March 22nd, Friday:


  • Dumpling Egg Drop Soup (Egg, Shrimp Dumplings, Spinach, Carrot)
  • Western-Simmered Potatoes and Bacon (Potato, Bacon, Onion, Edamame)
  • Bread Chicken and Cheese
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 889

Today is the last lunch of the school year. Everyone, were you able to eat at least a little of bit of even foods you hate? Looking back over the year, try looking for areas in which you have grown!

Today is the last day of the school year. For that reason I didn’t eat school lunch. I considered posting a picture of the bento I brought instead, but given that it was nearly exactly what I ate last Monday, I thought this picture of sweet Spring sake I drank the other day was nicer.

I started this blog a year ago with the goal of translating with photographs the school lunch I ate everyday for a full year. I have learned a lot through thinking about and eating school lunch: trying new foods, considering the implications of my food choices, and developing new likes! I hope my dear readers could enjoy seeing a little bit of my daily life and reading my ramblings about school life in Japan.

Posting nearly everyday was a difficult task though, with a busy schedule, so while I will still be eating school lunch next year, I won’t continue posting everyday. However, I wonder is there anything you would like to read about or see pictures of relating to food and Japan?


Catching Colds

March 1st, Friday:


  • Midakusan Soup (Potato, Tofu, Konnyaku, Burdock, Carrot, Onion)
  • Simmered Daikon and Mincemeat (Daikon Radish, Pork, Edamame)
  • Salt-Broiled Pentacerotidae
  • Wakame Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 779

Shiitake that are dried in the sunlight become “Dried Shiitake”. When drying them in sunlight, their scent and flavour as well as their nutrition increases. Since they get all wrinkled up when drying, that is very strange.

I am a little confused why kyuushoku dayori above talks about shiitake, since today’s dish didn’t seem to include any mushrooms, shiitake or otherwise. Although the soup broth may have been shiitake based?

Anyway, the other day I was reading some of the papers posted in the classroom. It is common for each student to write their goals for the term at the beginning and then hang them all along the walls of the class. In this class room, the students each wrote two things they wanted to do (say good morning to fellow students, raise their test scores, etc.) and two things they wanted to avoid (forgetting things, bullying others etc.). One of the students wrote for the latter than he wanted to not catch a cold.

I thought this was interesting because–to me–catching a cold is not really something you have a lot of control over. Yes, you can wash your hands and gargle, but I don’t know, I seem to always catch the cold anyway. But actually, I think this sort of statement is an element of a broader way of thinking in Japan. For example, in America I think, if you are late but you have a good excuse, then you are forgiven since it wasn’t your fault. But in Japan, even if you have a good excuse, you are still held responsible for being late. So I think it is the same with catching a cold: even though it is not your fault, you are still responsible. I am reminded of a quote by Yoshida Shoin:

Desiring food and drink or fine company, yielding to sickness, falling into idleness, or failing in willpower is the waning of bushido.

Getting sick is included along side vices like being lazy, a glutton, or a womanizer…【・_・?】

This way of thinking is has its merits and faults. On the good side, we can control a lot more things in our life than we think, and this way of thinking encourages responsibility and industriousness. On the bad side, it puts a great deal of pressure on people for things that they might not be able to control and this can lead to suicide. I imagine the important thing is to still hold people responsible, but never forget to temper it with compassion.

Wakame Gohan

Wakame Gohan


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.”


Pregnant Susuhamu

January 21st, Monday:


  • Pork Soup (Pork, Potato, Tofu, Carrot, Onion, Burdock)
  • Shore Simmered Soybeans (Hijiki Seaweed, Satsuma-age, Carrot, Sliced Konnyaku, String Bean, Soybean)
  • Susuhamu with Child Fritter
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 812

Burdock is a vegetable with lots of dietary fiber.  We can’t digest the dietary fiber in burdock and it passes through our body, making clean our stomach and intestines. Burdock is a master at cleaning our stomachs. 

Can I be honest with you? I am all squeamish about eating fish which still have their heads, tails, or even many bones. So the susuhamu isn’t in my picture because another teacher kindly ate my portion for me. It’s childish to be all “it looks weird, I won’t eat it”, but oh well, I’m foreigner so its okay right? But I ate all of my delicious hijiki and soybean simmer!

In my island home and in Japan too, milk is served with every school lunch and students are encouraged by teachers and posters to drink their milk, especially in elementary school. In junior high school, a lot of students no longer drink the milk, because they don’t like it or it makes them sick. However, I think due to the meat and dairy heavy diet in schools and often at home too in modern Japan, Japanese people are on a whole getting taller and taller.

Is being tall a good thing? In modern fashion magazines and the opinion of most modern people (especially in the West), yes. But this is a really new opinion in Japan. It is an opinion that has been copied blindly from the West, I feel. In fact, I would like to argue that being tall is evolutionary disadvantages for an island country like Japan.

