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Charaben Workshops

July 8 & 15, 2023

Learn about the art of charaben (character bento) in this workshop, where instructor Sumi Saikawa will introduce techniques for turning your lunch box into a fun and adorable meal!

Held as part of the OH!Bento exhibition and event series, these workshops will allow attendees to learn about the art of charaben by arranging their own bento boxes featuring cute characters including a panda (adults workshop) and cartoon character (kids workshop). At the end of the workshop, participants will be able to either take home their creations or enjoy their bento boxes in the outdoor area surrounding Central Park.

The adults workshop on July 8 (Saturday) is suitable for ages 15 and over. Participants will learn to arrange:

  • Panda onigiri
  • Flower ham
  • Flower cucumber
  • Flower egg roll
  • Fried chicken
  • Green vegetables
  • Rabbit apple

The kids workshop on July 15 (Saturday) is suitable for ages 8-14. Participants will learn to arrange:

  • Cartoon character onigiri
  • Flower ham
  • Heart shaped egg roll
  • Broccoli and star cheese
  • Meat balls
  • Mini tomato
  • Flower cucumber


The bento boxes made in the workshops will include the following ingredients. Please inform us of any allergies before the workshops and staff will be able to accommodate.

Adults Workshop:
Rice, nori seaweed, ham, cucumber, egg, chicken, green vegetables, apple, ginger, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, salt, vegetable oil, mayonnaise, potato starch

Kids Workshop:
Rice, chicken stock, nori seaweed, slice cheese, ham, cucumber, egg, beef mince, onion, breadcrumbs, milk, ginger, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, salt, vegetable oil, pepper, potato starch, mayonnaise, butter, cherry tomato


Charaben is a relatively recent take on the bento box tradition of Japan. Influenced by popular culture, charaben elaborate on the arrangement of typical bento ingredients by resembling popular characters, animals and faces. Utilising the colour and shape of various vegetables, rice, eggs and more, charaben help emphasise a healthy and diverse meal – not to mention, they’re also fun to eat!

About the Instructor


Sumi was born and raised in a zen temple in Japan, where she learned the technique of Zen vegan cuisine. After graduating from university, she was working as a dietician and nutritionist in Japan. Since moving to Australia, she has been running cooking classes for Japanese and Australians for over twenty years.

Currently, she is focused on more gluten-free and vegan Japanese foods and sweets through the platform Classbento. Recently, Sumi published her cookbook titled Eating with Zen Wisdom, which shows a variety of vegan food and the relationship of Zen Buddhism to food.

For more information about Sumi Saikawa visit her website here.

Examples of Charaben

About OH!Bento

This workshop is part of the OH!Bento exhibition, which is currently on display in the Japan Foundation Gallery until July 29, 2023.

Featuring the works of three Japanese artists, OH!Bento seeks to unveil the entire bento experience, from the careful preparation of this portable packed lunchbox to its completion and eventual consumption. Through this process, bento has the power to strengthen human relationships, like a gift that contains a story connecting the preparer and the eater.


Adults *suitable for ages 15 and over
July 8, 2023 (Saturday)
$35 + booking fee

Join the Waitlist

Kids *suitable for ages 8-14
July 15, 2023 (Saturday)
$15 + booking fee

Join the Waitlist

The Japan Foundation, Sydney
Level 4, Central Park
28 Broadway, Chippendale NSW 2008


(02) 8239 0055

Cancellations are accepted and full refunds will be offered up to 7 days prior to the workshop. No refunds given after this time.

Header image: Courtesy of Sumi Saikawa



OH!Bento Program

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Supported by


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