Kyushoku

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Fried chikuwa (fish cake) in curry (yello) and aonori (green) batter.
Beansprout, carrot, and cucumber salad.
Chicken based soup with carrots and gobo (burdock root).
Gohan (rice) with an umeboshi (pickled plum).
Nori (seaweed).
In Japanese schools, ranging from hoikuen (nursery school) to chugakko (junior high school), children are usually provided with meals called kyushoku. Depending on where the school is located, kyushoku can range from factory produced pre-packaged slop (a usual complaint of city JETs) to locally produced balanced and healthy meals. Luckily, my school fell in the second category and I decided to document what I ate at school on the 13 separate occasions that I remembered to take pictures at lunch.
These Kyushoku were made by women who live in Ubuyama and planned out by the nutritionist, Mrs. Umei. All of the meals are carefully planned out to provide a balance of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other important dietary components. When I first started eating kyushoku I could only finish half of the meals and had to take the rest home. It is commonly observed that teachers gain weight after being transfered to Ubuyama because of the size of the servings (this is a matter of meal size, not of meal content).
It is interesting to note that the Japanese school system started encouraging the students to incorporate new things into their diet after the U.S. occupation. Milk, bread, and meat products were uncommon if not completely absent before the end of the war in the Pacific. All of the old people I have talked to about this tend to agree: the Japanese started to grow bigger with the change in diet, and today’s Japanese youths are some pretty big and healthy kids. If you don’t believe me go to any high school’s judo practice and then see what you think.
Note: Every day, milk is included as part of a balanced meal. The milk is produced and packaged locally in Ubuyama.
Be sure to check out School of Rice, a new site authored by me and my brother. It will chronicle some of the riced out rides that we happen upon and other things that fit under the paradigm of the School of Rice.


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Roasted breast of chicken with a parsley yogurt sauce.
Broccoli florets.
Cream of kabocha (pumpkin) soup.
White bread and margerine.
Bonus: Stainless steel spork.
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Teriyaki squid steak.
Lima bean/kidney bean/chickpea/cabbage salad with a vinagarette dressing.
A variation of chicken soup.
Melon pan (melon bread: this refers to the shape, not the flavor. It is basically Japan’s version of pan dulce, meaning that the bread has some sugar in and on it).
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Stewed potatos, carrots, gobo, renkon (lotus root), and snow peas.
Half of a banana.
Carrot, cabbage, beansprout, and spinach salad with peanut-based dressing.
Mugigohan (rice with buckwheat mixed in).
Akashiso furikake (red shiso rice topping).
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Beef curry and rice.
Ika (squid) and cucumber salad with shiso dressing.
Watermelon.
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Tomato third.
Hard boiled egg.
Champon ramen (Nagasaki-style)
White bread with chocolate “pudding” sauce.
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Udon with curry sauce.
Cucumber,carrot, and macaroni salad with mayonaisse.
Hot dog bun-type bread sans hot dog.
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Cucumber salad with kimchee base dressing.
Cup-o-ham-n-egg.
Gohan and some sort of chop suey.
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Takana gohan.
Agetofu (fried tofu) with a seaweed/dried daikon garnish.
Grapefruit.
Vegetable soup.
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Spagetti noodles with ham, carrots, cucumber, and egg slices and a rice wine vinager sauce.
Wiener.
Watermelon.
White bread and margerine.
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Potato omlette (tasted like a Spanish tortilla).
Cherry tomatos.
Vegetable soup.
Kinako Agepan (Fried bread dusted in kinako).
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Hayashi rice (hayashi rice is like curry without the kick. I think of it as a cross between marinara and Japanese curry.).
Squid, cucumber, brocolli, and carrot salad with an aoshiso dressing.
Cornbread muffin.

10 thoughts on “Kyushoku”

  1. School Lunch In Rural Japan

    I just wrote an entry about kyushoku, or school lunch, on Higo Blog. I would have to say that the school lunches that I had in Ubuyama were much better than the school lunches back in SoCal, but you…

  2. This is great.
    It’s amazing how much MORE interesting and BALANCED these meals are than US food service slop. Do Japanese kids feel more loved because so much care goes into their meals? I mean, there HAS to be something that feels good about your meal not being a government afterthought.
    I hope that doesn’t sound sappy. I think that food and the way that it is prepared is a meaningful thing.

