Salameshi, a TV program about working peoples' lunches on NHK

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NHK, the national broadcaster here in Japan, has a new late-night weekly series called Salameshi (サラメシ). Sala is for “salaryman” (or woman), a wage-earner in other words, and “meshi” is an informal/slightly rude way to call a meal. (If you’re trying to be polite in Japanese, use “gohan” or even more politely, “oshokuji” to mean ‘meal’ instead.) The “sala” part is a pun too, since “sala” or “sara” can also mean plate. (Plate lunch, get it?) Anyway, the show is a light hearted look at working lunches, from all walks of life.

The variety of lunches eaten by people from all works of life is fascinating. There’s the marine biologist who is invited by a local fisherman to eat a sort of miso stew of anything caught that day that’s not sellable; the cruise ship captain who limits himself to tiny portions at lunch since he’s obligated to eat full course meals with his passengers every evening; the elementary school principal who has to eat the same school lunch the kids eat, and who has trouble maintaining his weight because it’s so high calorie; the race car driver who eats sumo-wrestler sized portions but still has trouble maintaining his weight. So far, the most boring lunch is the one a MetLife blimp pilot eats (a sandwich) - though we did learn how he uses a PET bottle to relieve himself. :o They have bits of interesting lunch related trivia, such as the fact that the standard price for a fullsized takeout bento in Nagoya is only 350 yen (about US $4.30). Every week, there’s also a nostalgic look at a lunch that was enjoyed by a famous person, now deceased, such as the unajuu (grilled and steamed eel on a bed of rice) enjoyed frequently by Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda Motor Corp. They even give a shoutout to bloggers. On last week’s show they featured Mihoko Nishi, the blogger behind Ginza Lunchblog, who’s been diligently chronicling the bargain lunches she’s sought out in this expensive area of Tokyo for 6 years - surely one of the longest running lunch blogs? And there’s lots more. Who knew that working lunches could be so interesting? The Food Network should definitely borrow this idea.

Bentos feature prominently on the series of course, and almost every week there’s at least one bento, usually sought out and photographed by Ryo Abe, co-author (with his wife; she’s the writer, he’s the photographer) of Obentou no Jikan (Bento Time). To someone who has never seen a ‘real’ bento (one that a regular person brings to work or school) and thinks all bentos look as picture perfect as the ones you see on most bento blogs. If that’s you, it may be comforting to see the bentos been eaten by regular Japanese adults. They’re usually pretty basic; rice, some kind of fish or meat, some vegetable, often a piece of tamagoyaki (rolled omelette). Some bentos are even simpler - a Tupperware container with rice, another container with leftover curry, popped into the microwave.

The reasons for making lunch are varied to, and surprisingly perhaps the men have more interesting reasons than the women. (Women just seem to make bentos as a matter of course.) One salaryman in his 30s recently got re-married - to his former wife. They’d split up partly due to the fact that he never helped out around the house with any chores. This time around he’s making up for that - and part of that is making both their bentos every morning. Every day, he waits for a text message from her, letting him know if the bento was good or not. Or there’s the middle aged engineer who is a tanshin funin - a salaryman living alone away from his family due to a work assignment - who makes precisely the same bento every day. One tier of his two-tier bento is always filled with salad. The other tier is half filled with rice; the other half always has a piece of grilled fish, a piece of tamagoyaki, and some pickles or other vegetable. Everything is arranged with neatness and precision.

If you’re in Japan, Salameshi is on NHK Sogo (or NHK 1) every Saturday evening at 11:30PM. I do hope that the international Japanese TV broadcasting services like TV Japan in the U.S. and JSTV in Europe will pick this show up - it’s a fascinating look at everyday working Japanese people, via their lunches. Here is the official Salameshi web site (Japanese only).

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7 comments

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Re: Salameshi, a TV program about working peoples' lunches ...

Maki san,

In the San Francisco Bay Area we are fortunate to get NHK, english version, on cable.
I watch "Cool Japan" every Saturday.
Of course the recent double catastrophes were covered in a far more accurate and less sensational way than US tv.

