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torakris

Japanese School lunches

150 posts in this topic

I've only read 1/3rd of the posts, but I couldn't get this nagging  question out of my head.

What happens to the vegetarian child?

That can hardly be a problem in this country. There are few vegetarians here. If there were vegetarian children, they would be treated the same way as those who are allergic to certain foods such as eggs and buckwheat, I think.

A thread on being a vegetarian in Japan in the Japan Forum:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=36292&hl=

Most Japanese are quite indifferent to vegetarianism.

I'm sorry. I don't believe you understood my question. I know that it is easy to eat vegetarian in Japan. But the context was school lunches. If everyone eats the same thing and the menu for the day is pork, what does the vegetarian child do? Does he or she bring their lunch, or is something special prepared for them.


Aidan

"Ess! Ess! It's a mitzvah!"

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From what I see, accommodation for special needs is a bit grudging. A friend has a child who is highly allergic and was in and out of hospital in her early school years. One teacher refused to cooperate, until finally the principal intervened and said that either she cooperated and made the child feel welcome to eat her packed lunch together with the class while they ate school lunch, or the child would be instructed to bring her lunch to the principal's office and they'd eat lunch together...

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I know that it is easy to eat vegetarian in Japan.

I believe I understood your question. Believe it or not, there are few vegetarians in this country and it's tough being a vegetarian here.

I have never met a single vegetarian in my life, and I have never heard of a problem with vegetarian children, so your question is a hypothetical one. As I said in my previous post, I think such chidren would be treated the same way as those who are allergic to certain foods or cannot eat them due to some desease or other. Parents who have such children would be requested to talk to their homeroom teachers for possible solutions, which include, as you say, bringing their own lunches and having special lunches prepared for them.

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It is really difficult to be a vegetarian in Japan. I have a couple friends who ended up giving up vegetarianism after an extended stay because it was too difficult to eat out.

Most school's can be quite accomodating, and as Hiroyuki said will treat them the same as a food allergy. There are no vegetarians in our school of close to 1,000 though...

I have a vegetarian friend who was making lunches for her daughters for the first few weeks of school and eventually gave it up.


<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 work at a private junior and senior high school. At the shakokan (cafeteria--I can't remember the common Japanese word for it, but at my school it is called shakokan), they have a variety of offerings to accomodate eating differences. However, only purely vegetarian (i.e. no animal flesh used in any part of the preparation) foods they offer are small salads or things like green beans with okara, simmered kabocha, onigiri, or other little simmered vegetable dishes. Sometimes there might be spaghetti with tomato sauce, but it will usually have meat in it. Other almost-vegetarian dishes might be soups made with dashi.

At my school, however, most students bring their own lunches. The shakokan is more like a restaurant, and is used mostly by the college students, teachers, and staff members. At the one school I worked at which provided lunches, students who couldn't participate in the lunch program provided their own on the days they couldn't eat the school lunch. Monthly menus were printed up before the beginning of the month, so parents could plan for those days. The menus were quite complete, with all components to the meal and the ingredients listed (as well as a nutritional breakdown).

Many of my vegetarian friends also gave in and started eating fish and fish-products when they moved to Japan. Especially when eating out with Japanese people, it was very difficult to maintain their lifestyle.

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When I grew up in Taiwan, the system was kind of interesting.  We bring bento lunches, but they are always in aluminum bento boxes (compared to Japanese, Chinese eat a lot less "cold" food, like rice balls).  Each student places the box in a huge metal bin.  Once everyone was there, the on-duty students (rotated daily), 2 of them, would pick up that heavy bin (50 something students in each class!) and take it to the Steam Room.  It seems like yesterday when my friend and I walked across the huge field holding on the two handles, gossiping and giggling.  Lunch time comes, the students go back and bring back the bin.  The students pick up the rather hot boxes and eat.  We had some richer kids with fancy, 3-tier boxes, with rice, meat, veggi all separated.  Most regular folks have the standard rectangular boxes with 2 buckles to keep the lid in place. 

Ahh brings me back some memories, I was in a Taipei elementary school (East Gate Elementrary) for a semester back in 1982 and was shocked at the fact that they have your lunches heated for you. Realize that there were 4000 kids going to school there so it must of been a huge steam room. I guess that's chinese culture for you since they never ever like hot dishes served cold.

I also had the pleasure of having Japanese school lunches while I went to school, back in the day. The menu rotated between western and wafu lunches, which ultimately meant, you either had rice or bread as the main starch. Most of the classmates and I always looked forward to the curry, cream stew, or spaghetti days. It was very much frowned upon to leave any food since the teachers still had memories of the time after WWII when they had little or no food to eat, so they made sure that we were greatful for all the food given and the teachers were not going to allow any food to go to waste. I also remember having had my only ever whale meat served during a Japanese school lunch and remember it being very good. That's all I remember from my Japanese school lunches. I also had American school lunches and looking back at it now, I realize that the Japanese school lunches were much healthier with more variety and more appetizing than the American school lunches, as many have posted.

