Lunch ON! offers insights into working people of all kinds, by looking at their lunch. Discover what they eat as they strive to reach new heights!
Tokachi, in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, is the number one producer of wheat in all of Japan. Every year in July, the wheat that had been planted in the fall of the previous year must be harvested at once, since rain during harvest season could cause the wheat to germinate and become ruined. To harvest quickly, giant combine harvesters owned by the community are put to work non-stop around the clock, and the combine operators take turns working 24-hour shifts. Find out what keeps the men going all day long! In another segment, we meet an 83-year-old lumberman who has long dreamt of appearing on NHK. Tune in to learn about the amazing work he does and the heart-warming bento lunch his wife has made for him for 59 long years
We visit the staff cafeteria of a publishing company in Tokyo, where every day, lunch is prepared for 280 employees. Although the cafeteria only offers the very inexpensive daily special, it comes with a variety of all-you-can-eat side dishes. The hungry employees can't help themselves from piling on huge portions on their plates, and many testify that the cafeteria has made them gain weight! In another segment, we visit a plant near Tokyo that produces traditional Japanese socks called tabi. An 18-year-old rookie is now training to master the most difficult part of the sewing process, as the plant feels the urgent need to pass the skill down to the youngest generation. The rookie lady makes her own bento, and so does her coach, who is 40 years older than her.
Onisasa is a popular meal on Okinawa Prefecture's Ishigaki Island in southern Japan. Since onisasa consists of a rice ball, onigiri, and some chicken tenderloin, sasami, pressed together inside a bag, it is the perfect quick meal for people on the go. We go to the island and spot a man who is just about to have onisasa for lunch, and follow him back to his workplace, a cattle ranch, to check out his first task of the afternoon. In another segment, we visit a company in Yamanashi Prefecture, west of Tokyo that makes lining for jackets and coats. Twice a year, the workers here have to take on the daunting task to do inventory, but their efforts are rewarded with a delicious lunch and another bonus lunch at 3:00 p.m. as well!
In Kawasaki City, just south of Tokyo, Japan, an 18-year-old girl fresh out of high school has just joined a local tombstone shop. She had always thought that the tombstones on display at the shop were pretty when she used to walk by them on her way to middle school, and for that reason only, she decided to join. Her seniors and bosses think highly of her enthusiasm, energy and good work ethic, and she's getting on at the company really well. Although the workers usually have lunch from convenience stores, we visit on their once-a-month potluck lunch day! In another segment, we visit an old fishing town in Kyoto to meet a 17-year-old boy who has moved out to the town to pursue a fishing career. The impressive young man works hard and cooks for himself every day, but never forgets to play video games at his house, where he lives all alone.
Photographer Satoru Abe goes to Fukuoka Prefecture, southwest Japan, to visit a factory that manufactures rice ball machines. Convenience store rice balls are extremely popular, and 80% of the machines that make them in Japan are produced at this factory. The rice ball is a simple food, but the machines that make them are developed with a whole lot of ingenuity, love and thoughtfulness. In another segment, we visit hospital chefs who cook requested meals for the terminally ill every week. We witness the care that goes into their work and also what the chefs do for lunch.
We visit an editor at a long-standing magazine publisher in Tokyo, Japan. Her job is to actually test out the recipes as explained by chefs before they are published. She follows recipes word for word to evaluate how they should be adjusted for the average reader at home. In a different segment, we meet the president of an established manufacturer of ramen noodles. His style of quality control is to visit the shops that use his noodles and taste what's going on.
We hear that a particular restaurant is about to close in Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan. When we visit on the eatery's last day after serving the community for 33 long years, we find many locals in line for one last taste of the restaurant's hearty servings of home-style cooking. In another segment, we go to a company in Tokyo that offers translation and interpretation services. Every day at lunchtime, the male workers from a variety of countries get together to fully enjoy their hour-long lunch break.
A famous festival of snow sculptures is held annually in Hokkaido, northern Japan. We visit the site of a giant snow sculpture being created and talk to the team's supervisor, Mr. Morioka. As he knows just how cold it can be to work outside in Hokkaido during winter, he has a pub owner cook warm lunch for his team. We also visit a family-run somen noodles plant. Winter is the best time to make somen, so it's very cold inside the factory. But the family has a frugal lunch to warm their bodies up.
Mr. Brailsford is an American who works in Gifu Prefecture, central Japan. He was so impressed with a certain sake that he began working at the brewery that makes it. The employee lunch at the brewery features hot miso soup with sake lees in it, and Mr. Brailsford just loves it as it reminds him of the stew his mother used to make for him in the States. In another segment, we visit a funeral company with an employee cafeteria. The chef there backs up hard workers with tasty dishes and a warm personality.
We go to Ibaraki Prefecture, eastern Japan, to a research facility of a national museum. Mr. Kawada makes animal specimens there. Although some specimens are for display, most are used to preserve information on animals for future generations. For lunch, Mr. Kawada eats instant noodles because the containers are perfect for drying specimens! In another segment, we visit a fu wheat gluten factory where a young man learns the art of fu making to one day take over his father's role as the company president.
Setsuko Mizuno is the owner of a cookware shop in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, in central Japan. For 30 long years, she has cooked lunch for her staff 5 times a week, and she decides what to cook after she checks what's in her fridge. She tests out all the cooking utensils by using them to cook the staff lunch, before they are sold at the shop. In another segment, we go to Muroto City, Kochi Prefecture in southwest Japan to visit a factory that produces quality charcoal called "binchotan".
At an aquarium in Toba City, Mie Prefecture in central Japan, we find an animal that can't be seen anywhere else in the country: the dugong. They are extremely hard to care for, and this aquarium and another in Australia are the only 2 in the world that keeps dugongs. Ms. Handa, the dugong's caretaker, says the most important thing is their diet, which consists of seaweed. In another segment, we have a man take pictures of the lunches he eats during his business trip in Europe.
Service members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's Toyokawa Camp in Aichi Prefecture, west of Tokyo, hold a cooking contest. 5 units cook up 50 servings each, and are judged based on taste, presentation, hygiene and cooking time. This may sound strange, but cooking is an important job of theirs as they hold cookouts in times of disasters. In another segment, we visit an apprentice bag-maker working in Tokyo. His master ordered him to cook staff meal for lunch after seeing his poor eating habits.
We visit Hiroshima Prefecture in western Japan to meet the president of a tire service shop who loves camping so much that he even built his own grill to hold barbecues for his staff. He starts prepping from the day before and even cooks the rice in a messtin, just like how you would while camping. And then, photographer Satoru Abe travels to Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan to look at some beautiful cherry blossoms. Come learn about "Cherry Blossom Guardians" who work to preserve the precious trees.