Starting this week, my first school of the week is having me eat lunch with the younger kids. This is fine for the second graders on up. We don’t have class often, but they know me. But, because of bad scheduling luck I haven’t had the first graders in class yet. NONE of them know me! But, that’s where I was to have lunch. Naturally, the teacher entirely forgot this plan. Both Monday and Tuesday went down that way, actually. I arrived to the class halfway through the meal and barely had a chance to (not) eat this… stuff. Which, really, was fine with me.
It’s cold, now. Finally! It’s strange how different the seasons are here from what I know. Spring comes around the usual time, but Tokyo area fall and winter are way off pace with the cold seasons of the American Midwest. I didn’t need long sleeves until most of the way through October and this day, the first school day after after American Thanksgiving Day and Japanese Labor-Thanksgiving Daywas the first day I needed a winter coat.
Appropriately for the cold, our meal was oden, steamed veggies, and honey peanuts. Oden is a Japanese stew associated with winter and it’s just never very flavorful. Oden is made from a weak broth and an assortment of winter “goodies” like hard boiled eggs, daikon radishes, miscellaneous vegetables, etc. As I expect from oden, the veggies and other contents were mostly over cooked and mushy. The entire thing tasted vaguely of dishwater. I ate the eggs, though. Despite the dusty flavor they themselves had. And, I nearly finished the rice. Nearly I was a VERY bad example for these first graders. Their teacher told them to eat up, and I couldn’t quite choke down the kombu in the oden, nor the entire ladleful of steamed veggies and mushrooms. I told her I was trying to diet a bit and apologized. She, and even the kids, commented that the portions WERE quite large, and let me off without much complaint.
We didn’t talk too much during the meal, me and the tiny baby first graders. Most of the lunch period was occupied by a safety lecture over the loud speaker. Seems a 5th grader almost got himself run over last week by haphazardly running into the street. The first graders were shocked and slightly terrified until they heard it was an upperclassman. Oh, silly older kids. We know better than them! The rest of the meal I filled passed the time translating their English t-shirts into Japanese. For some reason, it seems most Japanese kids’ t-shirts are printed with more English than Japanese text. My favorite was the kid with the Laundry brand shirt. His body was adorned with phrases like “dry clean only” and “tumble dry”. Naturally, none of them had a clue what they wore. They don’t even get to learning the ABCs until 4th grade. Adorable surprise on so many faces!