By TAISHI NAKAMURA
Eating something we all took part in together makes it more than just a delicious dinner | Photo by Riku Negishi
Before I came to Japan for university, my mum used to cook for our family. The sudden transition of needing to think of what to eat and preparing it was simply a pain for me. There are various choices when it comes to eating as a university student in Japan: Cooking your own food, eating at the cafeteria, using the convenience store and so on and so forth…. But how about, eating the food that your friend cooks for you?
Yes, this actually is one of the ways in which a fair percentage of my food intake happens now. It’s sad to say, but I can’t cook at all. However, there is one friend who is a real cook – and loves to do it (whom I will call “chef” from now onwards). One night we decided to have a get-together of about 5 people in our year group. The non-cooks helped with the dishes and transporting the food, while our chef cooked for us. When we all ate together in the lounge of our dorm, I felt a kind of nostalgic feeling – it was like eating with my family. I felt that eating homemade dinner with a bunch of mates was so much more exciting and valuable compared to just eating “Conbini” food, alone in my quiet room. As a Japanese, our family placed a lot of emphasis on eating together as a family – and to lose that aspect of life did make me feel lonely at times. But these kinds of occasions truly help me overcome such loneliness and prevents homesickness.
Now, up to this point it might sound merely like a normal get-together. However, we began doing this regularly, up to the point where we decided to make a fully functioning ticket system. We calculated the cost of an average meal to be about 300 yen, and made “one ticket” worth 1000 yen, for 3 meals. Every time we eat a meal from our chef, we keep note until our ticket runs out, then we pay 1000 yen again to top up our tickets. I really thought this system created a win-win situation as our chef can learn and be encouraged to cook, and the rest of us can enjoy a nice, hot homemade meal for only 300 yen. Variety is another selling point to consider. Places like conbini and the cafeteria might restrict you to only eating certain dishes, but homemade cooking has virtually no limits – Bibimbap, Beef Stew, Nimono, to even a chef’s original. You may not believe this, but I personally even found washing the dishes entertaining. Talking about our future, or just complaining about the workload we have – all of these conversations help us relieve our stress, deepen our friendship and gain a sense of belonging. So, it’s a pleasing experience from the preparation right through to the normally dreaded cleaning up.
So, I want to suggest to you this alternative cooperative - a highly enjoyable way of eating as a university student living in a dorm. At first living in a dorm away from your family may be scary and lonely. At time like this, keep in mind this great way to bond with your friends, and something that truly makes you feel a sense of family inside our small community of PEAK