Thursday, March 18, 2010

Japanese School Lunch :: Kyushoku

Obviously not my final meal EVER but probably my last Japanese school lunch ever. Tomorrow is graduation day so today, in honor of the end of the school year, we were treated to Osekihan, red rice, today. Osekihan is eaten to celebrate special occasions and is a sticky rice dish mixed with red beans and a sesame seed topping. It's pretty tasty but I was told that this red rice is also eaten when teenage girls get their know...thing. Beans are a sign of fertility in Japan...and these ones just so happen to be red. Kind of cute. Kind of weird.

For the past 7 months, I've been teaching English part-time at Asakusa Junior High School. It's been a really enriching experience. I was really lucky to be placed in such a great school. The best part for me was learning from the kids about their daily lives. In Japan, the last year of JH is extremely important. They must all pass high school entrance exams and the pressure to say the pressure to do well is high would be a gross understatement. Personally, I think it's too young of an age to put so much stress, but that's their system and who am I to judge. Other highlights from the year:

  • Helping the drama club perform a play in English (can you imagine memorizing 50 lines in a foreign language when you were 15?!)
  • Cornering kids into having conversations with me
  • Helping the 3rd graders with their interview tests for high school and hearing the news that they passed
  • Singing The Beatles, Monkees, Cindi Lauper and Queen 5 times a day
  • The surprise of sitting down to school lunch!
So, I never knew what was in store for me when it came to lunch. Some days it was yummy pasta, other days, it was something completely unrecognizable to me. I managed to eat everything, though there were times I was convinced I was about to spit it out (ok, that was only once with the fried whole fishies - head, tails and fins still attached and expected to be eaten) Students eat together in their homeroom classes and everyone eats the same thing. Kyushoku means "lunch duty"...or something like that. It refers to the act of students serving their peers. The students really enjoy being on lunch duty and it's fun to see all the boys race to get seconds after the class blesses their food in unison. (ittadakimasu!)

A few last tidbits about Kyushoku: the meals are planned out by a nutritionist and they are always between 800-950 calories and well balanced - carbs, proteins, grains. A lunch menu with all the nutrition facts is sent home to pare ts so they know what their kids have been eating. Teachers eat the same meal as students and they talk about all the nutritional value during lunch, so lunch is an educational experience too. Given the childhood obesity issues in America, a school lunch program like Japan's would be a really great way to educate kids at a young age about the importance of as healthy diet. It also assures that all students get at least 1 healthy and substantial meal a day. Just something to think about Michelle Obama.

1 comment:

  1. Great review of the delights of kyushoku.
    I wish USA had such healthy and cheap lunches.
    Michelle Obama is addressing kids diets through her Let's Move fitness campaign.