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During my time in Japan, I’ve been thrown into a cherry blossom tree, hit by a car, and sucker punched by a wannabe tough guy in Shibuya Station, but luckily I’ve never needed to be hospitalized. That means I’ve been able to avoid the anxiety-filled situation of having a doctor explain an urgent medical procedure to me in a foreign language, but it also means I’ve been missing out on some of the mouth-watering food some Japanese hospitals serve.

As in other countries, the primary aim of hospital food in Japan is to provide patients with the proper nutrition to help in their recovery. That said, the fact that traditional Japanese cooking is relatively healthy to begin with means that hospital fare is sometimes a bit closer to what people eat in the home than you might expect. What’s more, the common Japanese predilection towards arranging food in an appetizing manner sometimes carries over to how the hospital meal preparation staff goes about its job.

▼ Just rice, vegetables, and fish, but the presentation really makes all the difference.

▼ Check out the garnish the sautéed chicken and lotus root are laid out on.

▼ This rice omelet, with sides of tofu Caprese salad, soup, fruit, and oolong tea, wouldn’t look out of place in Harajuku cafe.

But there’s more going on here than just Japan’s cultural and culinary compunction to make every meal enjoyable. Spending all day holed up in the hospital generally means less physical exercise and mental stimulation, both of which can lead to a reduced appetite. Some hospitals have come to the conclusion that the best way to encourage patients to clean their plates and get the nutrition required by the healing process is to prepare food that actually looks and tastes good.

Seared bonito with grated ginger, just like you’ll find at many izakaya (Japanese-style pubs)

Some facilities charge extra for their more luxurious meal packages, such as these two premium offering from St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo.

Unadon (grilled eel rice bowl)

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▼ Mixed seafood with Japanese-style smoked duck

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Not that St. Luke’s standard meals, such as miso grilled chicken or swordfish, look half-bad.

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Still, if we had to pick our favorite, it’s be either this hotpot

…or this bowl of ramen with nine kinds of vegetables.

▼ Seriously, we’d happily order that in a restaurant.

With delectables like this, some of you might be thinking it must be incredibly difficult to convince patients that they are, in fact, completely healed, and therefore that it’s time to go home and start cooking for themselves again. Bear in mind, though, that the fare can vary greatly from facility to facility, and that at some of them your meal might look like this.

In other words, you might want to ask the hospital staff what’s on the menu before you rush off to play in traffic.

Source: Naver Matome
Top image: Twitter/@utsuron
Insert images: St. Luke’s International Hospital