Tokyo, Japan

Brasserie Kyushoku Toban

A tiny cafe that recreates the Japanese elementary school lunch experience. 

Lunchtime is one part of elementary school most people look back on fondly. The square pizza slices and tiny milk cartons on a plastic tray can instantly spirit you back to fourth grade, when your whole day could be dictated by what the cafeteria was serving.

In Japan the regime is a little different than in the U.S.—lunches are delivered to the classroom where the students serve each other—but the nostalgia is just as strong. For a serving of rosy memories and a wholesome meal, visit Brasserie Kyushoku Toban, a tiny cafe that recreates the Japanese elementary school lunch experience.

A faithful recreation of a classroom occupies the second floor of the brasserie and serves as its dining room. Guests sit at desks in front of the construction paper cutouts decorating the chalkboard.

Japanese school lunches are typically healthier than American ones, with a carefully balanced caloric intake. The school lunch program began after WWII, when Japan was devastated and children’s nutritional intake was a prime concern. Rice or noodles, fish or pork, soup, flavored milk, and a healthy fruit dessert are served up from the hot cart that travels from classroom to classroom (or, in the case of this restaurant, to the classroom and back to the kitchen downstairs). The kitchen here also serves agepan (a fried sweet bread) and whale, which are rarely on school menus these days but which old-timers remember fondly. 

Foreigners are particularly charmed by this restaurant because it gives them the opportunity to take part in Japanese culture they would have no access to otherwise, but Japanese like it too for its nostalgia factor.

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