Food · School Lunch

Life of an ALT: What I Eat In A Week

For a week, I decided to take a picture of (almost) everything I ate!

As I mentioned from my daily routine post back in 2019, I have quite a busy schedule – this has actually increased over the past 18 months – so I prefer quick meals that take little-to-no preparation after work, or I stop at the conbini on my way home.

It is of course more cost-effective to cook more, however this currently suits my lifestyle in Japan.

As I’ve previously mentioned, living a short walk to the downtown area I enjoy eating out at the weekend – but as we all ride Japan’s fourth wave of the ‘rona, I’m still trying to stay home as much as possible and have been ordering in instead.

Also notably, 99% of the time I don’t eat breakfast during weekdays.
I know this is really bad and breakfast is so important, but when I have a 5:30am alarm I’d prefer to trade this in for an extra half an hour in bed.

I usually just have a cup of drip coffee with soy milk, then drink a huge flask of English Breakfast tea in between classes at the school.

I also opt-in for school lunch – it’s usually pretty great and is very reasonable at only ¥270 (around £1.75). You can see my posts about Japanese school lunch here.

So here we go…


Coffee with soy milk.

Soup with veggies and pasta shells, currypan and a custard pudding. (¥270)

Mondays are really stressful at work so I stopped at the conbini on my way home.
Pasta salad with proscuitto, tomatoes and cheese (¥496), karragebo (¥180), rice in tofu (¥213) and kimchi (¥110).

Two kiwi fruits. (Discounted from the supermarket ¥100)


Coffee with milk.

Soup with veggies and bean sprouts, two spring rolls and minted pickles. (¥270)
(We also had rice but I took mine home as I don’t like to eat a lot of carbs if I have afternoon classes as it brings my energy down.)

Aubergines and mushrooms in a sticky Korean-style sauce, the rice from school lunch, miso soup with tofu and the rest of the kimchi.

Discounted fruit salad from the supermarket. (¥250)

Cheese puffs. (¥180)


Coffee with milk and a potato croquette (¥120) as I waited at the bus stop.

Creamy soup with mushrooms and pasta, chicken karaage, bread with chocolate sauce. (¥270)

Spaghetti with mentaigo (cod roe) sauce

Daim bar (thanks, mam!)



Coffee with soy milk.

Creamy soup with pasta and sweetcorn, fried fish, cabbage. (There was also bread but I didn’t eat it) (¥270)

I went to KappaSushi for dinner. 7 plates of sushi and a beer. (¥1300)

Cornetto-like ice cream. (Multipack – 5 for ¥350)


English breakfast tea with soy milk.

Special bento for the school sports day. (¥800)

Cheese and ham baguette sandwich (¥300) and pizza crisps (¥130).

Coconut Pocky. (¥150)

Vanilla mochi ice cream. (¥200)


Coffee with soy milk, greek-style yoghurt with granola and honey.

Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake made with cabbage), the rest of the mushrooms and fried aubergine.

I ordered a personal-size Dominos pizza and potato wedges. (¥1600)

Another Daim bar! (Thanks again, mam!)


I ordered a McDonalds breakfast – sausage egg McMuffin, two hashbrows and an iced latte. (¥960)

Japanese-style curry (¥250, but I already had the sauce in my cupboard) and rice with the rest of the edamame.

None. I wasn’t hungry for dinner as my breakfast and lunch were pretty heavy so I just snacked in the evening…

Cheese crisps (¥120), Black Thunder chocolate (my favourite Japanese chocolate!!) (¥100)

I actually enjoyed doing this and want to do something similar in the future!

~ Carla

music · School Lunch

Life of an ALT: Lunchtime Jams

Me and Haruna covering for the lunch announcers who were on a school trip.

Schools in Japan have monitors in the top set whose job it is to do lunch announcements and blast some music while everyone is setting up. (Japanese school children serve lunches themselves.)

While at my junior high school this tends to be the big pop song at the moment, something from TikTok or off-season belters.

