Lunch in the Office

March 5th, Tuesday:


  • Creamed Corn Soup (Corn, Onion, Parsley)
  • Healthy Salad (Burdock, Carrot, Water Mustard, Goa’uld Babies)
  • Oven Baked Chicken
  • Milk Bread
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 861

The flesh of onions is soft and includes much water. Also, the spicy part of the onion that agitates the eyes helps our blood flow well, and thus is useful for prevent lifestyle diseases.

I didn’t eat school lunch today, so above is a picture of the bento I brought to work. It consists of local “Star Dream” (星の夢) rice topped with furikake my friend gave me, with a side dish of some tuna mixed with corn and miso pickles I made from carrot and daikon. Lately I’ve been really in love with me miso pickles, being they are cheap, easy to make, and delicious. For dessert, I had half a diamond rice cake, not pictured. It’s a tradition to eat diamond rice cakes during the Festival of the Peaches, which was last Sunday. This means that when I went shopping on Monday, the leftover rice cakes were half off! so I bought one.

When I was growing up, we didn’t go to the store that often. My mother is a fan of costco, which meant we bought in bulk and used it for awhile. Similarly  my grandfather lived rather rural so in a similar manner, he would drive into town, buy necessities for a month or two and then drive back. I have a theory that this American habit stems from pioneer days when the closest store was a day or two wagon ride away. But in Japan, it is common to go to the store often, a housewife might go everyday or even more than once a day. The sale system in Japanese stores encourages this: Often they have timed sales, where an item is on sale but only for a couple hours. So you must go then to get those items. Also, there is a stronger culture of walking/ public transportation in Japan, so your strength limits how much you can buy in a single trip, although I have seen some grandmothers riding tricycles or pulling sleds filled with groceries before. And finally, I think a buying-in-bulk culture was prevented from developing by merchants directly visiting the house, which even common today.


Soy milk!!!

February 19th, Tuesday:
  • Cream Stew (Chicken, Potatoes, Carrot, Onion, Trumpet Mushroom, Parsley)
  • Pork Chop (Pork, Onion, Shiitake Mushroom, Carrot)
  • Sweet Potato
  • Top Slit Bread
  • Soymilk
  • Kcal: 859

Today, I was thinking about the wasted food of school lunch left overs. At my small schools, the schools really make an effort to eat all of the food given. At the big schools, although there are campaigns to encourage students to eat everything on their plate, there is a fair amount of food that either remains unserved or is put back uneaten. The main issue I think is serving the correct amount of food to each school. I guess this is so difficult because the ‘correct’ amount varied depending on the person. I often feel there is too much food served but another foreigner I work with feels there is not enough food served food. I have heard wildly varying opinions from Japanese teachers too. In the end though, I really feel like there should be a scientific way of resolving  this problem. But we will never be able to make everyone satisfied.

  • クリームシチュー
  • ポークチャップ
  • スイートポテト
  • 背割りパン
  • 豆ぴよ

Forbidden Five Spice

February 12th, Tuesday:


  • Shrimp Ball Soup (Shrimp Dumplings, Chinese Cabbage, Green Onion, Shiitake Mushroom)
  • Spaghetti Carbonara (Spaghetti, Onion, Bacon, Parsley)
  • Tokachi Soybean Croquette
  • Apple Jam
  • Coppe Bread
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 923

Five spice (goshin五辛) contains garlic, rocambole (nobiru), Japanese leek (rakkyou), onion, and Chinese leek (nira). Because it has a strong smell, it is said from ancient times to clear away pollution and prevent sickness.

Last week’s cold was actually Type A influenza. So it’s my first day back to work after being in bed for a week. Being all influenza-y for a week didn’t incline me to cook much at home, so it was quite nice to eat school lunch as a change from rice, chikuwa, and tosa nimono.

Anyway, tokachi is an area in Hokkaido which is famous for growing beans. I am most familiar with their delicious adzuki beans, but apparently they also grow soybeans. Today’s croquette was quite tasty I thought: not as oily as usual and with a nice soft flavour. Eating it, I thought maybe it was curry flavoured, but rather it must be the Five Spice they used mentioned above. Looking up “five spice” in English, you will find a different sort of spice mixture that seems to be used in China. This “five spice” refers to the buddhist “five spices”, which we are told we should avoid, because they encourage avarice.

In other food news, this morning on my Foreign Policy site, there seems to be a scandal unfolding about European frozen beef dishes containing up to 100% horse meat. 100 percent! And Western Europeans are not happy with finding out they’ve been feeding their children that. I don’t personally find eating horse meat or even dog meat any more horrible than cow meat. As you’ll recall, I don’t really approve of eating meat in general. What I think is most interesting about this news item is two things:

  1. This is a problem related to modern globalization. Something like this is not likely to occur when the food you consume comes from the same country you live in, much less local farms.
  2. People have really unreasonable biases when it comes to food. As the article states, “the British consumers who are outraged about having been fed Polish horse meat were perfectly willing to buy lasagna made from cows that were likely raised and slaughtered in brutal factory farms and felt few moral qualms about it.”