On islands, resources are somewhat limited. Likewise, there are not many natural dangers that require a large body to fend off. So on an archipelago like Japan, being smaller in size–thus requiring less resources–is to a person’s advantage. This can be even been seen in some animal populations in Japan, such as the Honshu fox or Ryukyu deer. You might argue that being bigger has its advantages now that Japan must compete with the taller, larger Westerners. But when Europeans and Japanese men were compared at the start of the Meiji period, the Japanese were able to better run long distances, endure extreme conditions, and so on than the Europeans, and with less food and resources (cf. Hearn).

So I think we should be careful to avoid blindly copying ideas when they might not necessarily be the best depending on the situation.

  • 豚汁
  • 大豆の磯煮
  • 子持ちししゃものフリッター
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳

Strawberry Jam

December 4th, Tuesday:


  • Vegetable and Egg Soup (Ham, Egg, Spinach, Onion, Carrot)
  • Western Simmered Potatoes and Bacon (Potato, Bacon, Onion, Edamame)
  • Breaded Pork Fillet
  • Strawberry Jam
  • Side Sliced Bread
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 739

Horenso Spinach is a winter seasonal vegetable. It’s sweetness increases in the cold of winter, and it develops lots of healthy vitamins. Today, we used it in the soup.


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


November 5th, Monday:

  • Miso Soup (Daikon Radish, Wakame Seaweed, Green Onion)
  • Meat and Potatoes (Potato, Pork, Onion, Shimeji Mushroom, Edamame)
  • Bonito Simmered Saury
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 898

What is “okaka” in today’s sanma okaka-ni (simmered saury)? Can you guess if I say there is a type of rice ball called okaka? The answer is katsuo-bushi (dried bonito). Maybe it started as a woman’s word?

We handed back the test to the students today, which made me consider tests in Japan. Standardized testing is of course a fixture of most mandatory educational systems, and Japan is no different. But outside of standardized testing, which was probably introduced by the West, Japan has a lot of voluntary tests you can take. Two popular tests with my students are the Eiken, an English test, and the Kanken, a Japanese kanji test. These tests aren’t needed by the students, but a lot of students like to take them to challenge themselves. Testing in Japan is nice because they don’t try to test some ambiguous and ill-defined “real life ability”, but instead test an established set of knowledge which not only proves your familiarity with the subject but also the motivation of the student to study hard and put in effort.

The other day, I took some practice tests for two other tests they have: the Chado Kentei (about Japanese tea ceremony) and the Jinja Kentei (about Shinto). It was pretty fun and I didn’t do that bad either. I would like to take those tests for real maybe next year. Why don’t you consider taking a test in subject you are interested in?

  • みそ汁
  • 肉じゃが
  • さんまおかか煮
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳


Shore Simmered Soybeans

October 26th, Friday:

  • Miso Kenchin Soup (Tofu, Trefoil, Burdock, Winter Mushroom, Daikon Radish)
  • Shore Simmered Soybeans (Hijiki Seaweed, Satusma-age, Carrot, Green Bean, Soybean, Konnyaku)
  • Mirin Dried Herring
  • Rice
  • Milk

Konnyaku comes from the konnyaku taro, which is related to taro. It has lots of fiber, which prevents constipation and cleans out your intestines.

I caught a cold today.


Duetzia Patty

October  15th, Monday:

  • Miso Soup (Gluten Croutons, Chinese Cabbage)
  • Chinese Style Meat and Potatoes (Potato, Pork, Onion, Shimeji Mushroom, Konnyaku)
  • Duetzia Patty
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Kcal: 910

Nikujaga (meat and potatoes) is a Japanese dish that everyone knows.  Actually, it is said is started as an imitation of beef stew.

Unohana is literally the duetzia flower, but in this case it refers to a type of dish made with okara (soy bean lees).

  • みそ汁
  • 中華風肉じゃが
  • 卯の花コロッケ
  • ごはん
  • 牛乳



October 12th, Friday:

  • Furano Pork Bowl (Pork, Onion, Bell Pepper)
  • Milk
  • Black Bean Tofu Miso Soup (Black Bean Tofu, Daikon Radish, Carrot)
  • Furano Veggies Namul (Bean Sprout, Carrot, Spinach)
  • Naupi
  • Kcal: 802

The last furusato kyuushoku! I generally say I don’t like Korean food, but today’s namul was really good. It was like lightly boiled veggies dressed in ground sesame. I hope they serve it again. Most my students seemed to eat it too. The tofu in today’s soup was a tasty treat too. Naupi, also called nappi, is like a monaka sweet, except instead of being filled with sweet anko, it’s filled with natto. Not enjoying the sticky texture of natto, I don’t like it so much. But naupi seems to be a very emblematic food of old Hokkaido. I feel like I should make more of an effort to develop a taste for it. I hate to say, but I think half the students in my class didn’t eat their naupi (although one boy ate like five of them, so that pretty awesome). However,  despite this waste, I still think it is good to serve in school lunch once or twice a year to remind student–or introduce them!–to their cultural heritage.

  • ふらの豚丼
  • 牛乳
  • 黒豆豆腐のみそ汁
  • ふらの野菜のナムル風
  • ナゥピー

今日の日本語:冷気あいつのり候所、ますますご成熟慶賀奉り候 Did I choose the write kanji, I wonder….