Nihonjin are back at school!
The Japanese students started school this year on the 5th of April. So many new freshman are about! It’s kinda cool to see them all back since they’ve been on recess since February or something. You see…
JAPAN CULTURE LESSON
In Japan the school year starts in April, then there’s a one month-ish summer break. The school starts again in early September (around the same time we Western people start our academic year), and then they get another break for the winter. I want to say it’s around two weeks or so. Then they start school again and finish the academic year in March. Then there’s another break til school starts all over again in April.
However, just like school terms are shorter in college for Westerners, so they also are for the Japanese. The above model is kind of like a 3 semester system, which is actually kind of like some colleges in the States that have a very short and very fast paced winter semester. Anyways, in college for the Japanese, it’s a 2 semester system with the first semester starting in April, and the second in September. Thus, they end up with a really long break between academic years. February until April. It’s just like how our summer breaks get lengthened once we enter college, especially if you finish exams in April instead of early May. Oh yeah. Three and a half months of summer~.
Ok, so back to what I wanted to comment on: LUNCH.
On Kansai Gaidai’s Nakamiya campus, which is where international students take classes, there are 3 cafeterias, one convenience store, and a McDonald’s. During the normal Japanese academic year, all these places that sell food are open usually during the duration of all classes, so about 9 am til about 6 pm.
The thing is, all international students operate on the normal Western academic calendar, so sometimes when the Japanese students are on break, our classes are usually still in session, and vice versa. Another point is that there are like a bajillion Japanese students and anywhere between 300 to 500 international students per semester. Okay, okay. There aren’t a bajillion, but they number in the thousands according to my speaking partner, and so we’re definitely in the minority. Thus, I guess I’m not surprised that these sustenance access points (the lunchrooms, konbini, and Makku) shorten and restrict their hours when there are not as many people to feed. In the beginning of this spring semester, only two of the lunchrooms were open, and the konbini (Japanese shortened word for convenience store: コンビニエンスストア, konbiniensu sutoa –> コンビニ, konbini) and Makku (Japanese shortened word for McDonald’s: マックドナルド, Makkudonarudo –> マックド, Makkudo orマック, Makku) also reduce their open hours to something like opening at anywhere between 10 am and noon and then closing around 3pm to 4pm. The food choices and amounts also decrease at all these places.
The hours aren’t the only things that change though. The food changes, too…and not for the better. During the time period where both Japanese students and international students were both on break, the food quality decreased drastically in the cafeteria. Pre-cooked food was just re-heated instead of made fresh as per the usual, and the variety also decreased. Usually the variety includes noodles (ramen, udon, and soba, which you can add toppings to or can even come in a curry), donburi, which is a bowl of rice with meat on top (cooked egg, pork and egg, chicken and egg, tempura and egg), club lunch (cabbage salad, a couple pasta noodles with sauce, a meat covered with sauce, rice, and miso soup), curry (a sweet kin and a spicy kind, which you can add toppings to as well). and sometimes some other special dishes are offered.. Also, there are usually onigiri (rice balls with something inside), sandwiches, pastries of all kinds, fruit, pudding, a dessert or two, and ice cream. Man, let me tell you, when I first started eating at the cafeteria last semester, this was the life. Lunch was always delicious.
Anyways, when school resumed for the international students for the spring semester, there were still no Japanese classes in session, so the food quality improved somewhat. It was no longer pre-cooked, goopy ration-like food from the dark ages of middle school, but the variety didn’t return. There were always the main meals of noodles, donburi, club lunch, and curry, BUT the goodies never returned. Well, that’s a lie. There were a few days I could count on my fingers when I saw a few onigiri here and a pastry or two there, but those were rare during this four month period.
This made me feel a bit discriminated against. I’m not trying to say that Kansai Gaidai doesn’t feel like serving the same food during the normal Japanese academic year to the foreigners during the Japanese breaks because I understand that you wouldn’t make the same amount of food for 300-500 people who may or may not eat in the lunchroom every week during a break as you would a bajillion people of which a larger percentage of and thus amount of people would eat. However, I don’t feel like the quality should fall or the variety be restricted. I usually had a piece of fruit or a pastry with my noodles or donburi, and then I couldn’t. I know I’m not some starving child, but I don’t see how this strategy helps save food, time, or money. If the food quality drops, people eat less of it when there are better options of campus like the convenience stores right outside the campus gates. If the variety is reduced, then I’d rather go to those convenience stores off campus because they still have fruit and sandwiches and pastries. I feel like if you look at it this way, you actually still waste lunchroom efforts.
I mean, I don’t know. I ended up eating more off campus and cooking for myself instead, and I didn’t starve or anything, but I was just turned off by the food choices. Who knows? Maybe I’m a brat, spoiled by the amazing variety and cheapness of food back in Gainesville. Or, maybe these people need to keep the pineapple and chocolate croissants out, man!
I kind of digressed here a little, but it’s all background you should know to understand that now that the Japanese students are back, LUNCH IS GLORIOUS AGAIN~. ^____^
Yeah, that was the point of this entry. 😀