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torakris

Japanese School lunches

150 posts in this topic

Hillvalley,

Meaning no disrespect to you or your kids at all, those lunches really trouble me, and are a pretty solid indication of why the Japanese lunches sound so appealing. The lunches you describe are based on large quantities of sugar and starch, with very little (if any) solid protein and virtually no fresh fruits or vegetables. I don't want to embark on a flame war with anyone, but I can't see that it's healthy for kids -- or for their future waistlines and blood-sugar counts -- to be eating lunches of processed cheese, honey buns, canned corn, white bread, and "fruit-flavored" drinks. Actually, I think it's a disaster.

mags, no offense taken at all. I completely agree with you. My students eat more processed or refined "food" than you can imagine. With a couple of exceptions, the lunches my students eat make me very sad. There is no food in their food.

What's worse, we have proven this year that if you introduce kids to real, good food they will eat it. This year my students have tried cucumber sushi, nori, pomegranite, charoset, Nuttella, dulce de leche and kimchi. Most were huge hits. They now beg and plead for sushi. On all star days they get Nuttella on saltines.

Unfortunately these kids come from backgrounds where the processed junk is king. It's cheap, lasts longer and takes little effort. But that's another thread.


True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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I finally remembered to take my camera to school for lunch today.

First of all, thank you SO MUCH for taking all those pictures.

I'd like to make a comment later.

Today, I'd like to post this one:

***

In Shiozawa town, like many other local governments throughout Japan, efforts are under way to provide school students with "safe" farm products grown locally, that is, right here in Shiozawa town, with minimum amounts of agricultural chemicals.

The following lists the farm and other products used in school lunches in Shiozawa town that come from farmers and producers in Shiozawa town:

Rice (Shiozawa-produced Koshihikari rice), negi (leek), spinach, komatsuna (type of green leaves), asparagus, edible wild plant (kogome, kinome, and fukinoto), potato, satoimo (aroid?), corn, soy bean, eggplant, aona (type of green leaves, 青菜), onion, daikon (Japanese radish), pumpkin, mushroom (shimeji, maitake, and enoki), namasu uri (Spaghetti squash), miso (fermented soybean paste), namban miso (spicy miso)

***

Seven students?? :blink:


Edited by Hiroyuki (log)

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My 3 year old son has just started kyushoku (school lunch) at his preschool/kindergarten. This is a private school and the hot lunch is brought to the school just before serving and it is served in the same style as the elementary schools with the kids donning white smocks and hats and dishing it out to each other.

The kids at this school eat a school lunch 3 times a week, take a bento from home one day a week, and have a half every Weds so they leave at 11:30 and eat lunch at home. I am not sure of the price per meal here, I think it is higher than the elementary school, from this year we will start paying for the meals separately (before it was included in the tuition) so I guess I will find out soon.

Here is the first week of meal at his school:

onigiri, chicken karaage (fried chicken), salad, greens with sesame sauce, tomato, jello like dessert

napolitan spaghetti, sausages, salad, fruit, more of the jellied stuff

inarizushi, futomaki,, simmered satstumaimo (Japanese sweet potato), greens with sesame sauce, chicken nugget, more jellied stuff

sandwiches (cheese, egg, jam--not all together!), vegetable soup, daigaku-imo (deep fried Japanese sweet potatoes coated with a sugar sryup) chicken nuggets, fruit

bamboo shoot rice, ebi-furai (breaded deep fried shrimp), tuna salad, ohitashi of greens, fruit


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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hillvally,

Most of the lunches shown in your photos are much more like "oyatsu" in Japanese, snack given to children around 3 o'clock in the afternoon, kinds of food that Japanese parents will not allow their children to eat as meals.

Isn't the TV dinner in the fourth photo too much for a child of eight to ten years old?

I think that the lunch in the fifth photo is the best of all, but I don't like its appearance. They could make it look more appetizing, don't you think? Or, am I mistaken? It may have been beautifully decorated at first.

Any Japanese parent would be inclined to question the kid's parents, starting with "How dare you?". I guess that Japanese parents (usually mothers) would get up 20 or 30 minutes earlier than usual to make an acceptable lunch for their children rather than to have them eat junk food for lunch.

I thought about those lunches on and off all day yesterday. What I came to my head was:

1) In Japan, kyushoku 給食, the school lunch system, is considered part of education. Do you have that notion in your country?

2) I hate the all-embracing term "junk food". There are many bad junk foods but that there are some very good ones, too.

