Today’s children usually consume school lunches. Because most schools have no cafeteria, they eat in the classroom. High schools generally do not provide school lunches. High school students must have a Bento or buy lunch at the food service.
If you’re a kid in Japan, though, going to a bento shop isn’t just about eating.
It’s also about hanging out with friends and seeing how other people live along the way.
Even though Japanese schools don’t have cafeterias, they still get their food. And they do it in a way that helps them make friends and learn about their culture.
How long is a lunch break in Japan?
Most Japanese schools have a lunch break that lasts for about 30 minutes.
However, this can vary depending on the school. Some schools may have a longer lunch break, while others may have a shorter one.
Do Some Japanese schools serve lunch?
No, although this is changing slowly.
Japanese schools have cafeterias, which are open only to school staff and students in their middle and high school years. Elementary-level students bring their lunches from home.
This custom has been the status quo for decades now. However, as food allergies become more prevalent, some schools have started to serve lunches. But this is still the exception, not the norm.
What do Japanese students usually eat for lunch?
Since most Japanese students bring their lunches from home, the variety of food they can choose is quite large.
However, many students typically eat a bento box with rice, meat, vegetables, and pickles.
Can you bring your food to Japanese schools?
Yes, but this is dependent on the school.
Many “traditional” elementary schools do not allow students to bring their lunches, but this has also started to change.
There are now at least some schools where students can get food from home if they want to. However, most offer more comprehensive lunch options than at home.
And, even if students can bring their food from home, there can be restrictions on what they can get.
Some schools will only allow bread and sandwiches, while others will allow nearly anything if wrapped in cellophane or a bento box.
Is there anything students may buy to eat at school?
Yes, many Japanese schools have vending machines to buy drinks and snacks.
Since students can’t bring food from home, many schools have vending machines to provide drinks and snacks. These are usually close to popular hangout spots like staircases or lobbies.
Note that Japan is known for having excellent vending machine food options.
How much does it cost?
It can vary depending on whether you’re buying drinks or snacks.
Typically, vending machine food is more expensive than home-packed lunches. Though bento might be cheaper if you use a meal ticket system for lunch.
Many students buy their lunch at school instead of bringing it home because they want to save money and time during the day.
Where do Japanese students eat their lunch?
On an average weekday, students eat their packed lunch in the lunchroom. However, when it’s cold or raining outside, students often eat in classrooms.
Lunchrooms for Elementary Schools in Japan
Students are generally not allowed to eat their packed lunch in the classroom during elementary school. They must go outside to the designated “lunchroom.”
This is generally a separate room with tables and chairs where teachers monitor the students while they eat.
Although you might expect that there would be slight variation in design between different schools’ lunchrooms, there is a great deal of variety.
Some schools have lunchrooms divided into separate rooms with individual tables and chairs.
Others have a large rooms with long tables that can be sectioned off by partitions, like a table at a restaurant or family-style seating at a buffet.
Some schools don’t have individual lunchrooms; instead, they have one large eatery that can accommodate the entire student body in one sitting.
Lunchrooms for Middle and High Schools in Japan
At this level, students are allowed to eat in their classrooms.
No teachers monitor them while eating, so the only rule is that they must clean up after themselves.
This means some classrooms have used paper cups, and bento cases are strewn around during lunchtime.
Middle and high schools generally have larger lunchrooms than elementary schools.
There’s no need for partitions as there aren’t as many students to fit into the room, so you’ll often see large open spaces with long tables running down the center.
Many schools schedule “club activities” at lunchtime, where clubs get together and eat their packed lunches.
What are some differences between Japanese and American school lunches?
One difference is the emphasis on vegetables.
Students must eat a certain number of vegetables at some schools every day.
Some elementary school lunchrooms even have signs indicating how many vegetables the student must eat.
Another difference is the way they are served.
Japanese school lunches typically come in trays with several compartments, unlike American school lunches on a one-plate system.
This means that you would generally not see American foods like spaghetti or lasagna on the menu at Japanese schools.
What types of activities do students engage in during lunchtime?
Many students use this free time for club activities, so you might find some eating, standing up, and talking with their club members.
What are some different types of school lunches that exist in Japan?
There are several school lunches offered at Japanese elementary and high schools!
Some of the most common are:
- Onigiri bento: Rice balls wrapped in seaweed with other ingredients inside.
- Salad bento: A box lunch with vegetables, fruit, and meat or fish side dishes. They often come with an obento pick to hold the food together.
- Katsudon: Deep-fried pork cutlets in sauce on top of rice, served with an egg.
- Okonomiyaki: Japanese pancake with meat and veggies
- Tonkatsu: Deep-fried breaded pork with tonkatsu sauce, usually served with miso soup or salad.
- Curry rice: Japanese-style curry poured over white rice with pickles and other side dishes.
- Hamburg steak: A hamburger patty with sauce on top of rice, sometimes served with french fries.