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September 23rd, 2014

Summer holiday 2014 – Japan – PART 3

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Coco&Me - Printout of a school lunch menu from Japan - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

(Printout of weekly lunch menu from a primary school in Japan)

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Coco&Me - Printout of a school lunch menu from Japan - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

(The reverse side has diagrams of what vegetables are in season with a sentence or two about how they are nutritional. Nice little touch with additional diagrams of what these vegetables’ flowers looks like.)

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Coco&Me - Printout of a school lunch menu from Japan - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

(Printout of weekly lunch menu from a Nursery school)

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As I was chatting with my friend T about food, ~ especially about the food culture in UK & about how in general, the people feed their family daily ~ she brought out two printed copies of the lunch menu from her childrens’ schools.

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When I saw this, I was… truly shocked.

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As one expects, obviously, every meal of the week is listed, but it was also boiled down to how many grams of which ingredient has been used in the dishes. Right the way down to how many decimal grams of salt.

~ Astonished? I was. And wait for it, there’s more – every meal had been calculated to let you know the total protein amount, the fat content, & the calorie intake.

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Although it delightfully baffled me as to why the Japanese school provided the menu to such super-precision, I definitely think that it is a positive step toward good-food awareness:

– Because, as a parent, you’re safe in the knowledge that your child is not fed something iffy. You can see that everything is made from scratch, from real ingredients with names you’ve heard of (compared to factory-made product names).

– Having to provide the ingredients list keeps the caterers in check.

– You can make a better judgement of what to make for dinner at home, so that your child has a balanced diet. i.e. if the school served pasta for lunch, you wouldn’t serve pasta for dinner would you?

– The menu also has some information about what vegetables are in season, & how they are beneficial to the body (the lunch menu itself also makes a point of using these seasonal produce). ~ Isn’t this fantastic? Imagine this information sheet stuck on the parent’s fridge. It’ll be a constant reminder about what is in season, & might lead them to buy & cook seasonal stuff more often!

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The Japanese school lunch menu is nothing near what you’d expect to get in England. Y’see, first of all, I don’t even get given menu printouts from my childrens’ school! Perhaps if I asked for it, they’d probably provide (all be it with a quizzing look I bet), but that’s not the point. The fact is, the parents in Japan are fully notified by automated default of what their child eat every-single-lunchtime. I like that, ~ it’s integrating good-food-eating close to everyone’s daily living, stripping away the stigma & the wall to obtaining food information ~ that surely can be a good thing, & must be one of the ways to elevate the standard of cooking.

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So I thought it important to share this with you. Sometimes, it’s only through observing how well it can be done elsewhere, that a change can be made for the better, don’t you think?

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Coco&Me - Printout of a school lunch menu from Japan - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

Above close up translated:

“Cucumber – characterised by crunchy mouthfeel & warty exterior. One of the fresh summer vegetable. “

“Pumpkin – Full of beta-carotene. Maintaining properties for healthy eyes & skin, Builds resistance. Lots of vitamin E & C.”

“The information on which area the ingredients are produced is publicised on the council homepage.”

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Coco&Me - Printout of a school lunch menu from Japan - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

Above left menu translated:

Summer vegetable & fried chicken in vinegar marinade. + Egg & tomato soup. + Bowl of rice. + Carton of milk.

Pumpkin… (green)… 15.00

Aubergine… (green)… 20.00

Chicken… (red)… 40.00

(Thick) Soy sauce… 0.80

Cooking sake… 0.50

Starch… (yellow)… 7.00

Oil… (yellow)… 8.00

Ginger… (green) 0.80

Brown sugar… (yellow)… 2.00

Vinegar… 4.00

(Thick) Soy sauce… 3.50

Cooking sake… 0.80

Mirin… 1.20

Water… 3.50

Egg… (red)… 20.00

Tomato… (green)… 20.00

Onion… (green)… 20.00

Parsley… (green)… 0.60

Salt… 0.50, Pepper… 0.03

(Light) Soy sauce… 3.00

Starch… (yellow)… 0.50

Bonito stock… 2.00

(Cold) Chicken bouillon… 2.00

Water… 100.00

Energy: 664 kcal, Protein: 22g, Fat: 24.2g.

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Coco&Me - Printout of a school lunch menu from Japan - Coco and Me - www.cocoandme.com

On the bottom of the sheet, there was a text that says:

“Food also has a function as a medicine. Please chew well and try not to leave leftovers.”

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x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x

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Well, I hope you enjoyed reading the last part to my report on Japan!