However in my elementary school, the same songs are played nearly every day, and I think they’re going to make me feel all fuzzy and nostalgic when I’m back in the UK.

So here they all are, for your listening pleasure!

Takumi by Suguru Matsutani.

To Love You More by Taro Hakase

Sanpo by Reiko Nakagawa (from My Neighbor Totoro)

Paprika by Foorin:

I first wrote about this frigging song over a year ago. It’s still popular.

Courage Dance by The Chorus ’13.

This catchy and adorable children’s choir song from 2013 is having a second wave of popularity in Japanese schools as a rousing ganbarou message in the times of covid.

The chorus is literally: 元気、勇気、ちから (“genki, yūki, chika-ra”“energy, courage, power”). Aw.

The theme tune from ‘Play Your Cards Right.’

There’s a short three question quiz during lunch and to announce it, they blast the theme tune from Play Your Cards Right. The show never came to Japan and it’s probably used for something else here, but it makes me think I’m missing a trick by not beginning my classes with “It’s nice to see you, to see you…NICE!” (RIP, Brucey)

They usually play the school song too, which is really cute at my elementary school.
Of course can’t post that here for obvious reasons but it also has a lovely message of camaraderie and being proud of the school’s local area. It’s a bop!

~ Carla

Food · School · School Lunch

Life of an ALT: Kyushoku (Japanese School Lunch Part 2)

Since my previous post about kyushoku (Japanese school lunch) is one of the most popular on this blog, I thought I’d make a part two.

It’s the end of term, and as the students no longer have to come to school until the end of Spring Break due to the government trying to contain the spread of the coronavirus – teachers now have to bring our own lunch in every day. (I’m currently working from home.)

So I figured it’s as good a time as any to reflect on some of the lunches I’ve had since my last post.

As before, meals always come with a carb – usually rice, but sometimes noodles or bread. I find it difficult to eat rice every day, so I often forgo this – but you can see it in some of these photos.

Fridays at my school is also bring-your-own-rice day, but I’m lazy and usually forget anyway!

Fish patty, cheese slice, bread bun (kinda like a Fillet O’ Fish), cabbage, pudding, stew.
Chicken and vegetable soup, teriyaki salmon, fried potatoes and an orange.
Vegetable soup, bread slices, fried aubergine and half a banana.
(I always wish they’d give us some butter or spread for the bread!)
Mushroom and tofu soup, beef in black bean sauce, greens and cherry tomatoes.
Egg drop soup, dried fish and noodles.
(Not going to lie – this one was a struggle!)
Noodle soup, chicken tonkatsu, cabbage and grape jelly.
Curry and rice, pickled cucumbers and pudding.
Tofu soup, root vegetables and natto.
(I gifted the natto to my tanto. Bleurgh!)
Tofu scramble, shishamo and cabbage,
Cream of mushroom soup, cabbage and hot dogs, hot dog bun and fruit salad.
Chicken and konnyaku soup, fried teriyaki fish, bean sprouts and pudding. 
Oden, bonito flakes, gohei mochi and bean sprouts.
Gohei Mochi is a traditional rice cake with a sweet miso paste. The reason it’s on a stick is because in the olden days people working in the mountains used to ate them this way! They are also made to thank the gods after harvest in Autumn
It was absolutely DELICIOUS and I remember the students and teachers alike being very hype about this school lunch!
Egg drop soup, sweet and sour chicken and a milk pudding.
Vegetable soup, shishamo, daikon salad and a mikan orange.
Vegetable soup, croquette and cabbage.
Egg drop soup, fried fish, daikon and a mikan orange.
Vegetable soup, tofu with noodles, Japanese sweet potatoes and an orange.
Sweetcorn soup, burger and fries
Will I ever tired of wholesome Japanese soups? Nope!
Curry and rice, sauteed greens and half an orange
Vegetable soup, salad and a tempura prawn.

