What A Month of Japanese School Lunches Looks Like

By Cindy Caraturo

What kind of foods show up in Japanese school lunches?

Japan is known for being both a slim country and a country with a high elderly population. There’s been plenty of discussion about American diets, as well as American school lunches. But what about Japanese school lunches? What are they like?

I took photos of all the school lunches I ate at my junior high school during October. The item most often on the menu? Surprisingly enough, not rice; milk is served with every meal. I have a difficult relationship with Japanese milk, but it’s one of the ways Japanese school lunches aim to provide a balance of nutrients.

The school lunch menu for the month of October.
The school lunch menu for the month of October.

Sendai’s kyuushoku (“school lunch”) center provides our school with lunches each month. They put together the monthly menu in advance and send it to the schools in the area. Not all schools get their lunches from the kyuushoku center. Since there are only a select number of schools listed on the menus we get, it’s safe to say that there’s likely more than one center in the city. Thus, not all kyuushoku-receiving schools have the same lunches from month to month.

So, how do Japanese school lunches compare with their American counterpart? Take a look at the food below and judge for yourself.


What did you think of these Japanese school lunches? The type of foods served for lunch vary depending on the season. A number of the items in these lunches were special seasonal selections. How do they compare to the school lunches where you’re from? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Cindy Caraturo

Continual student of the Japanese language and valiant attempter at novel (and article!) writing. Enjoys when it's softly raining outside and is an avid drinker of quali-tea. Also thinks she is amusing. Take that for what you will. (⌒▽⌒)

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    1. In Japanese elementary and junior high schools, the students eat at their desks in their classrooms. Some high schools may have a cafeteria where students can eat, but even then most high school students eat in their classrooms, too. The teachers usually eat in the staff room, but if they are homeroom teachers, they eat lunch in the classroom with their students. I rotate which class I eat with, so I’m really the only one in the school carrying my tray around. 🙂

  1. うん、健康食品のように見えます。
    通常、私は野菜や米を避けます。(はい!私はお米や野菜を好きではありません)。 しかし、私は、画像に表示されていることはおいしい見えます。