[From June Issue 2012]
Since 1954, “kyuushoku” (school lunch) has been served at Japanese elementary and middle schools. Everyone has their own unique memories of eating lunch alongside their classmates in the same classroom where they also sat down to study. Now “kyuushoku izakaya” that serve recreations of these school lunches, are gaining popularity. With interiors that resemble classrooms and menu items that have names related to school, these taverns use a variety of methods to add spice to the experience.
School lunch concept izakaya (Japanese taverns) are most popular with people in their 40~50s, but recently, the number of customers in their 20s has also increased. One of the main reasons these places are popular with people is that, despite the fact that these customers are now adults and full members of society, reminiscing about school days with friends and colleagues naturally creates a lively atmosphere.
The interiors of “Koshitsu Izakaya Roku’nen Yon’kumi” (Private Dining Tavern, Year Six, Class Four) in Shibuya, Tokyo, look exactly like a Japanese classroom. Inside, blackboards, schoolbags, and a kind of Japanese calligraphy called “kakizome” decorate the walls. “Every time I come here with my friends from my student days, we have a blast talking about the good old times. It’s so much fun here.” says SAKURAYASHIKI Naomichi, a regular of the bar.
“I want people to taste our delicious school lunches. But our real goal here is to get our customers to have a fantastic time, while reminiscing about their school days. We look to entertain our customers so we challenge them with short quizzes that change daily, and instead of serving drinks in cups, we use those measuring cylinders you used to have in science class,” says the manager, HINOKIDANI Tai.
One of the private rooms at “Kyushoku Toban” is a classroom, recreating the school atmosphere for close friends to enjoy together. The restaurant is also open during lunch hours, so customers can casually enjoy the experience. The menu contains items that bring back nostalgic memories for many Japanese, including fried bread, and soft noodles.
“We have customers of all ages come to our restaurant. Some come with their families; the parents tell their kids about the lunch they used to have, and the kids tell their parents about the lunch served today. When they’re done eating the customers say ‘gochisousama’ (the formal way to express thanks for a meal) and in addition ‘natsukashii’ (that takes me back). It gives me the feeling that the guests truly enjoyed themselves,” says manager, KUBOTA Masaya.
Also, older customers say, “The kyuushoku served in this restaurant is very delicious. But when I used to be a student, the same meal did not taste so good. Times have really changed.” Regardless of their age, for Japanese, kyuushoku brings back fond memories.
Text: NAKAGOMI Koichi
Photos: SAKURAYASHIKI Tomonao