This Tokyo cafe serves up trays of 'school lunch'

Saki Kobayashi serves a “school lunch.”
The Japan News/ Asia News Network

People are talking about a cafe in Arakawa Ward, Tokyo, that serves "school lunches" made by a former elementary school cafeteria cook.

The lunch crowd comes to the cafe to enjoy the nostalgic flavors of childhood, like agepan deep-fried rolls topped with sugar, zhajiang noodles and curry stew. OGU1, pronounced "ogu-ichi," is located in a residential neighborhood close to Akado-shogakkomae Station on the Nippori-Toneri Liner line.

Around noon, people of all ages can be seen digging into "school lunches" served on metal trays. Yukiko Kawabata, 48, who works at a paper processing factory in the ward, says she sometimes eats at the cafe as often as once a week.

"I loved deep-fried rolls when I was a kid. They have a lot of other items I want to try, so I always look forward to it," Kawabata said.

The cafe is the brainchild of Saki Kobayashi, 29. Kobayashi loved making sweets as a child, so after high school she went to a culinary training school. After that, she found a job with a temp staffing agency for school lunch cooks, working in eight elementary schools, including schools in Edogawa Ward, Itabashi Ward and Saitama.

Then in October 2015, in her ninth year as a cook, she happened to post about that day's menu on her social media account. Friends replied with comments including "I want to eat that, too," and "Make deep-fried rolls [for me someday]."

Kobayashi had been feeling in a rut at work, and she started thinking it would be fun to open a restaurant that served school lunches. So she quit her job and opened the cafe in May.

In addition to standard school lunch fare like deep-fried rolls and curry, Kobayashi creates daily set menus out of dozens of recipes she learned during her nine-year career.

These meals are for adults, so she flavors them a bit more richly. Still, just like real school lunches, she makes the roux for her curry from scratch and uses few commercial flavor enhancers.

She tries to create colorful, nutritionally balanced meals.

Customers at the cafe often reminisce about their school lunches. Many customers come back again and again, creating a new place to gather for people who live in the shitamachi old-fashioned residential neighborhood.

"In addition to nostalgia, I want to provide meals that give people energy, just like real school lunches," Kobayashi said.


Open: 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

Closed: Wednesdays

Address: 1-33-1 Higashiogu, Arakawa Ward, Tokyo

Tel: 03-5901-2779

Credit cards not accepted