Now that I’m about to reveal to you the secrets of making this twin tiger Japanese bento lunch, there’s no excuse for you not to pull an all-nighter to whip one of these up for your little darlings!
1: Trace the tiger face patterns in the back of the magazine onto baking grade tissue paper you just happen to have lying around.
2: With your nail scissors, cut out the patterns and lay them on top of two slices of yellow cheese product. Cut out with a sharp knife.
3: Cut the bottom halves of the faces out of white cheese product, making sure they perfectly match the curves of the yellow cheese product. If they don’t match, start over. Wine may be liberally applied until you either get this part right or cease to care.
4: Fetch a hefty feather pillow and place it near your workstation. Lay the cut-out tiger face pattern with the traced eyes, nose and mouth on a piece of nori seaweed. Again employing your handy nail scissors, cut out the eensy weensy features. If you feel the need to curse because a) you sneezed, b) once they’re cut out they bear so little resemblance to the Japanese mom’s examples you don’t know which is the mouth and which is the eye or c) you can’t find them because the parts are too small to see without a magnifying glass, please shout into the pillow so as not to wake the children.
5: With your tweezers, position the seaweed features on the faces. If you haven’t cracked open the wine yet, now’s the time.
6: Now peel the red skin from a piece of fake crabmeat. Cut it into a bow shape and place it on the girl tiger’s head.
7: If you haven’t yet thrown your nail scissors out the window, use them to trim out little pink shapes from slices of boiled ham. Triumphantly position them on the tiger faces, as shown.
8: Carefully, carefully lift the tiger faces made of an astounding number of tiny pieces and position them on the rice balls you previously made and fitted into the lunchbox. If any of the pieces fall off while you’re doing this, you have permission to curse the universe. But quietly, quietly. You really don’t want those new words shared at show and tell tomorrow.
9: Now round out the lunchbox with two different kinds of sashimi, a cherry tomato, and a single perfect floret of broccoli. (Cultural mystery of the day: Why do Japanese mothers feel the need to dress up the rice balls as tiger faces, but leave the hated cruciform vegetables just lying there without so much as a Batman mask?)
10: Make an omelet roll and stealth wrap two steamed pieces of okra inside a slice of innocent-looking pork.
11: If dawn is already breaking, make yourself a double espresso and gird yourself up to drive that carpool.
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Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!