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Baked cod, miso and bok choy: unpacking Japan’s healthy school lunches

Japans state-run kyushoku system combines flavour with fresh ingredients and high nutritional value at low cost

The list of dishes reads like a health-conscious menu at an upmarket cafe: mackerel cooked in miso, a light salad of daikon radish and sour plum, thinly sliced pickled vegetables and a selection of fresh fruit. But the restaurant is actually a classroom at Konan primary school in central Japan, where the pupils need only the gentlest encouragement to eat their greens.

When the Guardian visited the school in the Pacific coastal city of Fukuroi, the classroom, momentarily transformed into a lunchtime cafeteria, reverberated to a chorus of Itadakimasu a polite Japanese term for lets eat.

On the menu today is baked cod, sauted sweet corn and bok choy, minestrone soup, a small carton of milk and, as a Friday treat, a slightly less wholesome combination of white bread with a soy-based chocolate cream a challenge to spread evenly on the bread with chopsticks.

The portions are modest, but then so is the total calorie count 667 kcal for a meal that will sustain the 11-year-old children until they get home.

Something different every day

Konan is not the only school in Japan producing a range of lunches or kyushoku that combine flavour with fresh ingredients and contain levels of iron, calcium and fibre stipulated by a government-run programme for children attending kindergarten through to the end of junior high school.

The kyushoku system was introduced in the 1950s to ensure that children did not have experience the dietary privations of the immediate postwar years. More than seven decades on, the programme is credited with contributing to Japans impressive life expectancy, and child and adult obesity levels that are among the lowest in the OECD group of nations.

Lunch served to 11-year-olds at Konan primary school: bok choy and sauted sweet corn, baked cod, minestrone soup, milk, white bread and soy-based chocolate spread. Photograph: Justin McCurry/The Guardian

Local officials refer to their school meals as the healthiest in a country with one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. It is no empty boast: last year Fukuroi won a World Health Organization best practice award for promoting healthy dietary habits among schoolchildren, with the help of local producers.

The citys school lunch centres prepare and send out more than 10,000 lunches to kindergartens, primary and junior high schools every day. Most of the meals are inspired by Japanese cuisine, with the occasional inclusion of Chinese, Korean and European dishes. Parents pay 250 (1.70) a meal, about half of what they cost to make, with the local government contributing the rest.

We devise the monthly menu so that there is something different every day, says Koji Ishizuka, the manager of the school lunch division at the citys board of education. And each month differs depending on whats in season.

In 2005, the government took its school lunch programme a step further by requiring school boards to educate children about the provenance and composition of their lunches.

As the children at Konan tuck into lunch, Mihoko Kobayashi, one of two nutrition educators in Fukuroi, tells them where the bok choy they are eating was grown and why, despite clear reservations among some pupils, they should eat every last morsel.

Please remember that a lot of people were involved in preparing your lunch, she says. Especially when you come across a vegetable you think you wont like.

The joy of no choice

The bok choy converts have Toshiyuki Suzuki to thank for a portion of their lunch. The local farmer sends 4 tonnes of the leafy vegetable to Fukuroi schools every year. Freshness is absolutely essential, he says. The vegetables I sell commercially have to go through a distribution system, but I sell directly to schools, so the vegetables the kids are eating are the freshest around.

Working closely with the citys board of education, Suzuki and other farmers in the area have helped push the proportion of locally grown vegetables in school meals from just over 13 % in 2012 to almost 32% last year.

Children generally acquire their long-term eating habits by the time theyre 10, so thats why we think school lunches are so important, says Ishizuka. The results of regular health checks on the children are generally good, and we believe school lunches have something to do with that.

Since its inception, the kyushoku programme has been taken up by almost all primary schools and about 80% of junior high schools, according to education officials.

Ingredients in school meals are locally grown Photograph: Brown/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Dr Atsushi Miyawaki, a health policy specialist at Tokyo Universitys graduate school of medicine, says removing choice from the menu and banning packed lunches are the most remarkable features of the programme.

