Bento boxes are designed for life on the go. With this summer bento box, we make eating outdoors even more enjoyable by creating a black bear character bento that will impress kids and adults alike. The best part is that this recipe can be made at home in under an hour!

Contributed by Washocook

Summer has plenty of opportunities for you to carry a bento box out into nature and enjoy the weather over some authentic Japanese food. With this recipe for a summer bento box, we are teaching you how to make character bento, one of the cutest things you could ever make! It’s so cute you might not want to eat it at all.

What is Character Bento?

A character bento box is a bento box with a cute character inside made by various food ingredients. Many Japanese mothers make character bento every morning for their kid’s lunch. It started as a way for parents to get their kids to eat healthy food by making it irresistible, but now character bento is popular all over the country. Our bento chef Noriko of Washocook believes bento boxes shouldn’t take long to cook. So, you can make our Summer character bento box featuring black bear in less than 1 hour!

All About Bento Boxes

The bento box has a long history in Japanese food culture. And bento boxes are growing in popularity in the United States and Europe as well. The word means “lunch box,” and the idea is to have separate compartments where main proteins and side dishes can all be stored until ready to be eaten. Just about anything can be included in your bento box. Also, if you forgot to make a bento box, no problem! In Japan, many transportation hubs, including airports and train stations, serve Ekiben, or portable pre-made bento boxes that are all ready to eat!

Cooking Tips:

  • The number one rule when making a character bento box is to use your imagination! Any cartoon character, animal, or favorite fairy tale creature can be made.
  • If you’re not a morning person, you can easily make most of the ingredients the night before. All you have to do is to pack it in the morning!
  • If the bento box you own is large and if you still have space after putting everything in, add more food items to fill space. Boiled broccoli, tomatoes, cheese sticks are easy space fillers. Just make sure everything (including the color of your bento box) looks balanced. Remember, presentation is just as important as taste in Japanese food culture!

Meet Washocook

Washocook Logo

In 2014, Noriko Tominaga launched Washocook that introduces home-style Japanese cooking for foreigners. At the same time, UNESCO recognized Japanese cuisine as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. As the curiosity for Japanese cuisine increased, Washocook started offering cooking classes to visitors from all over the world. The concept of Washocook’s recipe is simple: a recipe that anyone can cook within 20 minutes per dish. When in Japan, check out classes from Washocook!

Summer Character Bento Box


  • 6 Broccoli Florets
  • 2 stick Cheese
  • 2 stick Thin Spaghetti
  • 1 leaf Lettuce
  • 1 Baby Carrot, thinly sliced

Egg Heart and Flower

  • 2 Egg
  • 2 Tbsp Dashi Stock
  • 2 tsp Sugar
  • ½ tsp Salt

Octopus and Flower shaped Sausages

  • 6 Little Smokies or Small Sausages
  • 2 tsp Ketchup

Salmon Flakes (Use 2 tsp for Black Bear)

  • ¼ lb Salmon Fillet
  • ½ Tbsp Sake
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • ¼ Tbsp Sesame Seeds

Black Bear

  • 1 cup Cooked Rice
  • 1 Tbsp Black Sesame Seeds
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • ½ sheet Nori Seaweed
  • 1 slice American Cheese
  • ¼ tsp Mayonnaise


Prep Work

  1. Boil broccoli florets and carrot slices in a pot with a pinch of salt. Drain and set them aside.
  2. Cut cheese sticks so they fit inside of the bento box standing up.
  3. Break spaghetti into thirds and quickly grill them in a pan with a bit of olive oil (until lightly brown).

Egg Heart and Flower

  1. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and combine all of the seasonings.
  2. Heat frying pan over low heat and add cooking oil to the pan.
  3. Once the pan is hot, pour ¼ portion of the egg mixture into the pan and spread evenly. When the egg mixture starts bubbling, break bubbles with chopsticks.
  4. Once the egg starts to set, roll it from the back to the front. Place the rolled egg on the upper side of the pan.
  5. Pour additional oil and pour another ¼ portion of the egg mixture into the pan. Repeat the process to roll the egg. Take the egg roll out of the pan and let it cool. Cut the roll into bitable sizes.
  6. Cut each piece in half diagonally. Turn one piece over and make a heart shape using two pieces.
  7. Next, use the remainder of the egg mixture to make a thin crepe in a pan.
  8. Remove from the pan and cut the round edges to make a rectangular shape.
  9. Fold it in half the lengthways and make cuts on the folded side every ½-1 inch leaving space on top of the egg.
  10. Roll it up to form a flower shape. Break a bit of spaghetti and stick it through to hold it together.

Octopus and Flower shaped Sausages

  1. Cut 3 small sausages in half and make shallow incisions horizontally and vertically on one end. This will make flower shaped sausages.
  2. For the remaining three sausages, make lengthways slices to create eight octopus legs.
  3. Heat up non-stick frying pan and cook sausages until lightly browned. Octopus legs and flowers begin to open up when done.

Salmon Flakes (Use 2 tsp for Black Bear)

  1. Bring water to boil in a small pot and boil salmon for about 4 minutes. Drain.
  2. Remove skin and bones from salmon fillet. Break into pieces using chopsticks.
  3. Place salmon flakes in a non-stick frying pan and heat up over medium heat for about a minute. Reduce heat to low and cook for additional 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add all of the seasoning and mix well. Continue cooking for another 3 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle sesame seeds and salt and pepper to taste if needed.
  6. Take two teaspoons and set them aside. Place the rest of the flakes into an airtight container (use within 5 days, keeping it in the fridge).

Black Bear

  1. In a small bowl, mix cooked rice, black sesame seeds, and salt. Add black sesame seeds if needed to make the color of a black bear.
  2. Make 1 large ball and 4 small balls. Large ball will be the face, the smaller balls will be ears and hands of the bear. Push down and scoop out the middle part of the large ball and place two teaspoons of salmon flakes inside. Cover with rice so the salmon flakes stay inside of the rice.
  3. Using toothpick, cut cheese slice to make face parts (large oval for nose/mouth part, two medium sized circles for eye balls, two small circles for ear, and two crescent moon shapes for eyebrows.)
  4. Cut nori seaweed to make face parts (small triangle for nose, two small curved shapes for eyes, one bigger half-oval shape for smiling mouth.)

Assemble Bento Box

  1. Place face of the black bear in the middle of the bento box, salmon-flake side down.
  2. Break spaghetti stick, stick them into the smaller balls of rice (ears and hands). Attach them onto the face part of the bear by sticking spaghetti sticks into the face.
  3. Place cheese on face and ears. On top of eyes and mouth part, place nori seaweed to make bear’s face.
  4. Put a bit of mayonnaise on the slice of baby carrot and attach to the face as bear’s cheek.
  5. Tear lettuce by hands and place them around the bear to create a forest background.
  6. Then, place heart-shaped egg on each side of the bear’s face. Place egg flower in the middle of the hands to make it look like the bear is holding a bouquet of flowers.
  7. Place boiled broccoli around the face to add some green colors and fill space.
  8. Place flower and octopus sausages to add some red colors and fill space.
  9. Lastly, place cheese sticks to add some white/yellow color and fill space.