Wednesday, August 18, 2010

5 Random School Lunches From Japan

When I first got here I thought lunch was great - plentiful, reasonably tasty and a new experience. 18 months later I dread the whole experience.

I recently explained why eating with my students kind of sucks sometimes, but now I want to talk about the food itself.

I'd like to point out, before any enraged Japanophiles get on my case, that although I openly dislike a lot of Japanese school lunches so do the Japanese.

Without further ado, here are the five lunches I was presented with last week:

  1. Monday

    • Rice,
    • Prawn and dough fried thing (satsumaage)
    • Salad of carrot, cucumber, caggabe and tofu strips with a peanut dressing,
    • Miso soup with potato, two types of tofu, daikon and carrot.
    Calories: 789
    Review: Everything was fine except for the soup, which tasted awful and was a chore to eat. 2/5

  2. Tuesday

    • One packet of softmen noodles,
    • Fried fish with lemon sauce,
    • Hijiki (seaweed), carrot, cabbage,
    • Miso ramen soup with pork, carrot, daikon and onion.
    Calories: 726
    Review: Pretty good! 4/5

  3. Wednesday

    • Rice with yukari. Not sure what that is but it turned it purple and tasted similar to umeboshi (pickled plums),
    • Tomato omelette,
    • Fried sweet potato slithers, cucumber and lettuce,
    • Sumashi soup with wakame, mushrooms, reformed fish and indeterminate bits of vegetable.
    Calories: 734
    Review: Cold and miserable. 2/5

  4. Thursday

    • A bread roll,
    • A cold hamburger with ketchup,
    • Seasame sprinkled pickled cabbage and cucumber,
    • A particularly flavourless soup containing boiled potatoes, carrots and daikon, with bizarrely thin pieces of hotdog sausage at the bottom.
    Calories: 820
    Review: Slimey yet satisfying burger, but the soup was dreadful. 3/5

  5. Friday

    • Rice,
    • Some kind of tempura fish with tempura sauce,
    • Nori, beansprouts, carrot and celery salad,
    • What can only be called "stick soup". This is very common, and aside from the sticks (actually root shavings) contains tofu, carrots, daikon, small bits of funny looking chicken and spring onions. The proper name for this style is Kenchin soup.
    Calories: 742
    Review: Greasy, bitter, full of twigs. 2/5

Note that these are usually presented with a 200ml bottle of milk (included in the calorie counts). I have an allergy.

A previous post went into some detail as to why Japanese schools make such high calorie and bizarre meal choices, but actually this week was fairly tame. No pregnant fish, whale or awful soy-burgers. When I do get something like that I'll be sure to post it here.


As promised, here are pregnant fish (komochi shisamo) in all their glory. Inside is literally full of eggs, and you eat them whole. Luckily their bones are made out of tissue paper so don't destroy your mouth. Despite their looks, they don't actually taste that bad, despite the ash-esque aftertaste.

Lunch Mats.

You may have noticed that each day I had a different coloured mat under my food. Lunch mats are big business in Japan. All the kids have a different one for approximately every day of their lives, and all the big shops have huge racks of them. All the big (and not so big) anime series are reprezentin', and I even found a Thomas the Tank Engine one.

I only have five different mats though, and I often feel a bit underdressed. Obviously it's time to invest in some more to retain some macho pride.

Your lunch stories in the comments box please!

Being an ALT series: 


  1. Yukari is violet.

  2. Shisamo! How I hate thee!

  3. I just got back from eating miso oden, rice, goma salad and seaweed mixed with fish eggs (you know that horrible slimy green/orange concoction? yeah that.) Luckily my teachers know I pass on anything neba neba, so today was actually pretty damn good.

  4. Honestly? I love shisamo. *shrugs*

  5. I have food allergies. I can't eat shellfish, soy products or gluten. Is it OK to bring your own lunch from home or is this frowned upon as poor manners???