From Chara-ben to School Lunch Programs: Eating Right in Japan

by Amy on Apr 05 2017 |


Japan is a model for the world in terms of lunches. In general, the food served to children is healthier and mealtime is observed as an educational, communal experience not as a rushed recreational activity. There are generally three ways food is prepared in Japan, through: 1) kyushoku or a school lunch program 2) in a cafeteria setting or 3) brought from home as bento boxes.

1) School lunch programs are fairly standard in most elementary schools but are not present in all kindergarten, middle or high schools. There are kitchens at each school that hire cooks to prepare food and a nutritionist to plan the school lunch schedule every month. The ingredients used are often from local farms and the teachers educate the students about what is being served. Children also serve each other to learn portion control.

2) Cafeterias are seen more in high schools and colleges in Japan. The foods served are also cooked on the spot by hired chefs and include dishes like curry rice, ramen, soba, and rice bowls.

3) Parents prepare children’s bento boxes, which are lunches prepared in a box to go. They often incorporate well-balanced meal ingredients like a carbohydrate, protein and vegetables with fruit on the side. Chara-ben are bento boxes which are made to look like kawaii characters! Designing cute lunches encourages kids to eat them fully.

This article discusses in depth the positives and pitfalls of kyushoku.

(Photo credit: chrissam42)