“Woke up this mornin’, and got myself a beeeeeer.”
I wish. More like, woke up this mornin’ and got myself a photo jonesin’. When I first came to Japan, I often took my camera to work. I was enthralled by all the newness – heck, even the train ride held potential for something more than nose-to-armpit crowds and no air circulation.
Good thing that wore off and cynicism set in again, like a festering bathroom mold. But this morning I really did wake up thinking that it’d be a good day to shlep the camera to school in Shibuya.
As with any proper elementary school day, lunchtime at Jinnan turned out to be semi-special, an occasional thing they do where the sixth graders and the first graders eat together. I’ve never seen this kind of bonding at any other Japanese public school, so it was nice to see such camraderie amongst the kids.
I don’t remember if I’ve written about this before, but school lunches in Japan are very different from America. Back home, everyone eats (more or less) at the same time in the same room, served the same food from the school cooks.
Either that or you brown bag it, but there’s no brown bagging allowed here.
In Japan, the cooked food is put on a cart and trekked up to the classrooms, where the students don white chef’s hats and jackets and dole out the food to their classmates. The servers rotate on a weekly or monthly schedule, so that everyone gets to experience the joy. Two students at the beginning and the end of lunch lead the class in a joint Ittadakimasu! (bon appetit, which we strangely don’t have an equivalent to in English) and Gochisosamadesu (thank you for the delicious food).
The students clean up their messes and spills, serve each other at such a pace that the food is never piping hot and just barely lukewarm, and don’t compete for cookies since they don’t get any. Fruit is a dessert, as is untoasted white bread with jam (no peanut butter.)
But one thing’s universal: no matter which side of the Pacific you’re eating on, school lunches always taste like crap.