Hello again, it’s Shannon here writing one last time about my experience studying Japanese at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto through PRIMO at ANU.  After I sent away my application forms I excitedly read through all the material I could find about the RWJP program.  However, I wanted to know more about what daily life there might look like, and in particular more detail about what to expect outside of class time.  Hopefully this guide to lunchtime at Ritsumeikan University will help others in that respect!

Lunchtime during the RWJP program is from 12 to 1 pm, and you have multiple options to choose from.  First, there is a small convenience store in the middle of campus, and a larger one just outside the campus.  These ‘conbini’ sell anything from rice balls and sandwiches to hot meals.  You’ll probably want to visit a conbini in order to participate in the daily ‘buddy lunch’.  These usually take place in a classroom where you can bring your lunch with you to chat with your fellow classmates as well as the Japanese student volunteers called ‘buddies’.  It’s a great opportunity to talk to Japanese university students and practice your language learning in a casual, friendly community.

Another lunchtime option is one of Ritsumeikan University’s several cafeterias.  Coming from ANU, I’d never experienced a cafeteria like this and so was initially a bit puzzled about how to go about procuring one of the many tasty morsels on offer.  Thankfully, on our first day after a guided tour the buddies took us to the cafeteria to have lunch with us and showed us the ropes. 

First, you find the entrance to the cafeteria and choose what kind of food you’d like to have that day – noodle soups, donburi (rice bowls with toppings) or Japanese curry, or so-called ‘main dishes’.  There are signs at the entrance with pictures showing the different dishes on offer that day, so you can decide in advance what to order, as well as signs above the counters and along the walls.  Once you’ve decided, you pick up a tray and follow the corresponding line on the floor to one of the counters. 

You then place your order with one of the cafeteria staff and (in the case of donburi/curry) the size you want – S, M or L size.  In my experience, S size was a generous serving and plenty for lunch, but your appetite may vary! When ordering a ‘main dish’ the staff will also have set out bowls of rice and miso soup on the end of the counter to take if you so desire (but note that they’re not free, just optional!).

If you’re wondering about prices, below are rough prices for food:
– Donburi / curry dishes: 280 to 550 yen
– Main dishes: 220 – 308 yen
– Noodle soups: 270 – 380 yen
– Extras: 55 to 180 yen

Once you’ve received your food, place it on your tray and proceed along to the dazzling array of ‘extras’ you can select from.  On offer were things like salads, pickled vegetables, fish, potato croquettes, even cheesecake.  At the end of the aisle are a selection of drinks to choose from.  Note that free green tea is on offer in the dining area of the cafeteria too!  (I found myself looking forward to just the tea, it was that delicious on a cold day!)

Once you’ve proceeded through the gauntlet of the cafeteria, it’s time to go through the checkout.  The staff at the till will speedily ring up your purchases while you grab cutlery from the counter next to them.  Once you’ve paid, you’re free to find a seat and dig in! I noticed many people seemed to select their seat before getting their food, just leaving their coat or books at the seat to reserve it until they returned with their tray. Another interesting tip is to take a look at your receipt.  There’s all kinds of cool info there about your meal, its nutritional value, and recommended intakes.  If you’re just starting out with Japanese, ask one of the buddies!

I spent 480 yen for everything in this picture! PS: Green tea is free!

Once you’ve finished eating you take your tray back towards the checkout area and empty any waste into its appropriately labelled bin (don’t throw away the non-disposable chopsticks though).  Finally, place your tray and dishes onto the rotating conveyor belt that returns it to the kitchen for washing.  The cafeteria food was all really yummy, filling and surprisingly inexpensive.  I felt like you get more tasty goodness for your yen at the cafeteria compared to the conbini, making it a great place to go with friends and ‘buddies’ to fill up before one of the cultural excursions or an afternoon spent exploring Kyoto.