The quality of my work day lunch depends on where I’m teaching. On Thursdays, I work near a seemingly endless shopping arcade and the choices are rich. I favor a steaming bowl of ika tempura udon soup, spiked with lots of spicy red pepper and black sesame seeds. For my mid-evening snack, I stroll past a sushi shop and order a tekkamaki to go, watching carefully as the sushi chef packs the brilliant red tuna into the rice-lined seaweed sheet and, with expert twists of his large hands, twirls the combination into a compact and delicious sushi roll. I take a bottle of green tea with my sushi and if I’m feeling saucy that day, buy a couple of crunchy meat croquettes from the department store food market. Or a chocolate cake doughnut from Mister Donut. Or a package of dried cranberries emblazoned with the words: “Nuts of the World.”
On Fridays I work near a convenience store. Since I’m unable to get my act together and pack a lunch, that means cup noodles, onigiri, bento, potato chips, cookies, protein bars and Chinese-style meat buns. If I want to rebel against the MSG in any of the above choices, I buy a yogurt cup. Common flavors: grape, aloe, apple and strawberry. I’ve OD’d on negitoro onigiri so if I go that route, I’ll opt for a pickled plum speckled one, shaped like a triangle. I always shun convenience store sushi and have grown tired of cup noodles, too. Today’s lunch revolved around a new flavor of Chinese-style meat bun, the name of which I’ve forgotten but curry and potatoes were involved. I went without sweets today and tried a new kind of potato snack; chips shaped like potato wedges and doused with salt. They were excellent.
On Saturdays, I work near a convenience store, a bakery, a McDonald’s and a branch of my beloved CocoIchiban curry. The smell of curry follows me to work in a cartoon wave but I only have enough time to grab a sausage roll and a sugar-dusted ring doughnut before my shift begins. It doesn’t really matter what I buy; on Saturdays, my schedule is packed and I have no time to do anything but gulp mouthfuls of sausage roll while standing over a desk 5 people are using at once. There are no scheduled lunch breaks at my company – we’re paid to “teach,” not to eat – so all lunches and snacks are eaten in this dodgy manner, unless you’re really bold and sneak out to the McDonald’s, score a Juicy Chicken sandwich and retreat to the bathroom to wolf it down in semi-privacy, your blissful swallows punctuated by the sound of flushing.