Japanese School Lunch Experience Created and Produced by John Daub Japanese schools have a reputation for serving up some of the world’s best lunches. Japan has a very low child obesity rate which made me wonder what kids are actually eating here. Non-students can’t eat at a Japanese elementary school so – I found the next best thing. This is Kyushoku Toban which literally means “school lunch duty!” It’s a restaurant which serves authentic Japanese school lunches and a great place to try out a lot of things. Inside on the first floor, it looks like a normal restaurant in Japan. But if you go up to the second floor … you’re in for a surprise. This is a Japanese school themed restaurant! This place is really cool because it gives you a chance to eat Japanese elementary school food which we can’t do normally because ー we can’t go to a Japanese elementary school. and joining me on this report to help explain the Japanese point of view is … GREAT! Wow Look! That blackboard! This desk! So nostalgic! Oh, I’m sorry about that. Hi, I’m Misato. Misato! The second floor is a 5th grade classroom with a lot of the same interior items you find at many Japanese schools from the wall clocks to the small desks and backpacks to the classroom duty wheel. The menu has some photos and there are recommended courses. Misato and I places our order. THE AMAZING JAPANESE AGEPAN (Sweet Bread) The agepan or fried sweet baked bread is a Japanese school lunch regular that is simple to make. It starts with a plain long baked bun that is placed in hot oil. It’s not dunked so it doesn’t get saturated in oil. It just floats there like a boat! Flip it to cook the bottom. Japanese school lunch calories are well regulated. This entrée was developed right after World War 2 to increase the daily caloric intake of students at an affordable price. It’s traditionally covered in sugar and a topping like kinako, roasted soybean powder. To older Japanese, it’s a nostalgic food they can share with their kids and still on many school lunch menus today. Kubota-san and the staff prepare our order. At Japanese schools, everyone eats the same thing. Kids don’t have a choice, but here, there’s a menu and they’ve got to be ready for any order. They sometimes have regional school foods off menu so ask if you’re curious about something. Rice, miso soup, noodles, meat sauce and curry or stew. The order is placed on a tray and taken to us on the second floor classroom. The classroom was starting to smell a whole lot better! Before eating, you have to do one important thing. Say ITADAKIMASU or Bon Appetit! ITADAKIMASU So, what’s the deal with Japanese school lunches? The Japanese School Lunch program started in 1954 nationwide. Before that, kids brought a bento to school. Caloric intake and nutrition value is regulated for every scheduled meal. Kids can’t chose what they want to eat. Everyone eats the same thing. If they hate something, you still have to eat it or stay until you do. There’s no cafetreria in Japanese elementary schools. Kids eat in the classroom and there’s no sushi, for safety reasons. Milk is served with every meal. Meals are paid for each month by parents which usually cost around $40 to $60 a month. Nearly all ingredients are locally produced with meals usually made from scratch. Learning about nutrition starts with what kids eat in their own lunches. Are your schools the same way? Here’s the ultimate school lunch! A little of everything. Soup, meat sauce, curry stew, salad, and noodles with agepan and milk. These noodles are called SOFTMEN. Curry rice is a school lunch favorite. A side of miso soup. Here’s one with a pasta salad, vegetable soup and rice with furikake flavoring. and agepan, of course. Furikake here is seaweed, a little salt and sesame. Here, the softmen is accompanied by meat sauce and a salad. Here’s a controversial one. Whale. It’s not served these days in schools but it’s possible to get a little here. Whale was cheaper than beef and chicken and could feed thousands, nothing ever wasted. A frozen mikan orange for dessert. Kids sometimes cant use chopsticks so – there’s a SPORK! Who doesn’t love a spork. SCHOOL LUNCH TASTE TEST Wow! Check this out! So what do you think of Japanese school lunch? This looks really good! So this is an authentic Japanese lunch. This looks like the real thing, right? It’s really similar! Misato has softmen and meat sauce with dessert. What’s this? Well, it’s called softmen. Ramen? Softmen. What’s different about it? Well … The one I remember eating was a little thicker but it’s not udon. It’s not ramen. It’s kind of unusual. It’s softmen. I love softmen! It comes cooked in the pack. Misato likes to cut it up with her fingers, smooshing it like this then eating it in the meat sauce. After she divides it up, she opens the pack. Her style is to eat it directly out of it like this. Dip it in the sauce. Cover it really good. To get more sauce, open up the softmen like this. And eat! Of course it’s good! Maybe even better than spaghetti? I’ve gotten into a little trouble with mine. Agepan is a main dish – and it’s a little messy. I can imagine kids everywhere have the same problem. Your mouth is filthy, isn’t it? Agepan is just filled with sugar! and Kinako! But when it’s loaded with kinako. it’s super good! Yeah, it IS really good but it just doesn’t seem healthy to me. Mine came with a curry stew and salad. I’m confused. Is agepan the dessert?! It’s dessert, right? No, it’s not! Come on! It’s like a donut! It;s got sugar, kinako, fried bread … It’s dessert! So you eat dessert first? Agepan isn’t dessert (you fool!) It’s food. The main course. Really? I’m started to like Japanese school. There’s the milk. It’s served in glass bottles here but in schools, it comes in cartons. On special days, kids got this flavored powder. I chose strawberry over caramel, coffee and chocolate. Simple put it in the milk like this and stir it until it turns pink. Delicious? Yes, delicious! Delicious! All in all, a great lunch! It really was a unique experience to eat a school lunch in a classroom like this. ASK MY JAPANESE NEIGHBOR Hello. Mr Seiichi is my 96 year old neighbor and I came to ask him what he ate as a student before World War 2. Noriben (Roasted Seaweed Lunchbox) This is a convenient store noriben. Rice, a little soy sauce and fish flake with roasted seaweed on top. Today’s noriben comes with luxurious fried foods on top, not the noriben Mr Seiichi’s ate in his school days. It starts with rice then top it with seaweed Katsuobushi (fish flakes) on top then add another layer of seaweed. They didn’t have a school lunch? That’s right. They didn’t have it. School lunches started after the war. Before, we had a big piece of seaweed roasted, put it in the box then a layer of rice on that and another piece of seaweed. What did you drink? Did you drink milk? Milk? No! No! No! No! No! Milk was a luxury item Did you eat a noriben everyday? I think so. Everyday, yes. Because other things … … we just didn’t have it. (We didn’t have many) things to eat. So you only had noriben for lunch. Well, we also had sardines. Iwashi. We had sardines That’s about it. The sardines were dried. Did you eat any vegetables? Vegetables … well, they were expensive. Back in the day, bentos were prepared in metal boxes which roasted on top of the old daruma stoves. In the classroom, you could smell the bentos. There were so many of them! Probably smelled so good, right? It really did. Next to recess, school lunches are the best part of any kids day and that’s what Kyushoku toban is all about. Those smiles. Food brings people together no matter your age. Kubota-san has been working here for a long time and I wanted to know the recipe to its success. School lunches … when we were elementary and junior high school students everyone had a lot of fun. At the time, everyone ate with a smile. From that. we wanted to make this place. I have to agree. I can now see what makes Japanese school lunches so amazing. If you want to be a Japanese student again or let’s say a transfer student from a place far away, this is where you can experience it a little and have a great lunch too. Next time: The Japanese Manhole Uncovered I go to a factory to see how they are made and why they have such designs. We go all over the country. Thank you so much for watching. If you liked it, hit that SUBSCRIBE BUTTON 🙂 and watch another one of ONLY in JAPAN’s shows. Produced by John Daub Follow me on Instagram: onlyinjapantv