They stared at me, their little eyes wide with amazement, their little jaws dropping to the floor. Speechlessness is not a regularity when it comes to first graders, however. Soon they were chatting away, no doubt about what I was doing.
I was eating an apple. Not a cut up apple, but one right from the core. This is, apparently, not usual in Japan.
For some reason unbeknownst to me, school lunch was not provided yesterday. That means it was bento lunch day.
School lunches exist because of the Japanese group mentality. Everyone eats exactly the same thing, from the Principal to the first graders. School lunches also prevent something that would only happen in Japan: a war of cuteness. (And by that I mean the students would compare their lunch cuteness.)
If you have ever perused the lunch box or container aisle in a Japanese supermarket, you have no doubt seen the countless little trinkets you can buy to make ridiculously cute bento lunches. Look at this to see what I mean.
I have a hunch that school lunches are in place for similar reasons as school uniforms. They provide a sense of equality and no chance to compare. Of course, it is easy to argue for either side of this issue, but uniforms and school lunches seem to be working out splendidly for Japan.
But despite the unexciting school lunches and uniforms, there is certainly no lack of cuteness in this country...