Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a Japanese kindergarten

I usually write a food article with a recipe for the Japan Times once a month, but this month I have an extra article that appeared in today’s edition, in the Lifestyle section. It’s all about how bento lunch time is used at a Japanese kindergarten to teach kids all kinds of lessons. I also talk about the contents of the bentos themselves. Here’s the link to the article: The Best Kindergarten Lessons Are At Lunchtime.

Here’s a photo I really wanted to use but couldn’t because I wasn’t able to reach the parents to get their permission…so I’ve had to cut out their faces. It’s two of the kids eating their bentos. Absolutely adorable.

JT-yoshienbento1.jpg

The article shows a couple of the bentos the kids brought along. Just for fun, here’s the bento of one of the teachers. It’s a bit heavy on the carbs and protein…maybe some spinach or steamed broccoli or something instead of the clump of iceberg lettuce would be better ^_^; But I bet she was in a big hurry in the morning.

yochienbento-teachers.jpg

Incidentally, in the article I mention a little song about obento that the kids sing before diving into their bentos. If you can read hiragana, see if you can sing along to the melody here (warning: auto-playing music!). I vaguely remember singing it when I was in kindergarten in the 20th century, but my mother vividly remembers me singing it repeatedly until she wanted to put a bag on my head ^_^;

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Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

Interesting article! Just as an aside, as a (non-Japanese) teacher who takes a bento to school, I often find this education works ill against me when I take in a bento with fewer (but still carefully nutritionally balanced) items (e.g. combining my carbs and proteins into a pilaf or bake and adding raw/ steamed veggies as a side) - it's a bit annoying when you're surrounded by 6-year-olds telling you your lunch is unhealthy! :-P

Cool Article, but...

Pink and blue place settings? Wouldn't want to pass up a chance for gender segregation, eh? -.-

Re: Cool Article, but...

Hmm, I think you may be misreading things there. The kids have bento boxes from home, of all colors. Some of the girls have pink boxes (but not all), and the boys have yellow or blue etc. (from what I can see in the pic). The cloths under the boxes are not placemats - they are little furoshiki basically, used for wrapping the boxes to transport them, then as placemats or little table cloths when eating. Again, I see all kinds of colors there. There's no gender-segregation going on that I can see.

Just mentioned your Japan Times piece in my 'Tokyo Thursdays'

Makiko

I was looking for something lighter (happier) than the recent news on Japan and found your article to be perfect for that.
I mentioned it in Japanese Kindergarten Parents Get their Bento Box Skills Going with Start of School Year on 'Serge the Concierge' for my weekly 'Tokyo Thursdays'.

Take care
Serge
Twitter: @theconcierge
Facebook: sergetheconcierge

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

Could you provide a translation of the little song? I'm quite curious what the kids are learning.

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

There is a translation of the first verse of the song in the article.

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

"Pink and blue place settings? Wouldn't want to pass up a chance for gender segregation, eh? -.-"

The bento boxes are supplied by the parents, and if they want to go pink/blue you can't stop them. Nothing to do with the kindergarten. It is fascinating how little girls love pink though, even at a very young age. It would take a strong willed mother to refuse to supply at least some pink to her daughters.

P.S., Maki - your "reply" and "quote" buttons on comments don't appear to be working. They just take you to a normal comment box at the bottom of the page.

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

Enjoyed the article and the insight into Japanese education.

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

Great article, thanks for posting it. :-)

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

I'm sorry but I don't see anything wrong with the kids place settings. Little girls like pink and boys like blue end of story. Not all the cloths which more than likely covered the bentos on the way to school where pink and blue. My 16 year old daughter who owns 7 different bento boxes 4 of them are pink. Not so much because she likes pink because she doesn't really but because of the stile and it only came in pink. My 18 year old son has 2 bento boxes one is blue the other black. So there you have it pink and blue. They both picked out the bento boxes that they have I had nothing to do with it other than to pay for them.

Maki that was a wonderful article! :)

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

Thanks for sharing such a cute and inspiring article. I love the idea of starting food education so young! We really need something like this in America. I know some schools/districts/states are working towards healthier lunches (sometimes) with locally based foods, but I'd love to see a nation-wide push like shokuiku. And, the education--at such a young age--is key to teaching kids to make & stick with these healthy choices.

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

Loved this post! :)

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

I loved your article. I would wish that in France, things would be similar. It sure would prevent a lot of eating troubles in the teenage ages if when little you are taught to eat properly.
It's funny how some school are more about maths, English and all, and won't focus on what you really need to know in life!

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

Curious. Why are they seated "at", rather than on, their chairs?

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

I believe it's so they can practice sitting properly, with legs folded under their bottoms - this posture is called 'seiza' which literally means 'proper sitting'.

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

Maybe because it is traditional in Japan to eat sitting on the floor at low tables? That's what I learned in primary school Social Studies many years ago anyway - I assume it's still true?

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

Not in all homes. More and more homes have dining tables and chairs these days.

What a neat concept..

I wish we had that in the states. I'm feel a little bit bad but happy at the same time for my little baby to be that has a Mom trying to get a degree in Nutrition. I think this is a great idea not only teaching kids about tradition but also teaching them about nutrition. If they are seeing these items every day and Mama is teaching them basically how to eat correctly they begin to create habits to eat healthy. It's really sad that a lot of schools are stopping this part of their everyday program. I think kids raised with those kids of values of enjoying what they are eating and made to actually take time out of their day to eat will be better off then the ones eating on the go and cramming for school to get into better ones. I wish we had the same thing here. I am not saying I don't want baby (which I'm pregnant with) to do well, but I want them to be raised well and learn traditions and appreciate food and what they have.

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

I found it a very interesting article. I teach in a Preschool/MDO in America. I eat with the children, so I try to bring healthy food. Lunch time is learning time and I tell the parents this at Open House before school begins. We eat our "growing food" before any candy or cookies or chips.

Re: Bento lunches and "shokuiku" (food education) at a ...

Really interesting given the initiatives around childhood hunger and obesity in the US. I work for a food company and we have a department that focuses on the nutrition education. I will be passing this article on. Thank you for your story!

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