My one huge complaint, about Japanese programming, is the actors they employ to do the English translations on these shows
"Iron Chef" is probably the worst!

The mens voices are all poor imitations of an English Mifune growl, the women's (usually only defined as actress) are all stupid, vacuous little girls with not a thought in their heads.
Not sure if it's to pander to Japanese tastes or if it is what Japanese think gaijin expect.

"Cool Japan" has a selection of foreign young people, living in Japan, who are sent on various assignments to comment on Japanese 'peculiarities' and determine if they are cool or not.
They all speak English, except the host and hostess (he's Japanese she is, I think, German)
When they are discussing the subject in English, the Japanese audio can be heard in the background. The same stereotypical speech is applied to English translated into Japanese, as well as to the hosts being translated into English. In point of fact, in English, the women sound far more thoughtful and intelligent than the men!

These shows are all interesting but the translations do start to annoy after a while.

I trust all your family and friends, in Japan, will emerge from their hardships, safely and intact.

Would combining your two web pages reduce your workload?
There aren't too many food sites that are as informative and grounded as yours, thank you!

David Morton

Re: Salameshi, a TV program about working peoples' lunches ...

Yeah I hate the voiceover actors too. But then, most voiceovers suck ^_^ I don't watch Cool Japan, and one reason is the horrible voiceovers. I don't think the type of voice is applied only to non-Japanese voices either, if you check out anime they all have the same type of voice for each 'type' - little girl voice for women, etc.

Re: Salameshi, a TV program about working peoples' lunches ...

Hi,
Last night I watched another re-run of Iron Chef.
It was between Katsuyo Kobayashi and, she told Kaga should didn't care which IC she competed with so he should choose, it was Chen Kinichi. Michiba, as demonstrated on various other episodes, seems to be the stereotypical misogynist, so I guess Kaga steered clear of him!
Of course, the 'actress' sounded vapour headed but amazingly Kobayashi san sounded just like how a normal Japanese woman would speak English.
She 'cooked' normal food, with normal ingredients (two of which I a vegetarian shall try) finished way ahead of time even taking time to visit Chen and tell him to be careful, one of his ingredients was turning color.
Then she won!
Even Chen looked happy (apparently IC has had two woman chefs and now they have both beaten Chen.) which didn't seem to phase him.

So, I guess there is still hope even if it is for women of a certain age.

Take care.

Re: Salameshi, a TV program about working peoples' lunches ...

Thanks for posting this! This seems really interesting! I think I'll try to catch it tomorrow night in the lobby at my college here in Akita. Hopefully no one's watching a movie at the time!

Re: Salameshi, a TV program about working peoples' lunches ...

Hi there!

I liked this review, though I live on the East Coast of the US and we don't normally get programming like this. But I'm traveling for a competition (I'm an athlete on the US National Team) and, since the competition is in a tourist area that gets quite a few Japanese tourists, and I happened to find a Japanese NHK channel on the television and I think I found this show! The episode (at least how I understood it, as I speak/read almost no Japanese at all) was just how you described it.

Thought that was neat and that I'd share. (:

Re: Salameshi, a TV program about working peoples' lunches ...

Love the workingman version of bento - looks a lot like the lunches I bring, though mine are not necessarily based on Japanese dishes. I know you also had the post on the beautiful bento boxes, which I would love to have, but are not really in the budget right now. I don't know who of your readers has Aldi grocery stores nearby, but in the US this week they are featuring a plastic (think Tupperware) lunch box and salad box. Both boxes have freezable ice packs in them which click into the lids. The salad box has a built in salad dressing holder. Large capacity on both, more than enough for hearty eaters. (Brought a Singapore noodle dish today, less than halfull, and I am stuffed!) And you cannot beat the price - $5 USD.

Re: Salameshi, a TV program about working peoples' lunches ...

I recently noticed that NHK World started airing a program called Lunch ON!:

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/tv/lunchon/index.html

The graphic with six little images within it is the same on the Lunch ON! site and the Salameshi site so I'm pretty sure NHK World is finally airing Salameshi for the world to see. I'm really excited to catch the next airing!

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