For instance, I like the various types of snack produced by Calbee in Japan

http://www.yasai-snack.com/products/index.htm

because they contain several types of vegetables.

I wonder if you could talk the kids' parents into switching to such "healthier" junk foods.

3) I wonder if you can introduce a rice cooker into your classroom and have your students cook rice, say, once a week, twice a week, to teach them how to take a meal the Japanese way: eating cooked rice, "okazu" (side dish), and soup in a BALANCED MANNER.

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I wish we could have gotten lunches like these. They sound delicious.

I'm a child of the New York City school lunch program, and that was pretty bad not just because of the constant hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets (though they at least tried to give us one small apple or orange with each meal, but sometimes that was a syrupy canned fruit snack instead) but I was also a student during the NYC school lunch scandal years, where tons of food up to 5 years past its expiration date was used for student lunches. icon8.gif

Anyway, no, it's not good for kids in the US to be eating that kind of processed food, not with their taste buds developing. It makes them accustomed to refined and processed things, and when they get older, I think they will lose most desire to eat anything else, to the detriment of everyone, not just themselves.

Pat


"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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The hideously bad food served in American schools is a reflection of the hideously bad food that is consumed by the majority of American adults. Poor choices by the parents, but the combination of advertising directed at kids (even my daughter coveted Lunchables---I got one for her to try and she found it disgusting), the ready availability of poor quality processed food (I can barely stand to shop at usual grocery stores here---aisle after aisle of inedible crap), and the relative difficulty of sourcing high quality food yields the present state of affairs.

There's also the distinct possibility that some of these mothers work outside the home, making shopping and meal preparation that much more problematic.

My kids do eat the school lunches (we live in Atlanta)---I'll see if I can track down this week's menu.


Can you pee in the ocean?

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Tomorrow's menu for middle schools in Dekalb County, GA:

Choose one:

Fish nuggets/cornbread (this fish is fried)

Barbecue on bun (shredded pork in a spicy tomato sauce)

Grilled cheese sandwich

Choose three:

Potato wedges

Vegetable soup

Fruit cocktail

Creamy coleslaw

Fresh fruit

With:

Mini ice cream treat

Choice of milk (so chocolate milk is presumably an option, though I don't know for sure)

There are also "grab and go" options of char-broiled chicken chef salad or turkey and cheese chef salad (these are large salads that serve as the entire meal).

Virtually none of this food is truly prepared on site---it all arrives either frozen or canned. It costs $1.55/day. You get what you pay for.


Can you pee in the ocean?

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I just ran across this thread and found it fascinating. I am constantly disgusted and truly worried when I read or hear about what our youth are eating for their daily lunches in the US.

Those Japanese lunches sound wonderful---not only for the food content but because of the what I think might be the philosophy about the lunches and food.

Someone in the thread said that school lunches in Japan are considered part of the curriculum and therefore they are respected. In some ways I think that in the US we find whatever "food" is the most cost effective that will "fill the void" of children's hunger. The pictures of the lunchables, etc, from the US teacher are a very familiar site for US lunches.

I work at a private, parent-run school in the US and one of the big reasons I work so hard for my children to attend this school is because of the philosophies surrounding the children's food and lunches. Children there are happy to find sushi or nori in their lunch or other healthy foods rather than passing around cheetos or bragging about what prize or treat they have in their Lunchables or guzzling soda. Yes, we do have a few Lunchables that show up but for the most part that's not the norm. It's a very important topic for me.

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Yeah, it is important, and I also like how the kids in Japan take turns serving the lunches too, rather than thinking they are above such work. And therefore, above the people who do it.

I'm sure that's all rather idealistic of me, and the reality is not like that 100% of the time, but still, it seems like a good start, social contract and everything.

Pat


"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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I know no systems are perfect, but I think the school lunch systems in Japan are among the best that you can think of, especially those in rural areas like my town, where locally grown safe farm products are used whenever possible. (This is rather off-topic, but a lot of efforts are being made in Japan these days toward "jisan jisho" 地産地消, or "local production for local consumption", and these efforts are compatible with the need for safe farm products for use in school lunches.)

Sadly, though, the exemplary school lunch system in Shiozawa town is threatened--as I briefly mentioned in my previous post, a special committee is discussing a switch from the existing "jiko" system to a "center" system. According to a town councilor, the committee is split into two: those in favor of privatization, placing priority to cost reduction and efficiency, and those placing priority to food safety and "shokuiku" 食育 (literally, "education in eating") plus those promoting "jisan jisho" of farm products. The committee is scheduled to release a report in late April. I'd like to post a summary of the report when it is released.