  3. Keep in mind that this is not normal fare in Japanese schools- most kids get the Japanese equivalent of processed school lunches, but my school was lucky since it was cheaper to cook school lunch locally instead of subcontracting it out to companies trying to increase profit margins.
    On a side topic, seeing a well made bento has to make any recipient feel well loved. In Japan, many wives and mothers wake up early every day and prepare a special lunch box for their kids or husbands to take to school or lunch, and these bentos can be stunning in their variety, combinations of food, themes, and the amount of time and effort that is put into producing them. Take a look, and you’ll see what I’m talking about:
    http://www.cosmicbuddha.com/adam/archives/000419.html
    Regarding food being a meaningful thing, I can get misty-eyed after eating a carne asada burrito (or home made cooking,etc…) from my favorite restaraunt after being deprived of it for a little over a year. I’m one of those people who gets emotional (in a good way) over food.

  4. I had actually read Anne Allison’s essay ?Japanese Mothers and Obentos: The Lunch Box as Ideological State Apparatus? on bento, in the book Permitted and Prohibited Desires which was cited in several of the websites that I researched. We had the book that contained that essay in the library that I work in.
    I also thought that about the meals she prepared for her kids was great.
    I wrote a (general interest) article on bento for the local co-op newsletter, and researched with these articles. I’m pretty sure that it was in that day’s research that I found your brother’s blog. I posted that on my blog a while back…
    (here ya go).
    though it’s probably too facile for you, especially since the co-op is chock full of vegans, I made the recipes vegetarian/ vegan to please the peeps.
    The Power Puff Girl bento knocked my socks off…Talk about the shiznit. That image has been my desktop wallpaper for the last two months!
    I am obsessed with food, print media and packaging. So bento has become my most recent hobby, naturally! I have actually even begun to get REALLY into making variations of my own.
    Yes, food presentation is important. I also appreciate good food writers (MFK Fisher, Bert Greene, Calvin Trillin, etc.)…though I must say that all I’ve read of Proust is a graphic novel on his life.
    I do have to say that while I respect and admire France and French culture, I get really upset by the precise and withering cruelty of the well-heeled Parisian. I can appreciate the observations of food that is enjoyed on a highly-cultivated level, but I am also keenly aware of the scrutiny that is a large part of an all-encompassing appreciation of pleasures of the senses. I may own a copy of MFK Fisher’s translation of Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste, but at the same time, after reading a collection of short stories by Colette, I am certain that she would have described me as a chubby, grimy peasant…if I could even have caught her attention at all.
    I actually did a food zine about 10 years ago. It was actually a lot like pekopeko in scope & focus, if you’ve seen it, but I was the only one who worked on my zine. And it was done before I knew how to do letterpress, so I had all of these funky two-color toner copies.
    Anyway, my bad on the tangent. There goes my lunch break! I really appreciate the thoughtful feedback…thanks!

  5. It looks like you’ve really done your homework on this subject. I’ve never even heard of some of the authors that you mention (looks like I’ll have to do some reading). Thanks for taking the time to write an in depth response.
    When you mention the cruelties of French Culture, I assume you’re talking about veal and how they force feed ducks for their livers. I agree that it’s not very nice (however, I don’t know whether the ducks actually mind being force fed. I guess I wouldn’t want to be). One author who I really enjoy reading is Tony Bourdain. A Cook’s Tour and Kitchen Confidential are both great books, and the TV show on Food Network is entertaining as well.
    Over here, sometimes I see food that is so stylish or cute that I feel bad eating it. It’s amazing to see how much effort people can devote to aesthetics, especially when they know it will probably be seen by only one person and immediately devoured. Maybe that’s part of the appeal.

  6. Actually, I meant human social cruelty.
    I have worked (as a copyeditor & writer) for several vegan pubs, but I am a meat-eater. I love pate. Not that I eat it day in and day out, but I treasure the occasions when I do–usually no more than once a year.
    I read Tony Bourdain’s biography a few years back & enjoyed it, too. I’m less enchanted with his ongoing gourmet mysteries, which seem a little forced to me. I thought his Food Network program (the episodes that I saw before our cable provider dropped TVFN) were good, too. He is knowledgable & refreshing, but I appreciate that he has been through a few hard knocks.
    The effort to please for the sake of pleasing (even if it’s only one person, a child or a rushed commuter upon whom the aesthetic impact might be for naught) is what makes it even more profound, I think.

  7. Wow, this is really interesting. Right now I’m writing a paper for my Japanese class (all in japanese…im not that skilled) but I was looking up info on school life and this was really helpful for the lunch part. haha. It’s making me hungry.

  8. Nice posting. How much did the daily lunch cost you/students? Also, in response to comment about “pre packaged slop” lunches, nickels to dimes, on average they are still healthier than what is served in typical American school systems.
    I point to America since I am American with two kids in school and cringe when I see the menus and think back to my days in Japan as an ALT and the healthy hot lunches that I enjoyed there.
    Thanks for the post.

  9. Lunch cost 300 yen per meal, but was partially subsidized.
    If only they made lunch as healthy and delicious as they did over here…

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