School lunch harassment at Japanese schools

By on December 17, 2017

In Japan, there’s a reason children are not allowed to bring lunch box to school – eating lunch together provided by the school is part of their education and cultivation.  Japanese school lunches are generally balanced with lots of rice, fresh vegetables, fish, meat and soup.

School children eat the same food like everyone else and are taught to eat at the same time and finish their plates clean. The routine has worked for many generations until recently when a new wave of non-conformists have surfaced.

In September, a Japanese elementary grade school teacher in her 50s was reported to have caused five elementary school graders to vomit for forcing them to finish their school lunch. The incident, regarded as kyuushoku harassment (school lunch harassment) became a hot discussion between schools and parents.

As a result, the number of parents whose children are suffering from stress, has increased over the last month with 50 parents consulting the Association for Overcoming Japanese Food Phobia through its newly opened  Facebook page.

One parent remarks, “some teachers do not take into consideration that each child eats at different speed and each one has a different tummy size.” 

When Kenta Yamaguchi, the association’s counselor was interviewed for Caricone News recently, he said, “Since the spring of this year, a range of issues on the topic of school lunch have been brought to our attention. The issues raised by parents are mostly about children having too short time to finish their meals, bad school lunch and fear of eating in public,” says Yamaguchi.  He also said there are about 2 to 3 consultations a day received on the topic.

In some of the consultations, one mother quoted her child,  “I could only go to a morning-only school because it is hard for me to eat in public.”

Yamaguchi himself admits to being once a ‘deipnophobic’, one with unreasonable fear of eating in front of people.   “Feeding harassment could lead to phophobia, a fear of phobias.  The hardest issue to solve is one that you do not understand even if you talk to others,”  says the counselor.

While finishing their plates clean is part of the positive reinforcement in Japanese schools, the incidents raise the question of  whether  teacher training is needed to address such issues and  whether children eat meals together at home with the family.


About Tammy Lee

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