In one scene in “Tokyo Story”, Fumiko, Koichi’s wife, speaks of “Kid’s Lunch Plate”. What is it?
“Kid’s Lunch Plate” or “Okosama Lunch” was a staple menu in department store canteens across Japan. This lunch menu was first introduced in 1930, in Mitsukoshi Department Store’s canteen to attract family customers with children. Served on a section plate, it usually consists of fried shrimps, potato salad, Neapolitan pasta, and fried rice, all in small portions. Fried rice is usually molded in a cup, with a small Japanese flag on top. Let’s not forget this menu usually comes with a small toy.
It is quite significant that Ozu refers to this plate in this context. First of all, the reference signifies that Japan was leaving postwar economy crisis behind. During much of the last half of forties, Japanese population was facing serious food shortage. There was very little room for something other than basic needs. Black markets proliferated and people had to do anything for survival. However, the Korean War had boosted battered economy enormously. Now, people could afford to be more concerned about the well-being of their life. This plate was not just a meal, it was something extra. Another significance is that it suggests rather banal lifestyle of Koichi’s family, in which the consumerism was accepted without any hesitation.
Its name itself sounds rather urbane; “Lunch for Little Gents and Ladies”. Kids loved it for its flag and toy.