It offers a uniform menu to all children in each school five days a week, unlike the cafeteria-style school lunches often found in the US and UK, Miyawaki says. That means the children have no choice regarding menu items, or whether to eat school lunch or bring it from home.

That helps avoid an imbalance in nutritional intakes. And the lack of choice can help hide disparities in the childrens socioeconomic background that may be evident in packed lunches.

The lunch break is coming to an end for year 5, class 3. There is not a single leftover vegetable or cod flake to be seen, supporting staff claims that the children eat 95% of the food theyre given. A quick survey of the Guardians dining companions reveals, unsurprisingly, that the bread with chocolate spread is a big hit.

The lunch monitors load trays of empty plates on to trolleys and wheel them to the kitchen while their classmates file out to complete the final task of their days food education: brushing their teeth.

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10 of the best words in the world (that don’t translate into English)

As millions head abroad, our correspondents pick out the words that for them speak volumes about the countries they love and live in

One of the many great things about languages worldwide is the sizeable number of words for which there is no real English translation. Often they tell us about concepts and ideas that we are missing out on in the anglophone world.

As the northern hemisphere heads abroad in the coming holiday season, here are a few to be looking out for:

Salud! Photograph: Molly Aaker/Getty Images

SPAIN: sobremesa

You may have witnessed the ritual, knowingly or not, while on the hunt for a coffee or a cold beer towards the end of another long Spanish afternoon.

Sitting clumped around tables inside restaurants or spilling out on to their terrazas, are friends, families and colleagues, preserved in the post-prandial moment like replete insects in amber.

Lunch and it is more usually lunch than dinner will long since have yielded to the important act of the sobremesa, that languid time when food gives way to hours of talking, drinking and joking. Coffee and digestivoswill have been taken, or perhaps the large gin and tonic that follows a meal rather than precedes it here.

The sobremesais a digestive period that allows for the slow settling of food, gossip, ideas and conversations. It is also a sybaritic time; a recognition that there is more to life than working long hours and that few pleasures are greater than sharing a table and then chatting nonsense for a hefty portion of what remains of the day.

The world may not have been put completely to rights by the end of the sobremesa, but it will seem a calmer, more benign place.

Ask Mariano Rajoy. At the end of May, as it became clear that he was going to be turfed out of office in a no-confidence vote, the then-prime minister did something very Spanish: he and his close circle retreated to a private room in a smart Madrid restaurant. Lunch was followed by a seven-hour sobremesa, and, reportedly, a couple of bottles of whisky.

After all, what does the loss of a premiership matter after a fine meal, a good cigar and some booze-soaked reminiscing? Salud! Sam Jones in Madrid

PORTUGAL: esperto/esperta

Esperta (Carmen Miranda) and esperto (Jose Mourinho) Composite: REX/Shutterstock and Getty Images

It feels almost counterintuitive to have to explain what esperto/esperta means, a Portuguese word without true parallel in the English dictionary.

There are words that come close, that encapsulate something of the spirit of this word and the word itself is spirited. On the ball, quick-witted, with-it, canny, having common sense, intuitive, someone who gets things done: these all help shade in the space occupied by esperto.

I grew up in Portugal and have always felt an undercurrent of admiration, almost affection, for the espertas.

A Brazilian friend, Tatiana, though, warns of a negative sense. Someone esperto can, she says, use his or her instincts to take advantage of others; to trap or fool them into trouble.

Sometimes its easier to understand something by what it is not. Esperta is definitely not slow, dim, unimaginative. If these characteristics were on a spectrum, esperto would be at one end, with plodding at the other.

If you understand it, you probably are. Juliette Jowit

ITALY: bella figura

Good figures in Sicily. Photograph: Alamy

Before celebrating a confirmation in Sicily last year, my aunt breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that her British niece was dressed appropriately enough so as not to make a bad impression in front of the extended family.

I was also relieved, as it meant I had not inflicted the curse of the brutta figura, which literally translates as bad figure, on my family.

