What’s lunch break like for a typical Filipino grade school student? There's that glorious sound of the bell to signal lunch time, for starters. If you’re from a Catholic school, everybody stands up to say grace, after which murmur would ensue to chaos as everybody gets an hour of freedom from having to sit down for lectures. Students either sit inside their classroom to eat their packed lunch or head out to the school canteen where they buy their food.
For a typical grade school student in Japan though, lunch break is a little different. One elementary school in the city of Saitama in particular turns lunch into an “educational period, same as math or reading.”
Early on, Japanese students are exposed to the importance of responsibility, independence and community through real-life skills being applied and implemented in the classroom. The video below, viewed nearly 500,000 times, gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to have lunch in a typical Japanese elementary school.
Lunch comes and the students start rearranging their desks however they please. Most face each other and are clustered in groups. Everyone then puts on aprons and masks. Assigned students on lunch duty go down to the school kitchen and fetch pots and pans of food to bring up to their classrooms. They thank the cooks, saying “Itadakimasu!” in unison, which roughly translates to “I humbly receive.”
They serve each other, handing out bowls of soup and plates of mashed potato and fried fish. Present is the usual high energy cheerfulness of grade school students having lunch. One boy wins a rock-paper-scissors battle for the last piece of fish. He pumps his fists in the air and jumps around, celebrating his victory.
Everyone brushes his teeth afterwards. The empty milk packs are opened up and washed, and in a day they’ll be dry and ready for recycling. The stacked piles of dirty dishes are brought back down to the kitchen by the lunch duty students.
After lunch is cleaning time. Students pick up brooms and rags. They clean the hallways, the stairs, the bathroom, the gym and the teachers’ lounge. In this institution, they school not only the students' minds -- they train their bodies as well.
In Japan, everyone has to take ownership. They have this idea of “group reliance”, according to cultural anthropologist Dwayne Dixon, where every member of society can be relied upon to help the community, especially during emergencies or times of distress.
That’s why they also let their children ride the trains and subways alone. Learn more about that on Fatherly.com.
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Don’t you wish our elementary school lunches were like this as well?
Source: Sept. 30, 2015. "Why Japanese Parents Let Their Kids Ride The Subway Alone". fatherly.com