Taking the world less travelled

Spew Shoku!

Posted by on Dec 20, 2009 in Life | 15 comments

給食. Kyushoku. School lunch. Some people love it. Not me. When it’s bad, it’s very very bad, and when it’s good it’s pretty bland. Lunch time is a time I fear at school… If you are curious about what school children eat in Japan, here is a collection of photos of school lunches…

I go to five schools, but from Monday onwards only four. At the school I’m leaving on Monday, it’s a sizable school of about 500 children. At this school I go to individual classrooms and eat lunch with only a class. It is my understanding that this is the usual in Japan, that students eat in their own classrooms.

The rest of my schools have 38 – 110 kids. It’s a bit unique in Japan, but at these schools we all eat in one room. I sort of end up at the same table all the time which is nice I guess.

I pay $2.40 for lunch at my primary schools and $2.80 for lunch at my middle school. Usually the money is collected monthly which i put in a nice little envelope. So it is cheap and good value for money – after all one of my complaints about it is that it is too much food!

The Proceedure

Some students put on aprons and masks to serve food. The actual serving changes per school and class – some the children line up with plates and go through conveyor belt style, others the servers serve up everything to the table and then the students arrive to their spot with the food already there.

The Food

I don’t get the food at all. I mean, I guess I just assumed that these would be balanced, healthy meals. They aren’t.

The base of the meal is either a bread roll or a large bowl of rice. And there is always milk. From there… it could be anything. I thought perhaps it would be meat, veges and fruit, but it could be anything… My main concern, however, is the amount of seafood. My predecessor told me that seafood is rare. I knew I shouldn’t have taken her word, as seafood is maybe every second day. I don’t like seafood at all, and because of this I look to lunch with dread…

This here is actually a good day. The shreaded cabbage is a taste I’m a bit over, and I don’t get how this carb overload is balanced, but pasta is a win for me. At the start I had trouble eating so much rice.


Another thing for me to complain about! I have never really been a fan of soups. I find them really bland. Lucky for me, soup is often a common feature in school lunches ;( However, the plus side is you can dip your bread into them. The bread is so dry that I find it really hard to eat by itself (I’m the kind of person who likes butter on my bread) but it is a bit more bearable after being dipped in the soup. On the plus side, even though there is a lot of rice with meals, I do find it to be really nice rice.


Lunch is either eaten with either a fork or chopsticks. It is always interesting to see if people eat things by picking them up whole or trying to break them apart with the utensil provided. There is never a spoon so soup is to be had by picking up the bowl. I can’t help feeling a bit rude every time I do this.

Note the shredded cabbage again. Yay!


The stuff to the top left is mochi – pounded rice, which I find waaaaaay too sweet. The middle stuff, I’m not sure what it is besides seaweed, but with this stuff I’ve gotten to the point where if I have more than a mouth full I want to throw it back up. It’s gross!! The stuff to the right are local grown vegetables. They are potato and carrot and daikon, and are actually really nice but they put on/cook them in some kind of sauce which I am not a big fan of. So it makes it a bit of a challenge to eat. There is something missing from this dish too:


Now, deep fried fish I’ll try. Grilled fish too, you know. It’s gross, but I might be able to bear it. With this, I’m not touching it with a ten foot pole… It’s some kind of fish with babies inside. And you eat the head and tail. Um… no thanks. I think only non seafood eaters can truely understand the horror of this.


An article about how schools use local grown ingredients in school lunches.


Another popular serving is the salad doused in mayonnaise. Which can either be a welcome change to a bland salad or sweetness overkill. This lunch is another one of those good lunches! Yay!

The Rest…

Before lunch everyone always says “Itadakimasu!” and after everyone says together “Gochisosamadeshita”. After you have finished eating you separate all the rubbish. Milk cartons are always washed and then flattered out. And then finally I can breath a sigh of relief… It’s over and I wont have to face that enormous, seafoody event for another 24 hours. Yay!

Yeah, I know. Not liking seafood… I moved to the wrong country.


