Japanese Culture and Traditions: You Will Want to Eat Japanese School Lunch


Japanese good manners trained in school lunch

As I wrote about an inconvenient truth of Japan in last article, I’m going to write something good today. It’s about Japanese school lunch. I happened to find that a YouTube video about Japanese school lunch is buzzing for people outside Japan. Surprisingly enough, it’s got more than 28 million views! Please do check out the video after reading this article. It’s just a part of normal daily life of Japanese school kids. It’s nothing special for us, but I learned from feedback comments for the video that viewers had found some good points about Japan.

School lunch is one of the school subjects

In the first place, I need to explain a little about Japanese school lunch. In most elementary and junior high schools in Japan, lunch is served fresh off each school kitchen. Of course, professional dietitians prepare the menu, which is handed out monthly and studied thoroughly by kids with joys and sorrows. The most popular menu was curry rice when I was a kid. In the fourth class period, the flavor of curry floated from school kitchen even into a class room, and we kids couldn’t focus on class any more. As I just made research, curry rice is still No.1 with unflagging popularity.

Japanese compulsory education system has six years in elementary school followed by three years of junior high school. In elementary and junior high school in the last week before graduation, special menus are served only for the graduating (sixth and third grade) students. I still remember we chewed on school-day memories while eating the special menus.

As school lunch, students are supposed to do everything from preparation to cleaning up. When they eat, it’s a rule to make a group, and a homeroom teacher joins one of them day by day. By the way, I belonged to the faculty of education, and so, practical training at an elementary or junior high school is a compulsory subject. The five-week training course at a junior high school was very tough for lazy college students like me, but I truly feel it was worth because I was able to have yummy school lunch again, at least.

A tool shelf in our factory. Various tools are aligned neatly on the shelf.

Many of the viewers’ feedback comments said, “Japanese school lunch teaches kids more valuable lessons than what they can learn in school subjects.” As you can see that in the Youtube video, it seems we’ve learned a lot like, courtesy, how to manage and cooperate in group collective actions, public sanitation, environmental protection, etc. Sometimes, I saw visitors coming from overseas to our factory admire the discipline of our production. I believe the foundation of the discipline may be built in school lunch.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.