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Is school food free in Japan?


In Japan, there is a great emphasis placed on education, and as a result, many schools offer a variety of services to their students. One question that often comes up is whether or not school food is free in Japan. This article aims to provide a comprehensive answer to this question.

The History of School Food in Japan

Japan has a long history of providing school meals to students. The first school meal programs were introduced in the early 20th century, and they were designed to combat malnutrition and improve the health of students. Today, school meals in Japan are still an important part of the education system.

Japanese Snack Box

The Importance of School Meals in Japan

One of the main reasons why school meals are so important in Japan is because they help to ensure that all students have access to healthy and nutritious food. This is especially important for students from low-income families who may not have access to healthy food at home.

The Cost of School Meals in Japan

In Japan, the cost of school meals is generally quite low. Depending on the school, students may be required to pay for their meals, or they may be provided free of charge. In some cases, schools may offer a sliding scale fee structure based on a family’s income.

Who is Eligible for Free School Meals in Japan?

In general, students from low-income families are eligible for free school meals in Japan. However, eligibility requirements may vary depending on the school and the local government. Some schools may require families to submit documentation showing proof of income.

The Nutritional Value of School Meals in Japan

School meals in Japan are designed to be nutritious and well-balanced. They typically include a variety of foods such as rice, vegetables, fish, and meat. Schools also strive to accommodate special dietary needs or restrictions.

The Role of Parents in School Meals

While schools are responsible for providing meals to their students, parents also play an important role in ensuring that their children have access to healthy food. Parents can work with their child’s school to provide feedback on the quality and nutritional value of the meals served.

The Benefits of School Meals in Japan

There are many benefits to providing school meals in Japan. For one, it helps to ensure that all students have access to healthy food regardless of their family’s income level. Additionally, school meals can help to improve academic performance by providing students with the energy and nutrients they need to learn.

The Challenges of Providing School Meals in Japan

While there are many benefits to providing school meals in Japan, there are also challenges that need to be addressed. One challenge is ensuring that all students have access to healthy food, especially those from low-income families. Another challenge is accommodating special dietary needs or restrictions.

The Future of School Meals in Japan

The Japanese government has expressed its commitment to promoting healthy eating habits among its citizens, including school children. As a result, it is likely that school meals will continue to be an important part of the education system for years to come.


In conclusion, while school food may not always be free in Japan, it is generally affordable and well-balanced. Providing healthy meals to students is an important part of ensuring that all children have access to nutritious food regardless of their family’s income level.


  1. “School Lunches.” Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Government of Japan.
  2. “School Lunches.” Cabinet Office, Government of Japan.
  3. “School Lunches.” Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW), Government of Japan.
  4. “The National Movement for Free Breakfasts and Lunches: The Efforts made by the Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union.” Journal of Rural Economics (Japan) 64(1): 87-103 (1993).
  5. “The Role and Importance of School Lunch Programmes in Addressing Malnutrition and Hunger: The Case Study Experience from India.” UNICEF India.

Are Japanese school lunches free?

Kyūshoku, or school lunch in Japan, is both convenient and affordable. Parents can expect to pay approximately 250 yen per day for kinder and elementary school students, and between 300-450 yen for junior high and high school students.

Do Japanese schools provide food?

Kyushoku is a type of lunch that is provided in public elementary and junior high schools across Japan. These meals are cooked and brought to each classroom for the students to enjoy. Every day, a few students take turns serving lunch and distributing rations for the entire class on a daily or weekly basis.

Who pays for school lunch in Japan?

Parents are responsible for paying for their children’s school lunches in Japan, with the cost ranging from about ¥250 in first and second grade to just under ¥300 in fifth and sixth grade. Schools in Japan are increasingly conscious of food allergies, reflecting a trend in Japanese society as a whole.

What country has free school meals?

Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and India are among a limited number of countries that offer free school meals to all students in mandatory education, irrespective of their financial circumstances.

How long is Japan school day?

On weekdays, children typically spend approximately six and a half hours at school, starting around 8:45 am and ending at 3:15 pm. Many kids also participate in after-school activities and attend cram schools for additional studying in the evenings.

Are school lunches free in America?

Free school lunch programs vary across districts and states, with some offering free meals to all students regardless of income. However, in most areas, only students whose families earn 130% or less of the federal poverty level are eligible for free school meals. More information is available below.

Private Schools and School Meals in Japan

While public schools in Japan offer school meals, the situation is different for private schools. Private schools are not obligated to provide school meals, and their policies on this issue may vary. Some private schools choose to provide school meals, while others do not. Private schools that do offer school meals may have different fee structures than public schools.

The Role of School Lunches in Japanese Culture

School lunches are an important part of Japanese culture, and they are often seen as a way to promote health and well-being among young people. In addition to providing nutritious food, school lunches also serve as a way to teach students about healthy eating habits and table manners. Many schools in Japan also use school lunches as a way to promote food education and local agriculture.

The Impact of COVID-19 on School Meals in Japan

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on school meals in Japan. Many schools were forced to close temporarily, which meant that students were unable to access school meals. In response, the Japanese government launched a program to provide financial assistance to families so that they could purchase food for their children while schools were closed. Some schools also switched to providing take-home meals or delivered meals during the pandemic.

Critiques of School Meals in Japan

While school meals in Japan are generally well-regarded, there are some critiques of the system. One criticism is that the meals can be too uniform and lack variety. Another criticism is that the portion sizes may not be sufficient for some students, particularly those who are more physically active. Additionally, some have criticized the emphasis on rice as a staple food and suggested that more diverse grains should be included in school meals.


Overall, school meals play an important role in the education system and culture of Japan. While there are challenges associated with providing healthy and nutritious food to all students, the benefits of school meals are clear. As Japan continues to prioritize healthy eating habits and food education, it is likely that school meals will remain an integral part of the education system for years to come.

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