Eating at School

Whether by school lunch, school cafeteria, BYO or that cake your office lady baked over the weekend, food will be at your schools in one form or another.

Elementary School and Junior High School

給食 Kyushoku - School Lunch
Kyushoku is the Japanese word for school lunch. Often, the lunch is provided and delivered to the school, so areas with nursery/kindergarten, elementary and junior high will all have the same lunch, just in different portion sizes. Some people may find they are provided with quite delicious meals, while others avert their eyes from their trays; also known as, 'Spewshoku'.
How much you enjoy your school lunches comes down to personal tastes and the menus of your own school(s). They are often served to be healthy for growing students, with the entire meal containing a mix of everything from the food pyramid (and high calories for their active growing bodies).
  • You may be able to opt out of school lunches, but you'll have to bring your own
  • You will have to pay for the school lunch (but it is good value)
  • You will always be served milk with your food (but if you can't drink it, talk to your supervisor about it)
  • You will eat more than just 'rice and fish'
  • Most schools have 3 rice days, 1 bread day, and 1 noodle day a week.
  • Dessert will be served from time to time in the form of fruit, jelly, dango, ice cream and so on. This is always eaten after the rest of the meal.
  • Feel free to not eat everything, or ask for smaller sized portions, but be aware that students are often not allowed to do so. It is acceptable to take food home if you can't finish it.
  • As 'foreigners eat more' you may find yourself given a much larger serve (a blessing or a curse?) - the same holds true if your food is served in the staff room.
  • There is often a monthly menu available (you may need to ask), usually listing everything in the meal, and it's total kcal count.
  • Whale is sometimes served- some people have said they weren't told until during/after eating it. So if you're worried, look for all the forms on the menu: 鯨、くじら、クジラ.
  • You may take comfort in eating at your desk in the office, or find yourself invited to eat with the students
***At many ESs and JHSs, snacks and candies are not allowed. Ask before offering any treats to your students.

High School

At most high schools, there is no kyushoku. Hooray? This means though, that it's up to you to bring lunch.

Bentos - Since often, going off campus during school hours is discouraged, many schools have places that will deliver bentos to school. Bentos are set meals with lots of different dishes to it, but usually contains pickles, rice, some sort of main meat or fish, more pickles, salad, and possibly other things. Some places will have a daily special that everyone orders, while others will have a menu you can pick from. Ask the people at your school; they'll tell you about how to pay and where the menu is (if there is one). Generally, one person will call in the bentos/take out orders at some point in time during the day, so either find out what time this is at, or sign up when you get to school.
Conbinis - Conbinis in Japan have really decent food for a fairly low price. If you need to save money, you can pick up one of dozens of instant noodles from yakisoba to ramen (of course) or most conbinis have sandwiches, soup, rice balls, microwavable rice, curry, and even whole microwave ready meals. They also provide tasty cold noodle dishes during the sticky summer months. The trick is getting to the conbini before all the students and office workers do.
Make your Own Bento - There's always the option to make your own food at home and bring it in with you. Your co-workers might find this interesting and impressive.

This is an example (translated) school lunch menu for a week at JHS:
Day
Meal
Protein
Fruit&Veg
Carbs
Cal/fat
Without Milk-
134cal/ 7.8fat
Mon
Kimchi rice, shredded salad,
Pork, ham, egg, squid, small crustacean, seaweed.
White veggies, apple, daikon, carrot, cucumber, garlic, mushrooms, bean sprouts.
Rice, wheat, sesame oil, oil, thin noodles, flour, sugar.
776 (642)26.8 (19)
Tue
Bread, aubergine and meat gratin, green salad.
Beef, pork, yoghurt, cheese, egg
Aubergine, green pepper, tomato, apple, cabbage, cucumber, daikon, broccoli.
Bread, oil, French dressing.
821 (687)31.1 (23)
Weds
Rice, ginger pork, boiled sugar/soy nori, sesame mushrooms, fruit mousse.
Pork, miso, seaweed, condensed milk
Garlic, ginger, carrot, onion, cabbage, cucumber, cabbage, satsuma.
Rice, wheat, sugar, oil, sesame, fruit mousse.
682 (548)28.4 (21)
Thurs
Cold Chinese noodle salad, Pumpkin with soy/meat sauce.
Grilled pork, egg, chicken, prawn
Daikon, cucumber, carrot, pumpkin.
Chinese noodles, sesame, sugar, starch.
738 (604)33.3 (26)
Fri
Paella, Spanish omelette, corn soup.
Chicken, squid, prawn, oyster, egg, cheese, bacon, ham
Garlic, carrot, onion, green pepper, red pepper, cabbage, enrigi mushroom, corn.
Rice, wheat, flour, butter, potato, sugar, starch, oil.
768 (634)
31.4 (24)