I went to a catholic school in Taiwan and all we ate were Chicken a la King and weird beef stew over rice. The cooks are Filipino. Once a month we get fried chicken.


Leave the gun, take the canoli

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I still remember those horrible US school lunches....

When I was in elementary school, I ate them for a couple years....or rather....I would go through the lunch line and get the food and maybe eat one thing from the lunch set we were given, leaving everything else on the tray. I can understand the need for affordable food in portions large enough to feed a a cafeteria of students, but US schools are terrible at making anything that anyone would want to eat.

After those couple years of school lunches, I took my own and never looked back. Still, I remember seeing the same type of awful school lunches in every state I lived in. Just the smell was enough to ruin my appetite.

Japan sounds like it has MUCH better school lunches. If I had kids, I would definitely prefer they eat a Japanese school lunch compared to a US one. In fact, if I had kids, I think I would rather they eat leftovers from dinner before they eat a US school lunch. There's just no reason to try to make anyone eat something so bad!

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I remember liking the US school lunches when I was in elementary school, and we also participated in the lunch program over the summer (for lower-income families - you would go to the cafeterias and could get breakfast and lunch either for free or about 40 cents). I don't know if it was just that I had poor taste at the time or what, but ground beef in gravy over mashed potatoes was kind of tasty!

By the time my youngest sister was in high school it was all pizza/chicken nuggets, that kind of thing. I think a lot of what happened is that they made more variety available so the quality of all the food suffered, because how can you make ten different things for that many people and do ANY of it well?


Jennie

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Every time I read this thread, I find it incredibly depressing to think about the food choices being offered to my own children.

Our oldest will be entering Grade 2 next month. There are no cafeterias at the elementary school level, but the local PAC committee insists on foisting hot dogs, donuts and pizzas on the kids every 2 weeks. All in the name of "fundraising," of course. I won't even get into they vending machines that they have at school. Of course, the vending machines are also considered necessary to bring in income. :sad:


Baker of "impaired" cakes...

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Empty belly = empty brain

There are plenty of kids in our area in Japan who won't eat anything better than school lunch all day. A good lunch can at least remove one disadvantage they face in their school careers.

And as for the junk food fundraisers - I know what you mean, and it's pretty grim, isn't it? At least in Japan the suffering parents still run stalls to sell yaki-soba, pork miso soup, curry and rice etc., because we don't have to deal with the minute regulation of food prepared for public consumption (allegedly allowing one disgruntled woman to poison off an entire neighborhood of bitchy rival housewives a few years back, but hey, you gotta take a few risks for the 'hood now and again!). Even so, I notice less and less prepared-on-site food used at school fundraising events, and more and more commercially produced rice-balls...

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Even so, I notice less and less prepared-on-site food used at school fundraising events, and more and more commercially produced rice-balls...

Please, please tell me that you are not refering to convenience store grade, non-molding onigiri loaded with preservatives. :shock:


Baker of "impaired" cakes...

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I don't know about all of Japan but no highschools in Yokohama have school lunches. None of the jr. highs either, there are talks to bring kyushoku in jr. highs in Yokohama though and I hope it happens before my daughter starts... :biggrin:

I know some other parts of Japan have school lunches at the jr. high level but I have never heard of high schools having them. It is a bento lunch from home for these kids.


<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 was wondering what happens at the high school level, if the kyoshoku system is still the same?

As far as I know, most high schools in Japan are BYOL. Friends who worked at public high schools didn't even have cafeterias at which to eat. Private high schools, especially those which also have attached junior highs or colleges, will usually have cafeterias. But there is no lunch plan, and generally students will bring their own lunches (bento from home, or stuff from convenience stores or bakeries).

I would suspect there is a relationship between the lack of school-provided lunches after junior high and the end of mandatory education.

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We have school lunch for junior high in our area. Kids can choose from 2 selections, which they order a fortnight in advance.

I believe a vote was held some years back to decide whether to have school lunch or packed lunches at JHS level. It certainly seems to vary from area to area.

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I was wondering what happens at the high school level, if the kyoshoku system is still the same?

I don't know how much things have changed in the 17 or so years since I was in High School in Japan but everyone in my class brought bento from home. We would put our desks into groups and someone would go down to the tea room and collect a huge kettle of hot tea (kocha) for the class.

I can't recall anyone ever using the cafeteria.

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Yesterday there was a fire in the kitchen at my daughters' elementary school.

News report and picture

No one was hurt and the kids were let out a little early. The Kitchen was quite damaged though and we will be making bento lunches until further notice...

