High school in Japan feels quite militaristic. Discipline is rigorous. Chores are timed to the minute. There are very little, if any, free breaks. Students can be at school for 12 hours a day.

Working as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan is the easiest job I’ve ever had. While very little is expected of you, there are plenty of opportunities to join in. I sometimes go to after school clubs (usually soccer). I always eat my lunch, kyūshoku, with the students in their home room.

Kyūshoku is the standard Japanese school lunch. It cost me about ¥200 yen per day.

The Standard Japanese School Lunch

kyushoku 給食: Japanese school lunch
DMC-LX3 (5.1mm, f/2, 1/40 sec, ISO80)
kyushoku 給食: Japanese school lunch

Two kanji make up the word kyūshoku: 給 「きゅう reward or repayment」 and 食 「しょく meal」. So literally this is a “reward” meal.

Served to me at Isato Junior High School in Toyota city, this meal has white rice, miso soup, salad, seeweed, fish and milk. The meal always come with milk, but the rest change regularly. There’s always bread or rice. There’s usually a soup, but sometimes this can change. Seeweed is only served when appropriate. Occasionally there will be fruit, jelly or some other sweet treat. Sometimes there’s a tube of chocolate flavouring to add to the milk.

There are often days where local specialties are served, as well as international dishes.

Except for the dreaded nattō (smelly fermented soybeans) I usually enjoy the school lunch. It’s always a fun time to chat with students in a more relaxed manner. They usually get a kick out of watching a westerner use chopsticks or fumble with the food.

Location of Isato Junior High School in Toyota:

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Map coordinates: 35.13, 137.177.