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I know no systems are perfect, but I think the school lunch systems in Japan are among the best that you can think of, especially those in rural areas like my town, where locally grown safe farm products are used whenever possible. (This is rather off-topic, but a lot of efforts are being made in Japan these days toward "jisan jisho" 地産地消, or "local production for local consumption", and these efforts are compatible with the need for safe farm products for use in school lunches.)

Although the area I live is far from rural, there is also a lot o effort to use locally produced food as well. We receive monthly notices discussing the food used in the lunches and various other tidbits about the lunches and they always stresss the use of Kanagawa prefecture grown produce (this is the prefecture Yokohama is located in).

Sleepy Dragon mentioned that he liked the idea of the kids serving it themselves as it shows that they are not above such work, you should also know the children are responsible for cleaning the school as well, including hallways and toilets. This is also part of their education. All of the work done around the school is done my te kids (with the teachers) or by the parents. The parents help put up and take down decorations, plant flowers, clean up the yard, etc


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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Although the area I live is far from rural, there is also a lot o effort to use locally produced food as well.

I'm glad to know that schools in even such urban areas as Yokohama are similar to those in rural areas in terms of school lunch system.

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I just found this site that has some nice pictures of a Japanese elementary school, sort of a Day in the life of an elementary school student:

http://www.amphi.com/~psteffen/fmf/elementary.html


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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I also like how the kids in Japan take turns serving the lunches too, rather than thinking they are above such work. And therefore, above the people who do it.

This was actually common practice in the U.S. when I was a child, at least at some elementary schools in the midwest. Not only serving food, but receiving trays back into the kitchen and loading the dishwasher. The duties were rotated, and it was considered a bit of a perk, as you got to leave classes a few minutes earlier than the other kids. I recall wearing aprons and hairnets or caps.

The food was just as bad, unfortunately.


Can you pee in the ocean?

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This is a really interesting thread.

The above link showed a few more good things about Japanese schools.

First, all the kids walk to school. Apparently this is becoming less and less common back in North America. My last trip back to Canada was a shocker- driving by schools (elementary, junior high and high school) between 3 and 4 in the afternoon took forever, because the surrounding streets were full of parents waiting to pick up their kids. Why can't the kids walk? That's what I did (and I know I sound like an old fart), what my parents did, and what kids have done since way back when school was invented.

And we hear so much about how parents these days are so busy (which is presumably why so many kids bring crap to school for lunch), but it seems like these parents had nothing better to do than chaufer their kids around.

Another thing- near the bottom of the link, there is a picture of students brushing their teeth. No explanation, but I'm assuming that brushing is an official part of the school day. Great idea! I don't remember ever brushing at school, until I got to hight school (and even then I did it clandestinely in the girls' bathroom, and was actually teased about it!).


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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This is a really interesting thread.

The above link showed a few more good things about Japanese schools.

First, all the kids walk to school. Apparently this is becoming less and less common back in North America. My last trip back to Canada was a shocker- driving by schools (elementary, junior high and high school) between 3 and 4 in the afternoon took forever, because the surrounding streets were full of parents waiting to pick up their kids. Why can't the kids walk? That's what I did (and I know I sound like an old fart), what my parents did, and what kids have done since way back when school was invented.

And we hear so much about how parents these days are so busy (which is presumably why so many kids bring crap to school for lunch), but it seems like these parents had nothing better to do than chaufer their kids around.

Another thing- near the bottom of the link, there is a picture of students brushing their teeth. No explanation, but I'm assuming that brushing is an official part of the school day. Great idea! I don't remember ever brushing at school, until I got to hight school (and even then I did it clandestinely in the girls' bathroom, and was actually teased about it!).

There is really incredible variety in the way things are done at schools here.

Things like toothbrushing for example, the school my daughters go to started a encouraging the kids to brush their teeth after meals from last year, it is still completely "voluntary" and only those who want to do it. However a sshool just 5 minutes from my house has mandatory teeth brushing after meals and this has been in place for several years.

The kids are also walking to school in a group, in my area this is called a tokouhan and it is decided by the school. All the children from the same area are put together, the tokouhan can't consist of more than 10 kids so when there are too many they break into two or more groups. They meet every morning at a designated place at a designated time and walk in two lanes with the hanchou (leader) and fukuhanchou (assistant leader) in the front and the back to guide the group.

The same school that brushes their teeth after eating though does not do this and the kids all walk to school with whoever they want to or by themselves.