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Lastly, I just want to say, I hope you’re all well & looking after yourselves. Just last weekend, I had a bit of a health scare – I found a lump on my armpit. After a visit to the GP (local doctor), then to a specialist in a big hospital to do a mammogram & a scan, I was cleared, Thank God. It was some sort of skin infection. – In fact, I came home from the hospital with the good result just an hour ago, & maybe that’s why I’m writing this…, so please excuse this melo stuff. It’s just that, on the way home, I couldn’t stop thinking. I couldn’t stop thinking about how keeping good health means everything. How awfully difficult it could’ve been for my family if I was to fall very ill – it’s just beyond words. I was thinking about how I could “up” myself to a healthier lifestyle. I was thinking about how life is so precious & meaningful (lol, I told you this is going to be a bit melodramatic! Oh dear, I better cut this short before the violin starts playing!). So, dearest blog readers, please look after yourselves too, please take care of your body & stay healthy.

“You” mean a lot to yourself & to those around you.

T xx

22 Comments »

  1. Lovely blog post again Tamami.
    Thank god that you are ok, you mean a lot to many people and not just your family! You mean a lot to us loyal blog readers and I am sure many others like your friends and your customers at the market. So please do look after yourself! The last sentence ‘You mean alot to yourself…’ really resonated with me too. Thank you!
    Louise x
    ps: and yes I am looking after myself too!

    Comment by Louise - September 23, 2014 4:43 pm

  2. Hello Louise!!! Thank you so much for leaving a touching comment & also for being a loyal reader!!!!!! Yes, I think everyone resonates with each other’s existence. At the end of the day, it makes us the person that we are I suppose. And in this case, a healthy & happy person?! I hope to be. – And Louise, absolutely great news that you are looking after yourself too!!!! :) :)
    xx

    Comment by tamami - September 23, 2014 5:10 pm

  3. Dear Tamami, so good to read your writing again, and such lovely posts on your time in Japan, thank you so much for sharing. What you have written about today has particular relevance: my older child has just started Reception – the school lunches seem reasonably healthy, and delicious, judging from the daily pudding reports from my pint sized food critic (too much custard, not enough crumble – can be improved.).

    I am gobsmacked at how much effort the Japanese schools put into into feeding and educating their children, and establishing communication and a common set of values with their parents – this is a reflection of a culture with a genuine respect for food and nature – but at the same time, I become almost indignant, wondering why we cannot do the same here in the UK. I must confess I love also the illustrations; I can’t, however, try as I might, to decipher the colour-coding, and what the numbers represent, eg. “Egg… (red)… 20.00”.

    On another note, at the risk of sounding completely unoriginal, I had a health-scare of my own too – results came back just last Friday, all clear, just waiting for an ultrasound now. (Seeing as it is the Royal Free I might have to wait till the next year.) I love that in dealing with your own anxieties, having to care for others and yourself, that you have the presence of mind and grace to exhort others to do the same. So much respect for you. Stay healthy & happy xxx

    Comment by LS - September 23, 2014 8:23 pm

  4. Dear LS, thank you for writing your valuable comment here!
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    First of all, thank you for telling me about your ordeal. You must be so relieved that you’ve got the all-clear! I’m so happy for you! ^^ Y’know what, I pay monthly toward a health insurance, & so I managed to do all my tests in a private for ‘free’, and didn’t have to wait at all. (When I say free, ofcourse it isn’t really, as I’m paying quite a fair bit for the membership, but it kind of feels like that, if you know what I mean!) – I just thought I’d let you know, because I recommend it. I found the whole experience a lot easier to deal with as I was seen by a doctor almost straight away (and had the results within 10 minutes of the tests). I don’t think this scaredy-cat heart of mine would’ve endured through the anxiety of waiting. I’m not that strong…
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    And by the way, about the numbers with colour coding:
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    – the numbers I think are weight in gram.
    – Food can be subdivided into colour categories:
    – – YELLOW is grains, starch, fat products like butter & oil, sugar. These have sugars & become energy power & body temperature.
    – – RED is animal, fish, egg, pulse, dairy, seaweed. These contain a lot of protein & become your blood & meat. It will help you grow.
    – – GREEN is vegetables, fruit. These contain vitamin, mineral & fibre. It will maintain your wellbeing.
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    I guess the menu was indicating that it has considered & included all three colours in to the lucky Japanese child’s meal!
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    T xx

    Comment by tamami - September 23, 2014 9:31 pm

  5. And oh, by the way, their dinner-money is pretty much the same as here. Around £2.30 a day. – Shocking don’t you think? I know which one I’d rather have!
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    Also, in Japanese schools, children have an active part – they in turns have to be a dinner-staff for their own class, ladling food in to classmate’s plates. Here’s an excerpt from the Kikoman website:
    “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 lunches for their students. These meals, paid for by monthly school lunch fees, are prepared in kitchens within the school or at school-lunch centers serving several schools. 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.

    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.