And as a bonus – the special Japanese New Years themed lunch box we got at the start of the school year. MAN, this was delicious:

Prawn and vegetable tempura.
Teriyaki fish, rolled omelette, fish cake, egg salad, a plum (I think)
White rice.
Tuna sashimi.

Honestly, I’ve had worse bentos in Japanese restaurants back home!

Let me know what you think. I know kyushoku is very different to the school lunches I remember in the UK. How about from your country?

~ Carla

Food · School · School Lunch

Life of an ALT: Kyushoku (Japanese School Lunch)

I love Japanese food, and am not a particularly fussy eater (quelle surprise!)– but even so I found myself a little apprehensive when I signed up for ‘kyushoku’ – Japanese school lunches.
But so far I’ve been really pleasantly surprised. 

It tends to follow the same formula every day: soup, a carb (usually white rice but sometimes noodles or bread), some vegetables, meat or fish, a dessert and a carton of milk. 

It’s very affordable, especially for an ALT on a budget – it costs me around ¥360 or £3 per day, and it’s MUCH better than a Gregg’s meal deal. (I’m never going to be allowed back into Newcastle now after saying that, whoops).
And I even get a little discount because I don’t have the milk.

What’s really impressive though is that the kids serve the food themselves.

They dress up in little hygiene get-ups and face mask and haul heavy pans and trays from the kitchen to their classroom. (A little girl even did it one-handed yesterday when she stopped to wave at me).
I’d watched videos of the bairns serving kyoshoku before, but honestly seeing it in the flesh for the first time – my mouth was actually hanging open. 

It teaches the kids many things – responsibility, health, nutrition, cleanliness, social skills, teamwork etc. The students also learn where their food comes from.
I didn’t exactly experience such morality lessons during my school lunches in the UK with my cheese sandwich and packet of Skips. 

In my elementary school I have to eat with the kids from the previous class I’ve been teaching, which is fine however when I try to get them to speak, I get stared at like I have three heads.
They particularly enjoy watching me fumble with my chopsticks, especially when it’s something a bit fiddly like picking the bones out of fish – so it can be a bit disconcerting to have 30-plus pairs of eyes on you when you’re trying to eat in peace.

Also in elementary school, nobody is allowed to eat until everyone is seated, ready and there is a deafening cry of “ITADAKIMASUUUU”.
Which is nice, but I’m always served first and by the time the bairns have finished fannying on and everyone has sat down – my food is usually lukewarm at best.

Thankfully at my junior high school, I just eat in the teacher’s lounge sitting beside my favourite JTE. No prying eyes and I can have a blissful hour’s chill. 

So far it’s been a MOSTLY winning streak of food – but saying that I haven’t had to have natto yet.

Which is pretty good going, especially because you are expected to finish every single morsel on your plate.
As for me – there are some days where I simply can’t face white rice again, so I’m allowed to politely decline it on my plate. It’s when the food is served and on your plate you’re expected to eat it.
You’ll see the rice is mostly missing from the photos below, but that’s also because it’s served in a separate container and I simply forget to show it with the other food!
(Which is why some of the meals look a little stingy – it’s my bad!)

(Sorry if TMI but in my fourth week of living in Japan my stomach was so bloated with all the rice, I didn’t have it for a whole week with my kyoshoku.
One of the homeroom teachers noticed and said she was worried that I wasn’t enjoying my school lunches – but I just explained about my poor bowels. The lucky woman.)

However my junior high school is very relaxed, and my JTE told me on my first day that I don’t have to eat it all for whatever reason. I haven’t had to leave anything yet, though!

The following photos are mostly from my junior high school as I’m not allowed to get my phone out in front of the kiddiwinks, obviously. 

And now – for the only lunch I haven’t enjoyed yet:

Also just in case you missed this from my last post, this was the special o-bento lunch we ordered for the Sports Festival.
This was a little more expensive, around ¥850, but it was pretty good!

Before I came to Japan I enjoyed watching this mini feature about the history of kyushoku from NHK, it’s nice and short and I do recommend giving it a watch:

– Carla