Kyara-ben Contest

We are very excited to introduce our first ever JETAA Kyara-ben contest, a collaboration between JETAA Portland, JETAA BC and JETAA PNW! Join us on July 26th at 11:30 AM via Zoom for a fun afternoon of friendly competition and getting to know people from all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

With quarantine keeping us from tasting each other’s food, we figured this would be a great opportunity to enjoy the artistic and visually appealing food art form that is Kyara-ben.

For those who don’t know, Kyara-ben is short for Character Bento, the art of making cute, detailed box lunches that look like popular characters. Extremely popular in Japan, it is not uncommon for Japanese moms to create cute and intricate designs for their children’s lunches, even every day. However, Kyara-ben is not just enjoyed by children, but has been popularized for people of all ages in Japan and around the world through social media and magazines.

We challenge you all to exercise your creativity and cooking skills to create some amazing bentos and eat them together with fun, like-minded people. JET Alums, JETAA friends and family, everyone is welcome– the more, the merrier!

How to compete

  1. Register for the contest here (people in the same household who are all competing should register separately)
  2. Design and create your bento
  3. Upload a photo of your bento to the Google drive folder here with your name on it before the contest starts at 11:30
  4. Prepare a short speech introducing yourself and describing your bento (see below for speech guidelines)
  5. Log onto Zoom the day of the contest, present your bento and speech, and stick around to eat your amazing bento with everyone after the contest

Guidelines for Making Your Bento

Your bento should:

  1. Include a character, whether it be a well-known character, person, animal, emoji or a character of your own.
  2. Incorporate the theme Summer
  3. Be presented in a bento box, shallow tupperware, or a dish that is similar in shape

This year’s theme is Summer, and the second most important criteria for your bento (after your character of course) is to create your design around the theme. You can interpret the theme however you want, whether that be creating a summer-y scene, using dishes or foods that you love to eat in summer, or making summer-inspired shapes. But make sure that others can clearly tell that it’s summer-y, and be prepared to describe how your interpretation relates to the theme in your speech during bento presentations.

Because of quarantine, we know that traditional Japanese ingredients may be hard to find right now and you may not have any on hand. For that reason, we want you to be as creative as you can, using whatever you have on hand to create cute, colorful, and beautiful bentos. Also, don’t have a bento box? You can use a shallow Tupperware or a dish with a similar shape (having a 1 to 2 inch high lip).

Presentation Speech Guidelines

1. Introduce yourself:

If you’re a JET alum:

Your name, JETAA chapter, placement and years on JET, where you currently live

If you’re a JETAA friend:

Your name and where you currently live

2. Describe your bento:

  • The inspiration or story behind your design, and how your design fits the theme
  • The character you chose
  • The ingredients and techniques you used for different components (think of how chefs describe their dishes on FoodNetwork)
  • Really sell it; try convince everyone of how delicious your bento is


Bentos will be judged on the basis of:

  1. Design (10 points)
  2. Creativity/use of materials (10 points)
  3. Presentation speech (5 points)
  4. Relevance to theme (5 points)

1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners will be determined by judges representing all three chapters and professional bento makers. Winners will receive great bento-related prizes and have their bentos featured on the JETAA websites.

In addition to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place there will be five crowd-favorite categories decided by all attendees. They are:

  • Cutest
  • Most oishisou
  • Most creative
  • Most likely to appear in a Japanese magazine
  • Best Japanese fusion

Crowd-favorite winners will be recognized in a news special featured on the JETAA websites.

We hope to see you there for an afternoon of friendly competition and fun!

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