    Students also learn about how we get our food: the fishing and farming industries are introduced, as well as food production, processing and marketing.”
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    Comment by tamami - September 23, 2014 10:24 pm

  6. Dear Tamami,
    Thank you very much for these good news and kind message for your readers. Hope everything is going to be all right for you, you’ve been meaning so much to us for so many years!! Take good care of you and your family…

    Comment by Caroline - September 24, 2014 7:48 am

  7. Dear Caroline, thank you very much for your kind message!!!!! Readers like yourself mean a lot to me, so it only felt right to be honest & share this. – I hope things are going well for you too!!!!! Have a wonderful day! T xx

    Comment by Tamami - September 24, 2014 8:15 am

  8. How interesting to read about the school meals system in Japan, I was astonished to read how much information is given to parents there. I wonder if our government is aware of this and if anything along the same lines would ever be introduced here, somehow I doubt it.
    I am so relieved that your little scare was not anything serious, I can guess how you must have felt. We are going through something like it at the moment, my husband is having treatment but I must praise our NHS , no time has been wasted in getting him all the right treatment as soon as he needed it.

    Comment by Jeannette - September 27, 2014 8:07 am

  9. Hello Jeannette!
    Yes, wouldn’t it be wonderful if UK schools put more importance in meals like they do in Japan? :) It could start with something simple like printing out menus every week. (Surely not a huge ask?) And ultimately stop the use of processed foods completely I guess. Cooking from scratch on site would be amazing, compared to asking outside caterers (who are for-profit I understand?) to deliver.

    Just last week I had the opportunity to observe the canteen during lunchtime – that particular day, it was pizza slices (tomato & cheese), salad & chocolate cake. My son says there is normally an assistant teacher per long dining table to look over the children to see if they eat properly, and that they prompt the children to try the salad bar. – The processed pizza and cake combination was a far cry from the nutritionally balanced Japanese menu of “summer vegetables & marinated chicken, egg & tomato soup, rice, milk.” from above article, it was so painful to compare.

    About your husband, I understand so well what you & your husband must be going through… Dealing with big illness can be tremendously difficult, don’t you think? Like how it could be mentally draining & how it disrupts the everyday living that we thought was going by quite normally. – I must say, one thing I’m really impressed with about UK is that there is a publicly funded healthcare like the NHS. In many other countries, it isn’t free. For example, in Japan, the patients have to pay 30% of medical costs!

    Take good care! :)
    T xx

    Comment by Tamami - September 28, 2014 4:35 pm

  10. In the U.S. school lunches are big money for corporations. They prefer to maximize profit, which is one reason why you won’t ever be seeing Japanese-style menus anytime soon. One school system classified ketchup as a vegetable. I hope the Dr. gave you meds to take care of the infection. Glad it wasn’t anything too serious. I need to get my mammo in Nov., will be getting flu shot in Oct. Trying to get a ‘body scan’ (to check moles/potential skin cancer from sun exposure..yea, when you’re in your 50s things do pop up.

    Comment by jonquil - September 28, 2014 11:00 pm

  11. Hello Jonquil!
    I suppose when money’s involved, the priorities/ the target shifts toward other things (like keeping the fat cats happy!) than to feed the children properly… A real shame. And when those cats (with only their own interests) are on the board to make decisions, it’s a double shame.
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    Great that you are on top of keeping check on your health with those tests!
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    Happy eating & happy health to you,
    T x

    Comment by tamami - September 29, 2014 8:32 am

  12. […] What kids’ school menus look like in […]

    Pingback by September Favorites - Chocolate & Zucchini - September 29, 2014 2:20 pm

  13. Hi Clotilde!!!! :) :) :)
    Many many thanks for the link!!!! ^^
    T xoxo

    Comment by Tamami - September 29, 2014 2:43 pm

  14. Hello Tamami, thank you for the detailed explanation of the colour coding, tips about private healthcare (something I have always been tempted to look into – I applaud the NHS principle but I also think a system that is under-financed/over-subscribed will benefit from having people who can afford to pay, paying for their own healthcare… while still contributing to the NHS via their taxes!) and also, for the excerpt from the Kikkoman website. It demonstrates a holistic approach to nutrition – from the big corporations to schools to the children serving each other and learning about the producers, farmers… and then bringing that home.

    I can’t stop thinking about the Japanese weekly menus – my children go to a small local nursery where we have a very active parent’s committee of which I am a member of. I am thinking of sharing with them these menus, potentially looking into implementing our own versions (we already have a parent who volunteered with nutritional planning, and there is a lovely Trinidadian chef who does all the Nursery’s meals in-house, no salt or refined sugar at all); do I have your permission, and will it be possible to obtain larger resolution photos? I hope you can help! Hope to hear from you soon again. In anticipation xx

    Comment by LS - September 29, 2014 8:19 pm

  15. Hello LS!
    I think you’re fantastic to look into changing your children’s school meals for the better!! I’ll email you the higher resolution later tonight! I’m so happy to hear that this little article could help in any way! :)

    I think…, when it comes to feeding & educating our children, parents need to be active to push for better – nothing comes out of moaning & complaining from the back seat, right? Until you try, you never know! ^^

    T xx

    Comment by Tamami - September 29, 2014 8:58 pm

  16. Hi! I have followed Coco&Me for a while now and LOVE your blog! This post on school lunches in Japan intrigues me. Such useful information! Lucky kids!