School Lunch, in the day

January 16th, Wednesday:

  • Bibimpab Bowl (Pork, Egg, Carrot, Parsley, Fern Sprout, Bean Sprout, Spinach)
  • Milk
  • Miso Soup (Daikon Radish, Carrot)
  • Shrimp Dumplings
  • Kcal: 847

Carrots are the vegetable that appear the most in school lunch. They have lots of karotein, which we need for preventing colds. Eat lots and pass the time happily.

School lunch in Japan first began in Meiji 22 (1889) in Yamagata Prefecture at the private Chuuai Elementary School in Tsuruoka City, aimed at poor children. I don’t know that much about pre-war school lunch, but my impression is that a lot of students still brought home made lunches to school. After World War II, wide spread school lunch was instituted in Japan, and consisted of milk, bread, and a side dish. It was subsidized by the the cheap importation of wheat from America. Yah for spreading consumeristic imperialism!(苦笑)

In my hometown, we have school lunch too, of course. Back in the day, the education system was largely focused on teaching English to the kids born there, but to prevent cross-ethnicity worker strikes, providing school lunch for students to fraternize over was not a high priority. After World War II, however, school lunch was established and subsidized by importation of rice, flour, meat, and canned fruits from mainland America. (So we did better than Japan in we got to eat rice rather than bread.)

The goal of school lunch was, like in Japan, to give children at least one hot filling meal a day. Even today, the price of school lunch is kept down as much as possible. For students who cannot afford even that price, there is reduced and free school lunch program. The present author was on the reduced lunch menu, so I paid less than 50 cents everyday for school lunch. Pretty inexpensive, I think.


Potato Soup

December 11th, Tuesday:


  • Potato Soup (Potato, Onion, Parsley)
  • Rice Noodle Stirfry (Bell Pepper, Rice Noodle, Pork, Shimeji Mushroom, Carrot, Bamboo Shoot)
  • Star Hamburger Steak
  • Butter Bread
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 848

Bifun noodles are made from rice flour. The unsticky, long-grained Indica rice is used to give it its characteristic texture.


Scotch Quail Egg

November 27th, Tuesday:

  • Cream Corn Soup (Corn, Onion, Parsley)
  • Potato Salad (Potato, Carrot, Onion, Cucumber, Edamame)
  • Scotch Quail Egg
  • Cocoa Bread
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 849

Inside of this time’s scotch egg is not a chicken egg, but a quail’s egg. As scotch eggs are a type of dish from England, they are eaten cold.

I felt the cocoa bread was not well suited for dipping into the corn soup, but separately they were good. Scotch egg sounds so delicious, but I feel like the egg is very much over cooked. I suppose this can’t be helped in school lunch, but I still think it is a shame. The kyuushoku dayori brings up a good point commenting on how scotch eggs are generally eaten cold. A complaint I have heard from  other foreigners about school lunch is that it is served cold. But Japanese meals, excepting of course the soup and rice, are generally supposed to be served cold (thus relaxing the necessity of a strict dinner time). While most Americans at least I think would find a cold scotch egg yucky, probably many Englishmen would probably find a hot one equally off putting. Of course, I had never had a scotch egg until I came to Japan, so I am not really that well versed in the matter, and should probably refrain from saying more.

Speaking of preferences differing from country to country, enka is a style of Japanese music still quite popular in Japan, but not well liked by most foreigners. As for myself, while a lot of enka is too “pop”-like for me, lately I’ve been listening a CD called 敬天愛人 (Revere Heaven; Love Man) by the artist Ogata Daisaku. All of the songs are about different heroes of the Meiji Restoration and I’ve really taken a liking to it, so to speak. So here is one of the songs. It is called “Katsura Kogorou”, who was a young reformist who was known for his many daring escapes from the bakufu inu.

  • クリームコーンスープ
  • ポテトサラダ
  • うずらスコッチエッグ
  • ココアパン
  • 牛乳

Autumn Full Stew

November 13th, Tuesday:

  • Autumn Full Stew (Salmon, Chestnut, Shimeji Mushroom, Sweet Potato, Carrot, Parsley)
  • German Potato (Potato, Bacon)
  • Breaded Sausage
  • Top Sliced Bread
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 820

Today’s stew uses Autumn ingredients. Everyone, when you hear of Autumn ingredients, what do you think of? Modern times are when foods are plentiful and we can get any food regardless of the season. This extravagance is also saddening.

