How do school lunches work in Japan

The Japanese education system consists of elementary school (6 years), middle school (3 years), high school (3 years) and university (4 years). School attendance is only compulsory for the first nine years of elementary and middle school; however, 98.8% of all students also attend high school. Students usually take an exam to be accepted into high schools and universities.

Japanese children start primary school in April after their sixth birthday. A typical elementary school class has between thirty and forty children. The subjects taught are Japanese, math, science, social sciences, music, arts, sports, and home economics (learning the basics of cooking and sewing). More and more elementary schools have now started teaching English as well. Information technology is increasingly being used to promote education and most schools have access to the Internet.

Students are also taught traditional Japanese arts such as shodo (calligraphy) and haiku. Shodo is the writing of Kanji (Chinese characters) and Kana (phonetic transcription developed from Kanji) with brush and ink. Haiku are a form of poetry developed in Japan four hundred years ago, namely a short poem consisting of 17 syllables arranged in meters of five, seven and again five syllables. Haiku use simple metaphors to convey deep emotions to the reader.

In Japanese elementary schools, classes are divided into small groups for many activities. For example, the pupils have to clean the classrooms, halls and courtyards of their school in groups every day. In many elementary schools, students eat lunch, prepared by the school or a local school feeding center, together in their classrooms. Small groups of students take turns serving lunch to their classmates. The school lunch consists of varied and nutritious dishes, so that the students look forward to the lunch break.

During the year there are numerous school events such as sports festivals where the students compete with each other in competitions such as tug-of-war and relay races, excursions to historical sites and art and cultural festivals with dance and song performances by the children. Students in the upper grades of elementary, middle and high schools also go on multi-day trips to the old capitals of Kyoto and Nara or to winter sports resorts.

In most elementary and middle schools, students wear school uniforms. Boys usually wear trousers and jackets with a stand-up collar, while girls wear blazers and skirts.

Almost all students in secondary schools pursue extracurricular activities of their choice, but these are mostly organized by the schools themselves in study groups or by local clubs; they are active, for example, in sports teams, music or art groups or in a research group.

A member of the tennis club of a school

Baseball clubs are very popular with boys. Football clubs are also becoming increasingly important, partly because Japan hosted the 2002 World Cup alongside South Korea. The judo club, where children practice traditional martial arts, attracts both boys and girls. You may have been inspired by the numerous male and female Japanese judo athletes who have won medals at world championships and the Olympic Games. Other popular sports played in clubs include tennis, basketball, gymnastics, and volleyball. In every sport there are many competitions between the individual schools and also at regional level, so that the students have many opportunities to compare sports.

A music group practicing

Among the culturally oriented clubs, the Go circles in particular have recently become more popular. Go is a strategic board game played with black and white pieces. After a manga (comic) about the game was published, more and more students started playing Go. Other options for students are choirs or art groups. Brass bands, tea ceremony circles, and flower arrangements are also popular.

Go, a strategic board game with black and white pieces (AFLO)