Thursday, November 22, 2012

School Lunch: The Japanese Way

Japanese people are very cultural. They have their own way of doing things which can really be fascinating. And this includes as simple as eating school lunch.

Japanese schools serve school lunch to the students and to the teachers. There's a big kitchen in the school where several cooks prepare the lunch. I think the Board of Education decides the menu and supplies the ingredients. They would start cooking at around 9 am and finish just before 12 noon. They would then place portions of food to big bowls for each class. 

Then after the 4th period, a group of students would go to a receiving area where they can claim their class' rations. Each class has a group that is assigned to facilitate school lunch- from getting their supplies, distributing the food and collecting all the utensils and garbage. On the other hand, students left in the classroom, would begin arranging their desks to make their lunch groups. They would also take out their chopsticks and place mats. I wasn't really used to using place mats when eating in school. It was only when I started working in Japan where I used place mats. 
Lunch Monitors
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As soon as the lunch monitors enter the classroom, the students would line up to get their share. Two or three lunch monitors would go around the room distributing rice and milk. The class adviser would always eat lunch with the students. Also, there is always milk during lunch! Again, I am not a milk drinker. But I get used to drinking milk when I came here in Japan. 

Japanese School Lunch
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After everyone got their portion, they would sit down and a one person would go in front to lead the meal. Japanese don't pray before meals. They would just put their hands together and mutter "Itadaikimasu."I don't know what it means really. I just say it along with them Afterwards, everybody would start eat while a music will start playing in the background. 
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There are some instances when there are extra milk, fruits, food serving. The lunch monitors would try to pass these around to those who want extra serving. If there are more students who like the same food item, they would have to decide by playing rock, paper, scissors or what they call as janken. 

The only thing I don't like with school lunch is how fast you have to finish your meal. They serve big amounts which you have to finish in 10-15 minutes. During my first weeks, I have to gulp down my food so I can finish on time. And I am just so amazed how students who are smaller than me get to finish their food in no time. I think this is the reason why school lunches are quiet compared to my country. Everybody is just so concentrated on eating. There`s no time to talk. 

A warning will be heard five minutes before the end of lunch time. Students will then hurry up and try to finish everything. After five minutes, another students would go in front of the class and lead "Itadaikimashita" while putting their hands together. This signals that lunch has officially ended. 

Students then would arrange their desks again, line up to return empty plates and dispose garbage. Students who haven't finished their meals can still finish them but this seldom happens. The lunch monitors would then return their class bowls and all the utensils they have used to the school kitchen. Lunch has truly ended. 

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