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  • Writer's pictureValerie

Kyushoku: Cultivating Sattva with Japanese School Lunch

Updated: Nov 10, 2020


In a school classroom in Japan, is time for kyushoku, or school lunch. Each of thirty pairs of tiny hands joins together in a gesture of grace, followed by a unified chant of gratitude for the food they are about to eat together. Then, everyone, including the teachers, digs into the freshly prepared, nutritionally-balanced meal cooked for them that day. A student stands in front of the classroom and reads the daily menu, citing nutrition facts about the ingredients used, or perhaps acknowledging which farms the vegetables came from that day. As each person finishes, he or she utters another phrase of thanks, "go-chi-sou-sama-deshita," and cleans up his own tray before going to brush his or her teeth.

Japanese school lunch, a.k.a. "kyushoku"

I worked as an assistant language teacher for three of the most formative years of my life in a small Japanese town called Fukusaki. Such a lunch ritual is the norm for the schools I worked at and for schools all across Japan. Before I had ever heard of Ayurveda and food sadhana, I was learning guidelines for healthy eating from my elementary school students.

In Ayurveda, it is said that how we eat our food is just as important as what we are eating. How we eat something can greatly affect how readily our bodies digest it, and in Ayurveda, proper digestion is key. Therefore, engaging in proper food sadhana, or daily discipline/spiritual practice, is paramount. Engaging in sadhana cultivates sattva, also known as clarity, balance, or harmony. The more we can operate from a state of sattva, the more in-line we are likely to be with our higher selves, the less likely we are to regret our actions, and the more healthy we are likely to be - in body, mind, and spirit. Visit here for more of my reflections on sattva.

Looking back at my years in Japan, it never ceases to impress me how the Japanese school system has made school lunch one of the most wholesome, sattvic experiences I have ever witnessed. An entire national population is educ