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I haven’t had a school lunch for over a decade, and from what I remembered, it was mediocre at best. But boy oh boy am I glad to have the school lunches here. My middle school and all my elementary school has a school lunch service for the teachers, and the cost is well worth the delicious, seemingly homemade meal. For 255￥ per meal, which is currently $2.55, I get a bowl of rice, a bowl of soup or softer entree, another entree bowl usually containing some sort of meat, and a carton of milk, and it is absolutely the best school lunch I have ever had. I might as well be eating food that my grandma or mom makes at home.
The very first school lunch I had was actually two days before my meal plan had even started, but because a teacher was absent when the school lunch, I was given the extra school lunch. While I did bring my usual tuna and rice lunch, I was more than happy to receive and to finally try the school lunch that all the other teachers have raved about. And ladies and gentlemen, the school lunches lived up to the hype; they were everything everybody said they were and more. The photos attached may not seem like much, but I dare you to tell me you’ve seen a better tasting school lunch than those.
The process of preparing and distributing school lunches is very systematic for both the teachers and the students. The teachers receive their lunches first. A truck pulls up and into the lunch room, where there are usually two workers who exit the truck, clean the lunch room, and bring the prepared boxes of food into the lunch room. While that is happening, teachers who aren’t teaching classes are setting up tables in the teachers’ office to place the trays and to prepare to prepare lunches (that is not a typo, haha). Lunch preparation time always seems to be rushed or hectic for some reason, even though actual lunchtime doesn’t start for another 45 minutes or so. The teachers then go into the lunch room and take the boxes of food and crates of utensils and trays into the teachers’ kitchen area, and by kitchen area, I mean a small space that houses a coffee maker, a sink, and a refrigerator.
From the crates, the trays are removed and are laid separately on the tables. There are three types of bowls included in the crate: one usually for rice or loaf of bread (depending on the day), one for a soup (usually miso), and one for an entrée to eat with your filler. One person takes care of scooping a specific box of food while the others prepare the trays with chopsticks (or spoon if applicable), a carton of milk, and the distributed bowls of food. After all the food and utensils are prepared on the trays, the trays are distributed. In what order, I’m not particularly sure of, but I think it goes something along the lines of principal, vice principal, lunchroom workers, and rest of the teachers.
The teachers proceed to eat their lunch during 4th period, and I typically wait and take my lunch tray to eat with my students in their classrooms during lunch, alternating classrooms each day. Because my junior high school only has a total of 89 students for 7th, 8th, and 9th grade, there is only one class for each grade, so I have lunch with each grade every three days or so.
When actual lunch time rolls around, the students, like the teachers, bring the food and utensils to their respective classrooms to prepare their lunch trays. Those carrying and serving any utensils or food wear white hats, face masks, and robes, which I really appreciate, especially when I go to elementary schools and when my food is served by students.
Lunch time in middle school typically lasts for 30 minutes, including serving time. They are efficient as heck. Students who are not serving food or handing out milk cartons and straws line up to prepare lunch trays. Each student grabs a lunch tray, picks up the necessary utensils, and picks up a bowl of each food item. The best part, though, is that the student then places the lunch tray on the next available student’s desk that does not have a lunch tray yet. Essentially, the students are selfishly grabbing the bowl with the most food for themselves. They are all working as a unit to serve lunch quickly and efficiently. I love it.
I’m the definition of an independent politically, but I love this aspect of a community based on a socialist upbringing. Everyone is incredibly friendly and helpful; I have encountered so many people who are truly altruistic in character while in Japan. During one of the many times that I was lost, when I asked for directions, the person I asked personally walked me to my destination. I also feel so incredibly safe here, safer than I have ever felt in my life, I think. I run either at 4am or 6pm, both times of day when the daylight is nonexistent. However, I have not ever felt unsafe in anyway, except when gnats and spiderwebs attack me through their existence. People can literally be plastered on the sidewalks after a night out and be completely undisturbed or be helped home. Anywho, this post is about lunch, and that’s all I have to say about that. I love it, and I love Japan.