What is Japanese Public School Lunch Like?

By Donnie | Articles

I had a really good day today. Today my principal told me that this would be my first lunch with the kids (at least that’s how much Japanese I was able to discern). There were two staff members who prepared lunch for the teachers in the teacher’s room. The main tray consisted of a corn/lettuce salad with small chunks of tuna in it, a bowl of mild curry, (when have you ever had curry in an American elementary school lunch? I NEVER have!), a small carton of milk (isn’t milk radioactive these days? Uh-oh), mixed fruit, and a container of rice.

I’m still learning names, but the staff member Endo-san gave me a tray with a kind smile. I sat with my tray and waited. Soon the two second graders to came to the teacher’s room door and I heard shitsurei shimasu or excuse me, and the two students said “hello” and walked me to me classroom.

As soon as got into the classroom, students were patting the empty desks next to them, asking me to sit down. Being that my legs are a bit long for the child desks, I got to sit at the front of the classroom. I could see several students in white aprons, caps, and gloves serving the other students. Everyone waited until each student had something to eat. The teacher said “Itadakimasu!” The students repeat and so did I, and we began eating.

How did the food taste? Honestly? IT WAS REALLY GOOD! I’m not kidding either, the meal was balanced and well prepared. This was only my first lunch, so I don’t know if this is just a once off, but knowing what I know of Japan…in general they some to put more emphasis on preparing and eating healthy meals. It kind of shatters my image of the overweight woman, in a plastic cap, opening a bag that says “Kid feed” and plopping a couple of spoons onto a green lunchroom tray.

Another thing that struck me as strange was that there was no cafeteria. Elementary school kids eat in their classrooms.

Hmm…what else? Oh, when the kids finished they said gochisousamadeshita or , After eating, it was souji or cleaning time. When lunch was finished, the teacher showed the kids how to fold up their milk cartons for recycling, and put out separate bags for cartons and normal, burnable garbage. When the teacher told them to stop eating, these kids got to work, cleaning together, stacking trays, one kid came over picked up my things…Jesus! Kids went to brush their teeth, Does it get any better than this. I was so impressed!!

I’m sure I will post about this subject again. But it was pretty cool to see how lunch time differs in America and in Japan.

Looking forward to this year,

Donald Ash

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  • yeah…i took a pic of a school lunch menu while in CALI…whoaaaa…like fast food every lunch, not cool. i had forgotten how unhealthy american school lunches were!!!! i will post it one day on my blog, heh heh

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