School Lunch

I recently realized that I have yet to write about my schools’ lunch system, which is a shame because it’s actually pretty interesting.

In Japan, school lunch (or kyushoku) in elementary and junior high schools is very different from what most Americans are used to. There are no lunch ladies, no long lines in a cafeteria, no frozen mystery meat. Instead, lunches are usually made fresh daily at a lunch center in town and then trucked to the schools in the area. They come steaming hot about 20 or so minutes before lunch time, and the kids handle the rest. When the bell rings to signify lunch has started, a selected group of students from each homeroom puts on their hair nets, masks, and protective clothing and becomes the day’s “lunch ladies.” They head to the lunch room, pick up their utensils and various dishes, and go back to their class where their classmates are eagerly awaiting lunch.

There the kids divvy up the food for each class member and put it all on trays. The kids then eat at their desks in their own classrooms. It definitely saves on school space!

Most kids eat the provided lunch. The idea, I think, is to feed the kids carefully crafted lunches based on dietary needs of children while ensuring no one feels out of place. So no one brings a packed lunch. If someone is allergic to something in that day’s menu, the lunch center staff provides a personal alternative. All kids eat the same meal, together.

It seems a little weird maybe. They have no choice in what they eat or who they eat with. But this way, all of the kids are guaranteed a balanced meal that’s (usually) quite healthy. No one is left out in anyway.

The typical lunch consists of milk (which I never drink), rice or bread, a soup or similar dish, and a vegetable medley or salad. See, balanced. And often delicious. Most of the time there are amazing Japanese style salads with tons of veggies, but western foods also find their way in. Here are a few pictures I’ve snapped of my lunch.

Rice with a kind of egg topping and soup, fried sweet potato sticks, and nori

Rice with a kind of egg topping and soup, fried sweet potato sticks, and nori

carb load day: bread, takoyaki, udon, mikan

carb load day: bread, takoyaki, udon, mikan

rice, miso soup, grilled fish and salad

rice, miso soup, grilled fish and salad

rice, seaweed salad, boiled assortment

rice, seaweed salad, boiled assortment

My area’s center takes suggestions from the students and tries to incorporate the kids’ favorite foods into the menu. Each meal has about 700-800 calories for junior high and always has a nice variety of vegetables which I appreciate. My favorite meal is probably curry, because Japanese curry is heavenly. Although, I do wish I didn’t have to eat kyushoku because it has way too much meat for my liking (side note: I’m pretty sure I’m going back to being a vegetarian once my contract’s up…meh).

Tokyo Disney Resort: The Happiest Place…in Asia? Part I

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, my friend and I went to the Tokyo Disney Parks for a magically festive holidays! We’ve been talking about going for a while, so it only seemed right to go on two of the busiest and romantic days of the year! (That may sound sarcastic because it is, but it was amazing and beautiful and I wouldn’t change it for anything!)

Christmas Eve was Disney Sea, the park unique to Tokyo.

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Here are Rae and I entering the park!

funny faces for Christmas!

Many funny face selfies for your enjoyment

The first day I decided not to bring my DSLR so most of these pictures are selfies. I’m really sorry. The whole park was decorated for Christmas, and each area had its own Christmas tree!

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Disney Sea is also the place to meet all the characters. My favorite was Jeminy Cricket, but we saw quite a few other (lesser) characters as well.

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Then, of course, there was the food. Tokyo Disney has various popcorn flavors, meat bun type snacks, and the famous Little Green Man (little cream filled mochi-type dumplings). Everything was so good! Sea also serves alcohol, so it’s a little more adult-friendly.

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tiger tail chicken bun

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chocolate, strawberry, and custard

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delicious aliens

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mmm

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Mickey churros

We ate way too much.

Here are some other pictures (mostly of us acting like complete children).

Tips:

1. Ride the Toy Story Mania ride. Race to the Fast Pass ticket booth as soon as you enter the park (it’s to the left of the gates, near the American Waterfront) and get your Fast Pass!

2. Fast Passes are free. There are machines near each ride that give you passes with a return time on them. Return to the ride in the time given and pass the long lines!

3. Sea has fewer rides than Disneyland, but the atmosphere is really nice and seems more mature. There is a cocktail lounge in the ship, and it’s amazing.

4. Christmas time is busy at Disney, but the shows and decorations make up for it! Check it out if you’re in the area next year!

the final stretch

This may be news to some: I will not be staying another year in Shibushi.

That stings. Saying that–typing that–stings. I’ve really come to enjoy my little town, and I’ve definitely fallen in love with my hundreds of students. Thinking about telling them I’m leaving and ultimately saying goodbye makes my eyes literally sting. The tears are ready to pour. I’ve told everyone it was an easy decision, but that is a lie. In fact, I almost regret it already. Some JETs hate their jobs and can’t wait to leave, but the longer I stay here, the more I love it. I’ve watched some of my kids grow into little adults before me, and we’ve shared some amazing times. I love them all, really, because they’ve helped form who I am. I hope the teachers at my junior high allow me to give the students a proper goodbye at their closing ceremony. I wouldn’t be able to leave without it.

If you follow my blog, you know that a lot has happened to me here, and as a result, I’ve changed a lot. I’ve become an adult on Japanese soil. A part of me will always be here in Shibushi. But I know I can’t stay. I wish things had worked out has I hoped and I could stay forever, because I really do love this place…despite it’s flaws. But life seldom goes the way we plan. People enter and leave, seasons change, we grow and decide there may be better things waiting somewhere else. It’s heartbreaking to think about, but as they say “there comes a time to say goodbye.” This August will be that time. I will at least say goodbye to my schools, students, and coworkers.

I don’t know where I’ll end up or what I’ll be doing, but I will certainly carry this experience in my heart forever. It’s time to make the best of these last six months.