Kyushoku, or elementary school lunch, is a cherished tradition that embodies values central to Japanese culture: gratitude, cooperation, courtesy, cleanliness, reverence for nature, and pride of place. Much more than a meal, it’s a critical learning period at the heart of the school day. You’ll find it depicted in loving detail in a wildly popular short film by today’s guest, Atsuko Quirk. Americans might take away many lessons from what they see there, she says. But the Japanese, as they confront need and hunger in a shifting socioeconomic landscape, have much to learn from us in turn.

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School lunch in Japan: It’s not just about eating, Atsuko Quirk film of kyushoku in Saitama, Japan (Vimeo)

Other films by Atsuko Quirk on Vimeo Website by Japan and East Asian specialist Agliano Sanborn (a work in progress that is already richly informational)

Related Inside School Food episodes:

“School lunch around the world: A 30-minute tour” (August 11, 2014)

“Sortin’ it out: Composting comes to NYC schools” (July 13, 2015)