Kyushoku: The Making of a Japanese School Lunch

Ever since 1954, kyushoku (school lunch) has been an official part of the Japanese school curriculum.

Over the years, the laws and menu items have changed, from adding the role of a nutritionist to including rice. Inherently, Kyushoku is here to stay as an integral part of Japanese culture.

Youtube channel Life Where I’m From sets out to get an inside look into how the Japanese school lunch is made and what food education looks like in one of Japan’s public elementary schools.

Kyushoku and Japanese School Life

For most Japanese school children, school lunches are more than just a tray of food. Gakko-kyushoku, school lunches, are an integral part of their studies. Along with tasty meals, Japan’s unique kyushoku system serves up some very important lessons in nutrition, health, cooking, social skills and more.

Most public elementary and many junior high schools in Japan provide lunch for their students. The meals are prepared in kitchens within the school or at school-lunch centers serving several schools and paid for by monthly school lunch fees.

School lunches in Japan are an integral part of a school’s educational activities: in fact, school lunch instruction is defined as a special classroom activity.

Lunch programs are designed to help school children understand what constitutes a nutritionally balanced meal while learning the fundamentals of proper eating and table manners.

Serving Kyushoku

Children deliver and serve the food themselves and eat at their desks in the classrooms with their teachers. Each week, different students are appointed kyushoku toban – lunch staff.

The process of taking responsibility to prepare, serve, eat and clean up after lunch gives school children a real work experience.

These kinds of cooperative activities help to build a sense of service and a spirit of harmony. In addition, lunchtime presents an opportunity to apply skills learned in homemaking, social studies, biology and other subjects.

Japanese students also learn about how society get our food: the fishing and farming industries are introduced, as well as food production, processing and marketing.

And once a year, some schools invite parents to a tasting of the lunch menus and to learn about balanced nutrition. This has effectively helped grow better societal and health values, showing how far reaching Kyushoku can be.

Kyushoku: The Making of a Japanese School Lunch
  • Info
  • Release date2018
  • Full runtime
  • Director(s)Greg Lam
  • Production companyLife Where I'm From