In pretty much all areas of life, whether it be in the way people dress, how they behave, how well their homes are kept or how impeccably a cake is presented and a gift wrapped, Italians strive to achieve the bella figura, or beautiful figure.

Such importance is placed on keeping up appearances and the finer detail that for unwitting foreigners theres a sense of being sized up in everything you do, even going as far as to what you eat and drink and at what time of the day you indulge in such activities.

What matters is not what you do but how you appear, said an Italian friend, likening it to posting the perfect photograph on social media. Its a tactic that enables people to get promoted at work and politicians to win over admirers while giving the impression that they are achieving something.

I call it selfie and spot, the friend said. For example, the politician takes a selfie against a beautiful backdrop, posts it on Facebook with a promise to do something, but then doesnt follow it through. With a good selfie and a good spot, you can survive an entire career without doing anything. Angela Giuffrida in Rome

GERMANY: Feierabend

Knocking off time in Hamburg. Photograph: Alamy

One of the most misleading, but also most enduring, myths about German culture is that it values hard work over a good siesta. Northern Europeans, the legend goes, have a Protestant work ethic that means they get the job done even if it means staying in the office late into the night, while the southern Europeans wave it off with a maana, maana.

Anyone who sincerely believes that to be the case has never tried to call a German office at one minute past five. When German workers say Ich mach Feierabend(I am calling it a day), it rarely carries an apologetic undertone but usually comes with the confidence of someone claiming an ancient right.

Dating back to the 16th century, the term Feierabend, or celebration evening, used to denote the evening before a public holiday, but has come to refer to the free time between leaving the office and bedtime on any working day.

The key to understanding Feierabendis that it isnt time for going to the cinema or gym, but time for doing nothing. In 1880, the cultural historian Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl described the conceptas an atmosphere of carefree wellbeing, of deep inner reconciliation, of the pure and clear quiet of the evening.

Germanys adherence to the Feierabendrulebook can frustrate when you are trying to make a work call on a Friday afternoon or buy an aspirin from a pharmacy on a Sunday (Sundays being a 24-hour celebration evening).

But as a philosophy, it underpins the proudest achievements of the German labour movement and may just explain why the country has some of the highest productivity levels in Europe: to truly cherish the evening, you make sure you get the job done before five oclock. Philip Oltermann in Berlin


Duty calls: Finnish troops in the second world war. Photograph: Hulton Deutsch/Getty Images

Sisu is an untranslatable Finnish term that blends resilience, tenacity, persistence, determination, perseverance and sustained, rather than momentary, courage: the psychological strength to ensure that regardless of the cost or the consequences, what has to be done will be done.

It originates from the word sisus, meaning intestines or guts; Daniel Juslenius, author of the first Finnish-language dictionary in 1745, defined sisucunda as the place in the body where strong emotions live. In a harsh environment and with powerful neighbours, it was what a young nation needed.

Sisu is what, in 1939-40, allowed an army of 350,000 Finns to twice fight off Soviet forces three times their number, inflicting losses five times heavier than those they sustained.

More prosaically, it has helped Finns get through a lot of long, lonely, dark and freezing winters, building in the process one of the wealthiest, safest, most stable and best-governed countries in the world. It is not all good, of course. Sisu can lead to stubbornness, a refusal to take advice, an inability to admit weakness, a lack of compassion.

It has become a bit of clich in Finland a brand name for trucks and strongly-flavoured sweets. Research shows it holds little appeal to the young. But ask a Finn to define the national character, and its the word most still reach for. Jon Henley

IRAN: Taarof

No, I insist Photograph: Carol Guzy/Getty Images

Taarofis a Persian word that has no English equivalent, referring to the art of etiquette ubiquitous in everyday Iranian life.

You go first, says Mr A as he meets Mr B at the doorstep, as they try to enter a building. No, its not possible, you go first, Mr B insists in response. Taarof dictates a ritual that may see them both waiting for a couple of unnecessary minutes before one steps forward to enter.