Apparently they left the oil for tempura to heat while they attended a meeting.


<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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Yesterday there was a fire in the kitchen at my daughters' elementary school.

News report and picture

No one was hurt and the kids were let out a little early. The Kitchen was quite damaged though and we will be making bento lunches until further notice...

Apparently they left the oil for tempura to heat while they attended a meeting.

:shock::shock:

I'm glad that all school children were safe...

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Woah - a tempura fire can be a big fire. I'm sure you're glad that making bento for a while is the worst thing that happened.

I'm just about to start 6 years of daily bento making for JHS and HS lunches...I quail a bit at the thought of how much teen boys can eat, and am disgustingly delighted that there is small chance of either of my boys being on sports teams and working up even bigger appetites!

I'm pretty sure that even if my son1 goes to a public HS, he will be taking a bento.

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gallery_40524_2526_3577.jpg

This is my least favorite school lunch that is served at my school. It is yakisoba (which is normally really good, but the school lunch version is terrible), wieners with a watered down ketchup, a hot dog type bun, apple wedge (this is the best part of the lunch, can't ruin fruit), milk (it does a body good, even mine). Sometimes I put the wieners on the bun, sometimes I put the yakisoba on the bun, sometimes I cry, but every time I die a little inside. My other kyushokus are normally pretty good, this is the exception. I would rather make bento, but I am too lazy :biggrin:

edited to say, I just figured out how to post pictures, this is my first (does celebration dance in the teacher's room, gets wierd looks)


Edited by fenyx66 (log)

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Hmmm...I think the answer is a large pack of chili pepper and some packs of nori in your desk! If it's hidden under a blanket of black nori, it can't bother you, right?

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gallery_40524_2526_3577.jpg

This is my least favorite school lunch that is served at my school. It is yakisoba (which is normally really good, but the school lunch version is terrible), wieners with a watered down ketchup, a hot dog type bun, apple wedge (this is the best part of the lunch, can't ruin fruit), milk (it does a body good, even mine).  Sometimes I put the wieners on the bun, sometimes I put the yakisoba on the bun, sometimes I cry, but every time I die a little inside.  My other kyushokus are normally pretty good, this is the exception.  I would rather make bento, but I am too lazy  :biggrin:

edited to say, I just figured out how to post pictures, this is my first (does celebration dance in the teacher's room, gets wierd looks)

I remember that my school lunch yakisoba (almost 40 years ago) used to be quite greasy, but I liked it all the same. Why do you think the school lunch version is terrible?

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Why do you think the school lunch version is terrible?

I think the noodles are too soggy, and they don't taste like yakisoba noodles, it tastes like soggy spaghetti noodles. I think the students like it because I hear their "oishiso"s (looks delicious) so maybe I think it might just be me, but the other foreign teachers in the other middles schools also don't like the school's yakisoba, it has become kind of our little joke, we compare things to it, or say stuff like "I'd rather eat kyushoku yakisoba" or "I'm so hungry I'd eat kyushoku yakisoba" and then we'd all reply with gagging sounds or "oh my gosh, you must be really hungry", but it 's funny. The flavor isn't good, there is just nothing good about it. I can understand that it is probably hard to mass produce something like yakisoba in the Kyushoku center, so I just keep a stiff upper lip and only complain to my outside of school friends and of course on E-gullet. Of course I shouldn't expect gourmet food for only 200 yen a meal. It's still better and healthier than the American school lunches I ate as a kid. :laugh:

Hmmm...I think the answer is a large pack of chili pepper and some packs of nori in your desk! If it's hidden under a blanket of black nori, it can't bother you, right?

I keep gomashio (black sesame and salt) in my desk, but I don't usually keep anything for this. Nori, eh? It's worth a shot, and some chili powder might work, or maybe I could just look at the monthly menu and bring a natto maki or something as a substitute and just forget it. I will take some pictures of my favorite kyushokus and post them when we come around to them in the monthly cycle.


Edited by fenyx66 (log)

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Joking aside, crumbling up some nori over the yakisoba might help both texture and taste.

There is certainly quite a range in kyuushoku supervisors. When my boys first started elementary school, their kyuushoku were just exemplary - nicely cooked, menus had a nice combination of items and looked attractive, there was a definite seasonal feeling to the menus, etc.

Then came a woman under whose supervision the team turned out adequate food, but the menus were the most unappetizing combinations! I can't remember them now, but I think serving hot-dogs with yakisoba is a good example.

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Yesterday there was a fire in the kitchen at my daughters' elementary school.

News report and picture

No one was hurt and the kids were let out a little early. The Kitchen was quite damaged though and we will be making bento lunches until further notice...

Apparently they left the oil for tempura to heat while they attended a meeting.

It turns out we may be making bentos through until June....

I miss my kyushoku!! :sad:


<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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