給食 - do you like it?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...


If you like this post, please soc it at JapanSoc, a social bookmarking website for everything Japan related!



, , , ,



Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Aux

    Oh dear… I think it must be the presentation and lighting (and maybe the fact that it’s a school cafeteria lunch!), but that doesn’t look too special. The rice, soup, cabbage and mochi are about the only reasonable looking things there, imo.

    Are you obliged to eat school lunches, or could you BYO if you wanted? I know Japan is always ready to hammer in the nail that pokes out and all…

    • GoddessCarlie

      I might be able to bring my own along, it is something that I dream about, however I would be the only person in the school not eating it, I would have to eat in the staff room by myself and miss out on this fun time as the kids can be different out of class. It would be a bit of the nail that pokes out, perhaps more of a pain than it is worth.

  2. locohama

    The pictures are appropriately unflattering :D
    I couldn’t do it.
    excellent post!

  3. Jamaipanese

    seafood hater here as well, did I just read fish with babies in it?

    great post though, I enjoy your blog posts like these where you share your everyday experiences

  4. billywest

    Back when I was an ALT, I usually looked forward to kyuushoku, but two days out of the month were natto days. Lunchtime was torture on those days. Actually, one time, I was enjoying some grilled meat. Chicken, beef,… I had no idea. So, in the interest of giving students a chance to practice their English, and for me to find out what the stuff was, I asked the girl next to me, “What is this?” She leaned back in her chair, looked toward the homeroom teacher, and shouted, Sensei, kujira ttenani?”

    Oh well, I promised myself I wouldn’t eat whale, but they got me to do it anyway.

    • GoddessCarlie

      I haven’t had a whale experience yet!

      Maybe I should say that in Australia I didn’t have to do cafeteria food, we bought freshly made lunch from home, so I’m not quite used to the taste of the mass produced food and the quantity of food.

  5. Crew

    I just agreed to cover for my friend’s English teaching arubaito for a few days. Maybe I should have checked whats on the menu before agreeing to it!

  6. Tara

    Did you not expect this before you decided to go to Japan? Instead, why don’t you make your own bento to bring to school?

    • GoddessCarlie

      It’s not as easy as you think to bring my own lunch. Copy and pasted from Aux, above:

      “I might be able to bring my own along, it is something that I dream about, however I would be the only person in the school not eating it, I would have to eat in the staff room by myself and miss out on this fun time as the kids can be different out of class. It would be a bit of the nail that pokes out, perhaps more of a pain than it is worth.”

      Actually at my favourite school I have an “arrangement” where I actually get to serve my own food which is great and at the middle school you can eat as much as you want. From Jan onwards I’m at my middle school more which will be fantastic.

  7. jay

    Thanks a lot for writing this… I have only had occasion to try the Japanese lunches a few times (in 14 years living in Japan), but the images that talk of “kyushoku” conjure up for me are thoughts of kids with bandaids on their fingers sticking their fingers in the curry, the inevitable milk drinking showdowns between the smallest and largest kids in the class (and the resulting spillage down said students chins), kids sneezing into their facemasks while handling the food, and as you mention above, whale meat.

    As you can tell, my few expeiences were doozies… and being a guest there, I really had no choice but to chow down praying that I’d find nothing other than food in my food.

  8. Ellie (alchymyst)

    Haha, those look somewhat familiar… Though to be honest, I enjoyed my school lunches. Maybe it’s because I am very omnivorous, maybe it’s because that for the most part, the lunches did not suck. I didn’t have any ‘kujira’ or natto experiences. :) I didn’t really like the ones with bread, mostly because really, that bread was just dry and odd and had nothing to put on it. Who would eat just a giant loaf of bread? But most of the time it wasn’t bad at all.

    I think it’s much easier to BYO if you work in high school. My now husband worked in high school, and he either went out or brought his own, since that’s what kids did as well.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

:) ;) :( :P :roll: :twitch: :angry: 0_O :blink: :sweat: :shifty: :pain: :heart: :zz: X_X more »