A byte of life from the Land of Sumos and Sushi

Friday, May 13, 2005

I bet you used to complain about school dinners didn’t you? Unless you were one of the “sandwich kids” who’s mummy used to make them a packed lunch in a box that reeked when opened, you will have been subjected to school dinners for most of your days in compulsory education.

You may have thought that you were hard done by, receiving below par meals, with perhaps only two choices of main course, but spare a thought for the Japanese kids. If anyone has the right to complain about school dinners, it’s them.

Firstly, there is no choice of meal, you get what’s on the menu. There is no choice of quantity, everybody gets the same, and you must eat everything, down to the last grain of rice, after all, each grain contains seven gods, don’t you know?

It’s also worth noting that kids are completely banned from bringing food of any sort into school, so there’s no snacking on crisps or chocolate. The advantage of the Japanese system is that they eat much more healthily than their western counterparts, which probably explains the very obvious lack of any overweight students. This installs from an early age the importance of a healthy, balanced diet which they seem to take throught to adulthood.

The meals themselves are a fairly bizarre mix of foods. Rice and a bottle of warm, fatty milk are the staples, in fact rice is eaten with every meal here, from breakfast to supper. Once in a while, a small stick of bread substitutes for rice, but the Japanese don’t seem to differentiate between sweet and savoury to the same extent that we do.

The bread almost always comes with jam, and sometimes is even covered in chocolate powder and it’s common to receive a lump of fish on the same plate as a slice of fruit. They also use the same chopsticks/spoon for all of the meal, which saves on washing up, but it's not very appetizing when you’ve got to eat a fruit yoghurt with the your fish soup spoon.

Most of the time I eat everything, but occasionally, when I just can’t stomach the squid soup or daikon (a large vegetable that when boiled, smells and tastes like a fart), I am forced to mount an undercover “binning” run. Carefully surveying the staff room, I wait for my window, and when the coast is clear, I make a dash for the bin and donate the offensive fodder to the garbage gods.


Blogger Lewis said...

I'm so glad I'm at a senior high school - I thankfully get to avoid the daily trauma that is the school dinner, since most of the kids bring a bento box. I'm sure all that white rice can't be good for you...

Monday, May 16, 2005 8:59:00 pm

Blogger Danieru said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 11:26:00 am

Blogger Danieru said...

I absolutely ADORE school dinners. I work in a Junior high school in Kyushu, and everyday is just a series of moments leading up to lunchtime. Admittedly, our dinners do look a little different (check mine out here) but how the healthy, cheap gorgeous wonders of lunchtime tremble through my palpitating olfactory, gustatory systems with the force of a thousand exploding elephants...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 11:28:00 am

Anonymous Jonny Boy said...

Looks like quality fodder to me - beats the crap out of the soggy chips, fat ridden meat and coagulated pink custard I was forced to endure as a young britisher - those japanese kids have it good!

Friday, May 20, 2005 8:08:00 am


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