Eating in Japan....Part
I know you're all looking
forward to this adventure. Its really nothing like
you'd get at a Japanese restaurant at home. Except maybe the sushi. There's
of that. Basically anything that crawls, swims, squirts or slithers around in
the sea is fair game
for food. I hope you like seafood. There is plenty for the
though. For example, rice, noodles, taco pizza.
Okay, its not that bad,
there is really a lot of variety in the food available here,
it just takes a little adjusting. Many of us lose weight when we come here,
am sure there are also those who gain weight. This is particularly easy
if you live down
the street from a 24 hr. 7-11 that stocks French pastries and custards. mmmm.....
If you don't want to be
living off the rice balls and chocolate bars from 7-11,
I suggest braving the
grocery store early on and experimenting. Luckily, vegetables
pretty popular and fairly cheap, so although there may be some fairly
they provide some safe territory. I was nice enough to include
a list of some common
items you'll run into.
Japanese cooking also uses a lot of sauces, so
its easy to just cook up some veggies,
add some sauce and rice and get a good meal.
Junior High ALT's,
however, will get the extra experience of
Actually, I like school
lunches. They are much better than anything we
ever got in school.
But its usually chock full of
seaweeds and fried fish paste,
which can take a little getting used to. It may also be a little
rough on the first
day, to sit down to the mystery sea salad
with several fellow teachers waiting
that first bite to see if you can use chopsticks. My theory is, if they haven't
died from it,
then I can probably handle it. I compromise and eat anything that
isn't an animal,
regardless of sliminess, but I don't eat shrimp. You
that you are expected to eat
everything on your tray, because the kids have to.
Luckily, we are not kids, and we can eat
what we want. As long as your willing to
don't feel bad if you really don't like
it. Just leave it aside. I see
teachers all the time who
pick their food apart and leave
If you have an allergy to
some common food, its probably a good idea to write it
down and tell someone. Find out if its served frequently in the lunches. You
have to opt to bring your own lunch, which many people do. They do make school
menus, so you
can ask for a translation if necessary so you know what's being served.
There is a dietitian
at school who plans the lunches, and keeps track of what days
you'll be eating lunch. So
you don't necessarily have to bring lunch everyday.
You can probably work it out
ahead of time with
little trouble. If you only visit
occasionally, let the dietitian know what your dietary
she might just plan around you for those days. Become
(Some schools have
lunches brought in from a central location and may not have a dietitian.)
One thing about school
lunches is that, although they have fairly healthy ingredients,
they are frequently slathered in something fatty, like mayonnaise or cream sauce.
The portions are
reasonably small, so if your normal diet is okay, I wouldn't
about it. But if you have to worry about cholesterol I'd be careful. Milk, for
example, is always
served, and the fat
content is 3.5%. So, lactose intolerant people
should also be
careful. Most of the milk they
use is at least this high in fat,
anything made with milk is just as bad. I like it, I like it
a lot. But you might not.
If you like to drink milk at home, the stuff at the
grocery store is
I don't think they
have skim milk. Sorry.
If you are a vegetarian,
I am doubly sorry. If you are not entirely set in the
you might consider adjusting for seafood or other meat. If
there is no
choice, you should
plan on always bringing your lunch. They don't
frequently feature meat as
a main dish, but its
often mixed into stuff so you don't
notice it right away. This is also
true for other foods
too. Most dishes have an
average of twenty ingredients, so look closely
before you start
Japanese people feel that being vegetarian means you do eat seafood, so you
find yourself repeating yourself about not eating
something. If your schools
have a lot
of experience with ALT's, it won't be as big a deal. My predecessor
like seafood, so
the teachers weren't shocked at all to see me picking out
the little shrimps in my soup. It
may be a novelty for a while, but it will probably
wear off. This also goes for those who only eat kosher meat. It doesn't exist.
Ham is very popular and pork is often mixed into soups, or served in fried cutlets
(tonkatsu). It often looks and tastes
like chicken or even
beef. Pork is probably
the most popular of the land lubbing meats.
You'll also be going to a
lot of welcome parties, where everyone is ordering
everyone, and sampling from many small dishes. This is why its a good
to tell your supervisor in writing of any legitimate dietary restrictions
so they can let
Japanese people do like
to play this little game where they see how much weird
food they can get you to eat. I realized this one day when my JTE swore that
pickled plum was sweet, not sour like the other pickled plum I'd eaten. hmmm...
I recommend being open to trying anything at least once. Otherwise, you'll
end of it, they'll keep after you until you eat something gross
and put on
a show by gagging. So just get it over with quick, if you don't like it, make a face
diplomatically suggest its okay....but..., they'll usually get the point.
You may also find
you really like something.
You may be daunted at the prospect of so much seafood,
but its really much
what you'd get at home. If you just don't like the taste
of fish, you
should still try some. If you still don't like it, there's really no
harm done. Tuna is quite
popular, in steaks
and raw as sashimi. I couldn't eat
fish before without
choking, but now tuna sashimi is one of
my favorite foods.
telling yourself, 'I won't die, I won't die'.