Kyuushoku

Itadakimasu! A brief history of the evolution of Japanese school lunches

In the 22nd year of the Meiji era (aka 1889), the very first Japanese kyūshoku (school lunch) was served up at an elementary school in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture. Although the first menu was very simply prepared, it provided the growing children with an important source of nourishment that not all of them could receive at home.

Fast-forward to 2015–Japanese schoolchildren (and their teachers!) continue to eat school lunches every day, as opposed to children in many other countries who bring their lunches from home. If you’re working in a Japanese school, you should already be familiar with the daily feeling of either excitement or disappointment when you see the lunch menu for the day. But just consider this–would you rather eat the types of lunches served today, or those that were served 100 years ago? Read on to learn about the evolution of Japanese school lunches and decide for yourself!

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School Lunch in Japan 【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

Ah, school lunch in Japan.  I’ve had some of the best meals served to me on those plastic lunch trays.  I’ve also had some of the worst.  You might remember my post from last week that talked about the worst school lunch in the world. But for the most part, school lunch in Japan is surprisingly delicious and enjoyable.

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Japanese School Lunch Fail【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

When I first got to Japan, I made a goal to try any food that was offered to me.  Sea snails (freshly cracked out of their shells and still alive), check.  Sea cucumber, check.  Shiokara (fermented salty squid), check.  I’ve encountered some of the grossest edible things I’ve ever seen, but stuck to my goal, tried not to think about the slimy mess in front of me, and ate the new food.

To up the ante on my food challenge, I told myself that I would eat every dish  that was served in kyuushoku (school lunch).  The main reason I took this challenge is that I think it sets a good example for the kids, who are made to sit at the lunch table until they finish every bite of their food.  Usually, completing my goal isn’t a chore at all.  I’ve had some of the most delicious meals I’ve ever encountered in Japan served to me in the lunchroom at school.  But it hasn’t all been easy.  I’m not a fan of shishamo (pregnant smelt fish) which are eaten with head, eyes, tail, bones…everything, intact.  As unappealing as shishamo is to me, I still manage to eat all of them when they are served in the school lunch.

Unfortunately, my undefeated school lunch record has come to an end.

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