In the pictures the kids are wearing helmets, I have never seen that before, I have seen yellow hats.... In my area the 1st grade kids attach a yellow cover to their backpack to make them more noticable.


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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Isn't the TV dinner in the fourth photo too much for a child of eight to ten years old?

No he eats it all. Americans are used to oversized portions.

I think that the lunch in the fifth photo is the best of all, but I don't like its appearance. They could make it look more appetizing, don't you think? Or, am I mistaken? It may have been beautifully decorated at first.

For most people in America, food is not an artform. It's many things, but not art. This child is happy as long as it tastes good. This was also leftovers, so I wouldn't expect it to look great. Finally, keep in mind that what looks appealing to you would put off most people here.

Any Japanese parent would be inclined to question the kid's parents, starting with "How dare you?". I guess that Japanese parents (usually mothers) would get up 20 or 30 minutes earlier than usual to make an acceptable lunch for their children rather than to have them eat junk food for lunch.

The Japanese culture is very different than the American culture. First, we eat much more junk food than you do. Food also does not have the symbolism and meaning here. As a teacher, I would be severely reprimanded if not fired for asking a question such as "How dare you?"

My students, for the most part, come from low income families. Putting food on the table requires long hours and low pay. Working two jobs is hard enough. Even if they weren't low income, American families lead a faster paced life than I believe you do in Japan. Just because a parent doesn't provide wonderful lunches does not mean they are not doing a good job.

As for the walking to school issue. We in America live in a very different world than you do. Crime is everywhere, whether people like to admitt it or not. Rich children, poor children, inner city and suburb children all live in more danger than children in Japan. And yes, saftey IS more important than excersize.


True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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My son reports that of the options offered in middle school in Dekalb County, GA (I'd posted the entire menu a few posts back) he chose:

Fish nuggets with cornbread

Potato wedges

Creamy coleslaw (he dips the potato wedges in the coleslaw)

Mini ice cream treat

Skim milk (the other options are 1%, 2%, whole, chocolate, and strawberry---he likes skim)

The fruits on offer are bananas, oranges, and apples. He doesn't particularly like either oranges or apples (he has braces, so apples are a nightmare, and he doesn't like peeling oranges). He prefers bananas for breakfast, so doesn't usually choose them at lunch.

He describes the "grab and go" salads as "nasty", pointing out that they are pre-made.

So, a fairly starchy meal with reasonable protein (fish and milk), calcium (milk, and at least nominally ice cream), and a vegetable that's not ketchup (a reference to Reagan-era school lunch programs that classified ketchup as a vegetable).


Can you pee in the ocean?

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In Japan packing a perfectly balanced bento (boxed lunch) is a way of showing love between the parent an child as physical affection still isn't as common as it is in other parts of the world.

Here is a really wonderful article about how the Japanese feel about obento, especially the ones made by mom:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getart...k20040325ks.htm

It really is very culture related, there are no rights and no wrongs just different ways of thinking. I have to admit that being a foreign mom in Japan can be frustrating because it is really impossible for me to understand this feeling they have for bentos as I didn't grow up with them.


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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I packed lunches for my son (and then later my daughter) for the first four years or so of their educations. I work full-time (very full time at that point in my career), so getting up an hour early to make a bento equivalent was simply not possible (not a question of love, but of mommy having a breakdown and being committed to a mental institution and then who was going to make lunch?). Fortunately neither my skills as a parent nor my love for my children are subject to question as a result of my having foisted celery sticks, grapes, and fig newtons (store-bought, no less) on my sweeties.

I would imagine that bento one upsmanship could get a bit trying...


Can you pee in the ocean?

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I wonder if you could talk the kids' parents into switching to such "healthier" junk foods.

I'm sure hillvalley will chime in at some point here, Hiroyuki, but in the mean time I'll address some of these points.

It sounds as if she's already introducing the children to a much broader range of foods than is typically available to U.S. children. Taking the children's parents to task over their lunches would be seen as very much overstepping her bounds, and extraordinarily insulting to the parents. I am at a loss to describe just how insulting this would be, and how humiliating to the parents; torakris might be able to come up with an equivalent Japanese situation.

As for "healthier", your quote marks appear well-placed. I can't read the descriptions, of course, but they look pretty highly processed. There are plenty of snack foods masquerading as healthy in the U.S. market; the primary difference between them and potato chips is cost, as they offer little in the way of nutrition.

