We’ve outlined the top five elementary school lunch menu items that reigned supreme in the people’s collective memory. 

Undoubtedly the best part of many days for Japanese schoolchildren is that moment when they put away their textbooks and bring out the chopsticks–in other words, kyushoku time.

Kyushoku refers to the standard lunch provided to all students typically throughout elementary and junior high school for a very low cost. Each daily menu is carefully planned and takes into account the nutritional needs of growing children. In addition, teachers and school administrators often eat the same meal as the children–a concept that may be met with blank stares in other countries of the world. Furthermore, as the children are responsible for carrying the food and serving it to one another inside their respective classrooms, kyushoku is an important daily ritual for teaching them cooperation and teamwork skills.

▼ A typical kyushoku with balanced food groups

Kyushoku menus vary a bit depending on geography and generation, but regardless many Japanese adults look back fondly on their school lunch days and the excitement they felt whenever their favorite menu item made an appearance. In fact, LINE Research recently asked 5,252 men and women to get nostalgic about their favorite kyushoku menus in elementary school in an online survey. All participants were between 15-59 years of age and located throughout Japan.

We’ve detailed the top five ranked items in the survey below. Perhaps unsurprisingly, natto didn’t make the cut (sorry to all the fermented soybean lovers out there!). Some honorable mentions also include fruit salad (particularly among survey takers in their teens and 20s) and coffee milk (among those in their 50s).

Favorite elementary school kyushoku menu items

5. Frozen mikan (mandarin orange)

The number 5 pick isn’t even a main dish but a simple piece of fruit! A chilled mikan undoubtedly makes for a special treat on a hot day, and is perhaps why the thought of peeling an orange and enjoying its cold juice remains such a vivid memory in many survey takers’ minds.

4. Chicken karaage

Who can say no to fried food? Whether eaten at home or in a bento, karaage is always a delightful surprise when it pops up in kyushoku as well. Karaage as a kyushoku menu item received lots of support from the younger generations of survey takers in particular.

3. Soft noodles

These thick, soft noodles are typically served with a tomato-based meat sauce, but some regions of the country offer them with curry instead. Many adults were nostalgic about the sensation of ripping open the clear package (as pictured below) and unraveling the noodles into their bowls.

2. Curry with rice

Curry is a quintessential comfort food loved by children and adults of all ages in Japan. Knowing that it’s curry day at school will put anyone in a good mood from the start of the morning. This menu item was especially popular with survey respondents in their 30s and 40s.

1. Agepan (deep-fried bread)

If you’re wondering what menu item could have possibly toppled curry, look no further–another fried dish takes the top spot by a narrow margin! Somewhat similar to a long donut with a sugar or other powder coating, agepan tastes like a divine gift after days of eating healthy dishes over and over again. The bread even inspired a special kyushoku flavor of Hi-Chew candy that was released this past summer.

Interestingly, a number of regional kyushoku variations also came to light in the survey. Some of these variations are only offered in very specific locations whereas others have spread to become standard offerings on a larger scale. Examples include hokki (a kind of clam) curry found in Hokkaido’s Tomakomai City, Nerima spaghetti (includes daikon in a Japanese-style pasta dish) from Tokyo’s Nerima Ward, dabujiru (a soup) from Fukuoka and Saga Prefectures, and keihan (chicken rice) from Kagoshima Prefecture’s Amami Islands.

Mention any one of the above five kyushoku menu items to a Japanese adult and see if they instantly take a trip down memory lane. While they’re in the school frame of mind, maybe they’ll want to check out these swimsuits based on their past school swimming days as well.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News via Otakomu
Images: SoraNews24
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