It is an etiquette that is seen almost in all aspects of Iranian life, from hosts insisting on guests taking more food from the table, to the exchanges in the bazaar. How much is this carpet? asks Ms A after choosing her favourite in the shop. Its worthless, you can just take it, responds the seller, quite disingenuously.

Although Ms A in reality cannot take the carpet out of the shop without paying for it, the seller might insist up to three times that she should just do that, until the amount of the price is finally mentioned.

The awkward exchanges may have originated out of politeness; ultimately, they may work to the sellers favour, as the buyer feels a certain obligation to respond to such deference with a purchase, even if the final price is more than she expected.

Another example: you are walking with a friend and you end up doing Taarof, asking him to come to yours for lunch, even though you dont have anything prepared and you dont really want him to accept.

The friend insists out of Taarof that he wouldnt come because he knows youre tired and doesnt want to be a burden, even though deep down he really wants to have lunch at your place.

Oh, dont Taarof, you say in a Taarof asking your friend not to Taarof. He ends up accepting your reluctant Taarof. Youre a bit irked, but youll have to be all smiles. Not all Taarofs are insincere; some are, some arent. Youd Taarof even if you badly want something, saying you dont want it; youd Taarof if you really hate something, pretending you want it. Saeed Kamali Dehghan

RUSSIA: (toska)

Storm, Rain. Isaak Levitan Photograph: Fine Art Images/Alamy

Leave it to Russia to serve up the melancholy: toska translates as yearning or ennui. Except it doesnt, because no English word can accurately reflect all the shades of the word, to paraphrase Vladimir Nabokov.

What can toska (pronounced tahs-kah) mean? Spiritual anguish, a deep pining, perhaps the product of nostalgia or love-sickness, toskais depression plus longing, an unbearable feeling that you need to escape but lack the hope or energy to do so.

Visually to me, toska conjures up an endless field of birch on the edge of St Petersburg, in the dead of winter when the clouds never part, and its only light for five hours a day anyway.

Toska is the stuff of great literature. Evgeny Onegin, the foundational Russian novel-in-verse about superfluous men, unrequited love and duels? Loads of toska.

Anton Chekhov wrote an entire short story called Toska about a cabman who recently lost his son and searches for someone to talk to about his grief. He ends up talking to his horse. All that broodiness in the great (and not-so-great) Russian novels? You get the picture.

So why choose toska for this list of positivity? Because if the Russian soul s the place where great emotions reside, then toska pays the rent. Without toska there cannot be delirious happiness, endless heartfelt conversations at 4am at the kitchen table, boundless generosity at obvious personal expense.

Toska is a sign that your emotions go beyond logic and that you are really, truly living your emotions. Perhaps youve felt toska and you didnt realise it, but its a good thing: it means youve got a little bit of the Russian soul in you. Andrew Roth in Moscow

JAPAN: shoganai

Were coming home (but were tidying up first). Photograph: Darko Vojinovic/AP

As inhabitants of an archipelago that is regularly struck by earthquakes and tsunamis, and as recent events have tragically demonstrated floods and landslides, it is little wonder that the Japanese have a well-developed sense of fatalism. Any verbal reflection on humans powerlessness to control natures most destructive forces often elicit the phrase shoganai.

The expression, meaning, it cant be helped, is Japans catchall response to any situation, large or small, over which people believe they have no influence. A more voguish translation might be it is what it is. A French person would immediately recognise it as a version of cest la vie.

It could be heard, delivered with deep reflection, amid the rubble of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and, in resigned tones, after Japans agonising exit from the World Cup in Russia.

Shoganai, and its synonymshikata ga nai, are verbal coping mechanisms that apply equally to unwelcome developments in everyday life, from getting struck in a traffic jam to having to spend Friday evening at the office.

With its roots in the Zen Buddhist belief that suffering is a natural part of life, it could perhaps be described as Japans version of the serenity prayer a personal and communal recognition that, on occasion, passive acceptance of an unfortunate truth is far easier than trying to deny it.