Truly healthy snacks (favorites in our house are cashews, edamame, almond crackers with goats milk cheese, olives, dried fruit) are expensive, and harder to find. I shop for food in a market where these items are less expensive, and not many processed foods are available, but that means that I have to make a separate shopping trip for things like soap. Many groceries in the U.S. don't stock even a single one of our usual snacks (except perhaps raisins and dried apricots).

School lunches (which my children eat; hillvalley's students apparently are not offered this luxury) are for many low income children the best meal of the day. Best meals of the day in some instances, as many public schools (my son's included) offer a full hot breakfast as well. The cost of these meals is partially subsidized for all children, entirely subsidized for many (the economic health of a school district may be assessed by the percentage of students who qualify for free breakfast).

As for what we can and should do, I think that it's already happening, albeit slowly. People increasingly recognize the need to monitor their diets more carefully, and I do hope that we'll soon see a stop to TV advertising of food directed at children. The real change will come when sufficient numbers of consumers decide to buy better, more expensive food. Manufacturers will offer it (because they want to make money) and consumers will actually buy (and eat) less food, addressing the current epidemic of obesity.


Can you pee in the ocean?

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Thank you, therese, for your comments.

Anyone who thinks that the current school lunch systems in Japan are something that we are "given" is sadly mistaken. Parents have tried hard to improve the school systems for their children generation after generation. And I'm willing to do everything I can to stop the current school lunch system of my son's school from degrading.

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This thread has been a good read.

I think what is important to remember is that mothers everywhere love their children and want to do what is best for them.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, both personally and culturally. While it has been established that American kids don't eat the healthiest lunches on the planet, let's not send the whole generation to hell in a handbasket. :wink::biggrin:

I happen to care a lot about food, as I assume any eGulleter does. Therefore, my family gets better (though not perfect) nutrition than the average American. But I don't believe this means that I love my kids more than my neighbor with the Lunchables.

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What a lot of interesting comments!

Walking to school. I'm really glad that when my kids were at kindy, I was able to walk to and fro with them. I resented it frequently, because I often had to leave my 1-hour-to-deadline jobs to go fetch my kids, but we watched and talked about so many things, and rarely had the kind of grumps from them or lectures from me that are so frequent with car trips!

That said, Japanese schools are really playing with fire on safety issues. The group "walking bus" thing is only used here at for the first month for first-graders, and when there have been reports of incidents in the neighborhood. Schools keep kids in without contacting parents for any old reason (from "decorating the classroom", to "class discussion", to "rewriting sloppy classwork") so we have no way of knowing when they are legitimately late, and when they have been shoved in a car and taken 100 kilometers away. A man tried to drag a girl into a car not 10 meters from my house. Luckily she screamed and kicked, and he ran away. Several times a month, my kids come home with a report of flashers or other weirdos trying to grab kids on their way to and from schools within few minutes' drive of us. There have been incidents with knives, and overnight kidnappings within the local middle-school catchment area -- way too close to home for me!

I can just remember the debate over whether or not Japan should change it's postwar bread-based (easy to transport/serve/store) school lunch system. Japan was just starting to feel its oats in the 80s, and apparently sent people to study the French system closely. They were impressed by the amount of effort, money, and other resources that went into making sure that French children knew that their traditional foods were an important part of their culture, as well as the basis of their health, and as far as I know, the current system is heavily influenced by the French attitude.

In New Zealand, I observe that school lunchboxes have grown huge -- partly to accomodate waterbottles, but mostly so that parents can fit a whole packet of crisps in there. Culturally appropriate? You betcha! And yet, when I had these junk food vacuum cleaners for Japan Club, they were game to try sushi, vinegared salads, green tea, etc.

Must stop raving and go and check the two school lunch menus for next week, to make sure that I don't serve up the same stuff for dinner that they were given at school that day!

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I think that the lunch in the fifth photo is the best of all, but I don't like its appearance. They could make it look more appetizing, don't you think? Or, am I mistaken? It may have been beautifully decorated at first.

I think this particular observation was particularly illustrative of cultural differences. For all the weirdness of Lunchables and TV dinners, they're actually the ones that look the most like bento. To the western eye much Japanese food looks every bit as artificial, not really like food at all.

The lunch in the fifth photo does look like the best to me as well, but I don't find that it looks particularly unappetizing. The idea of food that's been "decorated" is entirely foreign to many cultures, the sort of thing you'd do for a birthday cake or some other situation in which the time and resources wasted (and waste is what it's considered) are considered appropriate.


Can you pee in the ocean?

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