This time of year, the market I always go is selling many delicious and very inexpensive vegetables grown in my town. Indeed, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the wonderful of this. When I notice all this abundance of the Autumn, I also think of the amazing extravagance that characterizes modern times. Even in the middle of winter, I can eat papaya and pineapples. Even in the middle of summer, I can indulge in as much shave ice as I want. This makes life so easy to live, but it has become easy to lose the seasonal awareness and gratitude that plays an important part in making us correct persons. So as our school lunch menu reminds us: Food is plentiful, but the extravagance is also saddening. So let’s make an effort of eat seasonal and local foods!

That said, today’s Autumn stew was really tasty!! Yum! Yum!


Black Pepper, or rather the lack of it….

October 23th, Tuesday:

  • Consommé (Cabbage, Onion, Carrot, Ham)
  • Spaghetti Carbonara (Spaghetti, Onion, Bacon, Parsley)
  • Oven Baked Chicken
  • Cocoa Bread
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 765

Carbonara is a type of pasta sauce which means “pasta cooked with charcoal”. It’s said that it is mixed with black pepper in Italy.

  • コンソメスープ
  • スパゲッティカルボナーラ
  • チキンオーブン焼き
  • ココアパン
  • 牛乳

Breaded Pork Fillet

September 11th, Tuesday:

  • Pot-Au-Feu (Pork, Potato, Cabbage, Green Bean, Carrot)
  • Creamy Tuna Spaghetti (Spaghetti, Onion, Parsley)
  • Breaded Pork Fillet
  • Brown Sugar Bread
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 782

Meat fillet is a low fat, smooth and fleshy meat.  It is a light tasting meat with very few vices. Because each animal only has little bit of fillet meat, it is expensive.

While I think I personally prefer a milder bread, it seems today’s sweet brown sugar bread was more popular than usual with my students. One of my first years today kindly informed me “This is パン. Good!”, so I know that she liked it. As for the pork fillet, I am afraid I simply do not like meat, although I did my best and ate it anyways. However, it reminded me of a conversation I had with my friends last night in which they stated pork was very common in Hokkaido but beef was often eaten in Honshu. My friends–all from the Northern Country–were of the opinion that pork was certainly delicious enough, one hardly even needed beef. This in mind, I asked my students which they preferred: pork or beef. Four said pork, and only one boy said beef. I suppose that is the answer I should have expected.

Today’s bread was made with 黒糖, or “black sugar” (ie: brown sugar). I don’t know what kind because it didn’t say on the lunch menu. But the most famous place in Japan for brown sugar is Okinawa. This is unsurprising, given the history of sugar in Japan. If I remember correctly, for a long while Japan did not have the technology to process sugar, but when they finally borrowed it the only place that could really grow sugarcane was Okinawa and Kagoshima. In modern times, a lot of sugar comes from sugar beets, but it doesn’t taste as good. Seriously, it doesn’t. It has this yucky sticky feel that Okinawan/Hawaiian sugarcane sugar lacks. So I recommend Okinawan or (of course) Hawaiian sugar. Finally, here is picture of the delicious Okinawan Brown Sugar Warabi Mochi that my tea teacher gave me last week. Yum! Yum!

  • ポトフ
  • クリームツナスパゲッティ
  • 豚肉ヒレカツ
  • 黒糖パン
  • 牛乳

Potato Soup

September 4th, Tuesday:

  • Potato Soup (Potato, Onion, Parsley)
  • Rice Vermicelli Stirfry (Rice Vermicelli, Pork, Onion, Shijime Mushroom, Carrot, Bamboo Shoot, Bell Pepper)
  • Salmon Scraps and Vegetable Breaded Patty
  • Kabocha Bread
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 978

“Nakaochi (scraps)” of today’s Salmon Scraps and Vegetable Breaded Patty means the meat left nearby and on the bone when filleting the fish. So its patty made of a blend of that meat.

Kabocha bread and potato soup are a delightful combination. As I’ve mentioned before, I eat mine by dipping the bread into the soup. One of the girls in my class today ate it by tearing the bread into small chunks and put them all into the soup. She then fished them out with her chopsticks and ate them somewhat like dumplings. It doesn’t seem like a bad method. The salmon scraps patty had that unidentifiable fish taste that I much favoured in fish-sticks as a child, so I liked it. Of course, it was pretty oily, like most katsu.

During lunch time, music chosen by the students is played over the broadcast system. The first song today was “Bakchi Dancer” by a Japanese band called “Does”. I know nothing of and care not to most music popular among the middle school aged population. Really, listening to most pop music makes me wish I had never been born. But Does is the sort of band that only awesome kids (ie: geeks) listen to, so I was pretty happy to hear it during lunch today. Here is a poor quality clip of the song, taken from the most awesome animation ever. (That would be Gintama.)

By the way, this anime is about Japanese patriots fighting against the moral corruption that the evil foreign aliens have brought to Japan along with modernization. Can you see the parallels to history?

  • じゃがいものスープ
  • ビーフン炒め
  • 鮭のなかおち野菜カツ
  • かぼちゃパン
  • 牛乳