On June 13, a 20-year-old employee of a public school in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, was charged with mixing human feces into the lunch there. More specifically it was found in the okazu of the lunch, which loosely translates to “side dish” and refers to the non-rice component of a meal. It’s a pretty wide-ranging term that can refer to pretty much any food from fried chicken to a brick of tofu.
The incident occurred on Oct 8, 2021, when the principal of the school taste-tested the okazu of the day’s meal in advance in the staff room and noticed that it had a peculiar odor and discoloration. He immediately canceled the meal for everyone else and submitted the food to the public health center for examination. The results confirmed that it contained E. coli bacteria, and even though the okazu was made in a separate central facility, no other schools had any trace of fecal matter in their food.
Thanks to the keen senses and quick action of the principal, none of his students or staff members were exposed to the contaminated food and did not suffer any illness as a result. A subsequent investigation led back to the staff member, though it is unclear what her motive was or how she managed to mix the excrement into the food.
She is charged with fraudulent obstruction of business, which wouldn’t be the first crime that springs to mind when someone attempts to poison an entire school. She is currently denying the charge.
Readers of the news were naturally appalled by such a heinous act, but more were surprised by the intervention of the principal, with some a little surprised that a part of their job is checking the school lunch before everyone else in the school eats it.
“That’s too scary.”
“That principal is pretty amazing.”
“Who knew it would be useful to have the principal test the food before serving?”
“Principals seriously check the school lunch for poison every day?!”
“I remember hearing about principals doing that, but I never knew it was real.”
“This is the first time I heard of the principal’s food inspection working!”
“Was there so much in there that you could tell just by smelling and looking at it?!”
“I wonder if she was targeting the principal directly.”
It’s not done in all schools, but in Japan there is a custom of a principal or vice principal eating lunch about 30 minutes before everyone else. Although it is sometimes referred to as a dokumi or “food taster” in the sense of someone checking for poison, it’s not clear whether that’s the primary concern, since food poisoning often can’t be detected at the moment of eating and won’t take effect within 30 minutes of eating. More likely it’s just to check that the quality and flavor of the food are up to snuff, or merely as a formality.
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