From coffee-flavored milk to frozen mandarins, these old school favorites whisk Japanese adults back to simpler times.

Ask any Japanese child if they enjoy school and more likely than not they’ll reply with a resounding yes. It’s probably not because they love studying or cleaning classrooms, but experiencing little things that make them happy, like club activities and of course tasty school lunches.

In a recent online poll 3,447 Japanese netizens were asked what food they just couldn’t get enough of in their elementary or junior high school days. Let’s take a look at the top ten items that they miss the most.

10. Milk (81 votes)

Kids need a healthy intake of calcium, which thankfully is supplemented by a small carton of milk in school lunches every day. Having drank it for most of their childhood, it’s no wonder then that the humble milk remains a favorite among Japanese people.

9. Fruit cocktail (86 votes)

A sweet and refreshing treat, the mix of fruits offers a good balance of vitamins, though not everyone likes the almond curd that often comes with it.

8. Miso ramen (93 votes)

The miso ramen in school lunches may not be restaurant quality, but it’s still tasty enough for children nonetheless.

7. Curry noodles (136 votes)

Japanese people love their curry, so why not combine it with noodles?

6. Milmake (169 votes)

Little plastic tubes filled with liquid, these effectively turn your milk into chocolate, strawberry, or coffee-flavored milk. Sometimes children love to squeeze in another three or four tubes for extra bursts of flavor.

5. Fried whale meat (181 votes)

Due to its low-cost compared to other types of meat back then, fried whale meat was apparently once commonly eaten at school, but international anti-whaling sentiment has caused it to be removed from the lunch menu.

4. Frozen mandarins (215 votes)

Frozen mandarins or mikan are a thing in Japan, providing an icy treat to perk up the weary student. It’s healthy, ingenious, and delicious.

3. Seaweed rice (235 votes)

Mix bits of fresh seaweed with rice and you get wakame gohan or seaweed rice. This dish remains popular among children.

2. Soft noodles with meat sauce (339 votes)

The equivalent of spaghetti bolognese, these use soft white noodles resembling udon instead.

1. Kinako fried bread (540 votes)

I can personally vouch for this donut-like bread, which has a slightly crispy outer layer that’s covered in fine dustings of sweet kinako powder. Children will jump for joy upon finding out their school lunch includes this absolutely delightful bread ball, and the teachers might too. The trade-off is that it doesn’t appear very often on the menu, which makes it even more prized by kids.

School lunches in Japan weren’t always this nutritious and tasty, nor were they always filled with frozen mandarins or kinako fried bread. Times were much simpler back in the 1990s, when they resembled more like home-cooked meals instead of school lunches.

Source: Goo Rankings
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: GAHAG