In Japan, most public elementary and junior high school have Kyushoku, a school lunch provided to all students on every school day. Some schools have their own kitchens and cooks, but most are prepared at Kyshoku centers where cooks and dieticians work, and are immediately delivered to each school to guarantee that meals stay warm.
Every students and even teachers look forward to the lunch menu disclosed in the end of every month. If you raise your child in Japan, do not forget to check the menu every day, otherwise their lunch could be the same as their dinner!
The very first Kyushoku was provided to students in Yamagata Prefecture back in 1889. Most students who benefited from this lived in poverty, and some were not able to bring their own lunch. As years passed, Kyoushoku became widespread and now Japanese schools offer it to ensure and students’ health and promote a nutritious diet.
Kyushoku is actually not free. However, it is surprisingly cheap. Kyushoku usually included rice/bread, 2 or 3 kinds of main and side dishes, soup, milk, and even dessert! The fee differs slightly depending on the region, but the average of Kyushoku fee is 4,277 yen per month (246 yen per day) for elementary schools and 4,882 yen (286 yen) for junior high school. The lunch fee is withdrawn from a kid’s parent’s bank account each month.
Students take an active weekly role as “Kyushoku Touban”. Kyushoku Touban are those assigned to serve the meals to their classmates. In order to maintain a hygienic environment, they wear coats, caps, and masks. After the Kyushoku Toban say “Itadakimasu,” everyone in the classroom, from students to teachers, can start to eat. Sadly, if a Kyushoku Toban fails to deliver a meal or drops the a meal to the floor (which DOES happen quite often), it’s also their responsibility to ask others classmates to share their meals.
No. 5 Frozen “Mikan”, Mandarin Orange
A king of dessert, a frozen mikan is especial in the summer season. Half melt and half frozen, the crunchy texture of the mikan is beloved by students and teachers alike. If someone is absent, students tend to run to get another mikan and play rock paper scissors to see who will be able to eat it.
No. 4 Fried Chicken “Karaage”
No one can deny that karaage is an incredibly popular dish. One of the most special things about karaage is that the taste will vary significantly depending on the recipe. For that reason, some people hold very fond memories of the karaage their moms or dads cooked at home, and the ones from their Kyushoku’s. The result of this ranking reflects the people’s nostalgia and love for this popular dish.
No. 3 “Soft-men” Noodle Spaghetti
To be honest, this is negither spagetti, chinese noodle nor udon. These noodles are usually provided with Napolitan (ketchup) or meat sauce. Soft-men is made with a specific flour that contains vitamins B1 and B2 to make it more nutritious. If you want to try this, go and visit brasserie 6 Nen 4 Kumi :
This Japanese school-style izakaya serves many famous dishes from a regular Kyushoku menu.
No. 2 Curry and Rice
The mildness and slight sweetness are loved by all generations. Japanese curry and rice is totally different from curry dishes around the world, and some love their Kyushoku curry more than one cooked at home. That’s why Japanese SNS is filled with lots of Kyushoku curry’s arrange recipe. Even some local governments will tell you how to make it.
No. 1 Fried Bread “Age-pan”
Age-pan is a deep-fried bread topped with sugar and soy bean powder, kinako, or cinnamon. You might also find it at some bakeries. There was a time when Japanese people did not tend to eat bread, but after WWII, Japan started to import America’s surplus of wheat to help those suffering from starvation. A problem, though, was that the bread baked became hard too soon, and thus one baker came up with the idea to make a soft bread by frying it. Since then, the sweet age-pan has been popular and loved by generations. Recently, even some bakeries and cafes have incorporated and even sold their own take on age-pan into their menus, expanding its popularity outside of schools.
Kyushoku is closely associated with people’s nostalgic memories. No matter old someone is, Kyushoku reminds people of their school days. That’s one of the reasons has been and will be loved for a long time.