All About Japan

Tokyo Restaurant Serves Real School Lunches

| Restaurants , Teaching English

What's so special about Japanese school lunch, or kyushoku? Since it's pretty hard to get a Japanese school lunch without being a part of a Japanese school, John Daub from Only in Japan opts to visit Kyushoku Toban (給食当番), a restaurant that serves authentic Japanese school lunches.

Located 800 meters (half a mile) east of Okachimachi Station on the Yamanote Line, or right by Shin-Okachimachi Station on the Toei-Oedo Line, the second floor of this Tokyo restaurant looks just like a miniaturized Japanese elementary school classroom, including desks, a chalkboard and even decorations and a wall clock! The food is delivered on a classic aluminum tray, just like in school (though most use plastic nowadays), and your meal starts with the formal schoolroom declaration of "Itadakimasu!"

John and his guest eat their way through kyushoku staples such as age-pan (fried sweet bread), soup, curry stew, pasta salad, soft noodles with meat sauce, and delectable frozen oranges. However, we'll add the caveats that age-pan isn't quite as universal as the video makes it appear (you're much more likely to just get rice), and both glass milk bottles and flavored milk powder are major rarities: on special days, you're more likely to simply receive a tetra pack of strawberry or coffee-flavored (!) milk. Also, whale meat isn't quite as off-menu as the video suggests—it still shows up in schools on exceedingly rare occasions in a (largely failing) attempt to maintain its normalcy among the new generation.

The video includes a run-down of the history and principles of school lunch, including the rule that everyone eats the same thing and you're supposed to eat everything, even if you don't like it. But the most interesting part is at the end, when John visits his 96-year-old neighbor to talk about what he ate for lunch as a student, back before kyushoku came to be. It's quite simple!

While kyushoku is great for the price while you're a teacher, it's not exactly something you'd go out of your way to eat if you've got the choice. But if you want to know more about teaching in Japan, have a look below!