But resigning oneself to ones fate with a muttered shoganai has its drawbacks. Some observers of Japanese culture note that it is too often applied in situations in which humans have more influence than they think.

For much of the seven decades since the end of the second world war, there has been a general acceptance of the dominance of the conservative Liberal Democratic party, even among liberal voters. Some have pointed to its role in allowing the rise of Japanese militarism in the first half of the 20th century.

Shikata ga nai is, then, partly to blame for weaknesses at the heart of Japans democracy, allowing one party to dominate even, as is the case today, when it is mired in scandal.

In a country with few energy resources of its own, nuclear power was for decades the beneficiary of the shoganai mindset, one that accepted the construction of dozens of nuclear reactors along the coastline as a necessary evil.

It took Fukushima to prove that Japans lauded sense of fatalism can sometimes be downright dangerous. Justin McCurry in Tokyo


In Japan, Samurai Cuisine Is Racking Up Michelin Stars

In the town of Shiogama in Miyagi Prefecture, there’s a residential neighborhood overlooking Matsushima Bay, the epicenter of Japan’s catastrophic March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. On a quiet street there, chef Hideyuki Irakawa and his wife, Michiko, have been serving samurai food from their restaurant, Chimatsushima, for the past two decades. The smoky, wholesome cuisine has given fighters a nutritional leg up for hundreds of years, but now its varied flavors are tempting a wide array of locals and tourists. The Irakawas have made it relevant for the 21st century by adding touches of artistry that feel distinctive to the Tohoku region; last year, when Miyagi prefecture celebrated its inaugural Michelin Guide, theirs was one of 11 local restaurants to earn an initial star.

 Chef Hideyuki Irakawa’s kitchen overlooks the dining room of Chimatsushima.
Photographer: Ross Kenneth Urken

Tohoku, which makes up the entire northeast of Honshu, Japan’s main island, is essentially the country’s New England, with colorful foliage in the fall and extremely snowy winters. It’s also where samurai cuisine rose to prominence in the 1600s, during the important Edo period. Back then, Japan’s prized athletes typically ate a simple diet of miso soup and brown rice to carbo-load for battle. Adding textural variety and strong flavors helped encourage them to consume more grain, so kitchens of the era experimented with adding distinctive, salty side dishes: pickled vegetables and plums, seaweed, and natto, a fermented soybean paste.

Both samurai cuisine and the Tohoku region remain wildly under the radar. Only 1.3 percent of foreign tourists to Japan venture to Miyagi or Tohoku’s five other prefectures—Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, and Yamagata. But some of the world’s most recognized chefs, from Daniel Boulud to David Bouley, have taken a fascination with Tohoku’s culinary history, and Michelin’s support is only catalyzing the prefecture’s reputation as a bastion for top-notch, warrior-worthy eats.

An old samurai house in Kakunodate, a city in Akita prefecture. 
Photographer: Ross Kenneth Urken


A variety of traditional tsukemono, or Japanese pickles.
Photographer: David Clapp/Photolibrary RM

The Building Blocks of a Butt-Kicking Diet

The rise of samurai cuisine is largely credited to Masamune Date, a feudal warlord known as the One-Eyed Dragon of Oshu. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, he was the most powerful samurai in Tohoku—but he was also known as a culinary innovator.

To this day, cooks produce a strong red miso made with soybeans and (a mold that replaces malt) that’s fermented and aged at a brewery near the base of Sendai Castle, which Date built in 1593. It’s the star ingredient at restaurants like Nacrée, a Michelin one-star spot designed by Kengo Kuma. There, Chef Minoru Ogata—a former sous chef at the three-star L’Astrance, in Paris—uses the miso to marinade thick cuts of roasted bacon.

This condiment is also a bit of a status symbol. Eric C. Rath, a University of Kansas professor specializing in dietary cultures of premodern Japan, says that because miso improves with age, it traditionally carried a socio-economic heft among the warrior class. “If you want to demonstrate that you have wealth as a samurai, you bring out a three-year-old miso—it’s like bringing out an aged Bordeaux,” he said.