    Would you give me permission to do a blog post at http://yummymontana.blogspot.com about this blog post? I would like to use one photo, too, perhaps the close-up of the vegetables, if possible.

    I am hoping such a post on my blog will encourage people here in Montana to do something similar for schoolchildren. Also, I hope it will show my readers what a terrific blog you have!

    Comment by Mary Rose - September 30, 2014 12:33 pm

  17. Hello Mary Rose!!!!!
    Thank you very much for thinking of doing a post on your blog! Yes Please!! :) And ofcourse you can use the images – if you want to, you can use all six! ^^
    It’s truly fantastic of you to try encourage your Montana readers to do similar. Sometimes, it’s only when one realises the others are doing better that a change for the better can be brought on. If Japan can do it, it’s not impossible for other countries to deliver a similar standard, no?
    Best Wishes,
    Tamami xx (ps: thank you for asking for the usage!)

    Comment by tamami - October 1, 2014 8:23 am

  18. Dear Tamami,

    This was a brilliant post yet again about the wonders of Japan. I am so impressed. In India, we can’t even imagine getting a food menu of school meals, much less a detailed one like this. Most schools here don’t even provide the option of meals, children have to take packed lunches.

    On a different note, I am so so glad you are ok. Lumps are the scariest. I hope the infection has healed now. Even I had a health scare recently and I can’t tell you the tension and agony I went through while waiting. On the day the results were due, I couldn’t even gather the courage to go to the hospital, I sent my husband instead to collect the reports. Silly, I know, but I was so scared not just for myself but for my family too. And having access to so much information (read scare-mongering) on the internet really doesn’t help during such times, does it? Anyway, I am glad to say I am ok too and that’s why this post struck a particular chord with me. We take our health too much for granted and worry about silly things but without health, everything else is useless really.

    While I am ashamed to say that I have not really made much of an effort to take better care of my health since then, your post has really encouraged me to start doing it. It reminded me of the feelings I had at that time and my promises to myself. I am going to really try very hard now and I hope you will continue your good efforts too. Thanks so much for this post.

    Love
    Poornima

    Comment by Poornima - October 11, 2014 9:45 am

  19. Oh, by the way, I also wanted to mention that patients in Japan are relatively lucky that they have to pay only 30% of the cost. In India, we have to pay 100% of the cost, here the government hospitals are so poor that the only real option is to go private and the more money you spend, the better quality of care you receive. I think I am so lucky that I can at least afford it. It is so sad that so many people don’t even have access to basic healthcare :(:(.

    Comment by Poornima - October 11, 2014 9:52 am

  20. Hello Poornima!!
    Sorry for the delay in replying…!! As you know, I work on Saturdays & by the time I come home, I always feel so knackered!! Yesterday at the market was very good though, sold all bar one slice, which I made Mr.D buy, so that I can pretend that I’ve ‘sold out’. Lol! :) It’s all about the mindset y’see, makes a huge difference…!
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    Talking about lunches in India, I saw a movie called ‘The lunchbox’ in the aeroplane back. Really good & I recommend it if you’ve not seen it yet. By the end, I was lusting after those tiffin carriers. (A lady sells beautiful ones down at the market, so I might get it!) I was also intrigued by the dabbawala delivering home cooked meals. I suppose people in India place importance & pride on eating home-cooking by your wife than buying lunches in shops? – Here in England, majority of office workers purchase their meals outside.
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    Sorry to hear about your scare. I totally understand the anxiety of waiting for the results. I’m glad to hear that you’re fine. This reminds me of how precariously balanced our lives are on good health. – just like you say, everything else becomes useless. – And like you say, events such as this is an opportunity to review yourself and set promises. Ever since, I’ve been jogging, only once a week on a Sunday morning, my son cycles alongside & together we go to the woods. It’s really beautiful to run there, amongst the myriad of greens. We see squirrels, birds like parakeets. It’s also a special alone time with my son. – This week I also managed to include a DVD fitness session too, so am really chuffed! :)
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    T xx

    Comment by Tamami - October 12, 2014 9:01 pm

  21. It’s in reality a great and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Jaquelyn Scarrow - December 9, 2016 5:54 am

  22. Thank you so much for your kind comment Jaquelyn!!!! :-) x

    Comment by tamami - December 13, 2016 11:34 am

 

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