LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, U.S. — Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) earlier this month sponsored a series of workshops in the United States designed to show children and their parents how to make “rice ball characters.” The classes focused on the art of making rice balls with a twist: the traditional Japanese dish is decorated to form the faces of cartoon characters and other creatures.

Made out of white rice and usually wrapped in a thin layer of seaweed, rice balls are eaten by hand and considered a quick meal. In a series of nine free workshops sponsored by MAFF in the U.S. states of California and Oregon, consumers were shown how to make their own rice ball characters.