and now shares the art of creating adorable bento box lunches with other Japanese moms looking to do the same for their children.
"My kid brought kyaraben to the kindergarten and his friends saw the bento and moms started asking me how to make charaben, so that's how I started teaching," Maruo said in an interview with NPR.
For each class, Maruo hosts four to six women in her home, teaching them how to master every step of the charaben-making process, from cutting seaweed to delicately putting all of the pieces of each character together.
The goal of each bento box is to get every detail just right but Maruo always keeps in mind that the main priority of charaben is something else entirely.
"This is a lunch," Maruo told A Great Big Story, "so if it doesn't taste good, then none of it makes any sense."