A selection of mochi, or Japanese rice cakes, includes yukiwari (“snow-breaking) natto in the bottom left corner.
Photographer: Ross Kenneth Urken

Another key element to Tohoku’s samurai diet is  (“snow-breaking”) soybean paste, which includes more salt and koji than the traditional version. Versions of the dish have been consumed since the 11th century; it has the texture of caramel and the pungency of a stinky cheese, and is meant to efficiently fill up your belly, restore warmth, and provide the energy for battle. (As a side bonus, it’s also a known-probiotic and immune system booster.) At Chimatsushima, Chef Irakawa serves yukiwari natto with a dollop of red beans and rice—then the whole dish is garnished with gold leaf, lotus root, wasabi, ginkgo nuts, seaweed jelly, and the Japanese citrus .

, or pickled vegetables, are the last pillar of a complete samurai diet. Given the lack of refrigeration, pickling helped the warriors eat vegetables out of season, and the brininess and crunch helped break up the monotony of rice. In Tohoku, the most common variety is made with daikon radishes that are smoldered over chestnut and cherry wood chips, then pickled in rice bran, salt, and sugar for several months. The result is called , or “wood-smoldered pickles,” and it’s more homey and smoky than your typical, vinegary cucumber.

In the Global Spotlight

Kamaishi, a little-visited town in the Iwate prefecture of Tohoku.
Photographer: Getty Images/MIXA

Despite the broader attention, restaurateurs and other hospitality industry leaders have had trouble fully capitalizing on the region’s recent renown, says Elizabeth Andoh, author of Kibō: Recipes and Stories from Japan’s Tohoku. “To some extent, a shadow of concern still remains regarding the safety of Tohoku’s food and possible radiation contamination.” This sentiment persists, she says, despite Japan’s rigorous food-safety monitoring.

And though the 2011 Fukushima disaster brought much tragedy, it did result in added attention to the region and its food from notable sources: famed chefs Daniel Boulud, David Bouley, Patrice Martineau, and Michael Romano all traveled to Tohoku to show solidarity with the region and promote its food. Romano, a chef-partner of Union Square Cafe and director of culinary development for Union Square Hospitality Group, says his visit to the Tohoku town of Kamaishi was “one of the most memorable events of my life.”

The new-found accolades from Michelin are poised to reinforce that message. So, too, is a project called “New Tohoku,” whose aim is to revitalize the region and welcome tourists; it’s run by a government entity called the Reconstruction Agency that’s repositioning Tohoku around its samurai culinary offerings and rich warrior traditions such as swordsmanship.

The Ochanoma Lounge at the Hoshinoya Tokyo.
Source: Hoshinoya Tokyo

Awareness of samurai cuisine is spreading beyond Tohoku. In Tokyo, the new Hoshinoya hotel was constructed on top of an old samurai house of the Sekai family, and chef Noriyuki Hamada serves his food, including plenty of pickled radishes, on reclaimed wood dishes made from the former structure. At Elements, a Michelin one-star in Bangkok that features French food with hints of Japanese influence, the chef serves . And , the wildly popular fictional series that began streaming on Netflix last year, is about the pickled food cravings of a Japanese retiree with a samurai alter ego.

“All of these communities across [Japan] are scratching their heads: “‘What kinds of foods do we have to draw visitors?’” says Rath, the professor. “In the wake of the 3/11 disaster, accentuating the samurai connection with Tohoku foods certainly places them in a more positive light.”

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Singapores Aging ‘Time Bomb’ Will Tick Louder in 2018

Next year marks an ominous turning point for Singapore’s graying population, according to research by Francis Tan, an economist at United Overseas Bank Ltd. in Singapore.

In 2018, the share of the population that’s 65 years and older will match those younger than 15 for the first time, Tan wrote in a report on Wednesday. As the elderly population starts to crowd out the youth, the “demographic time bomb” may mean changes to taxes, immigration rules, and social services, he said.

“Singapore is facing one of the toughest economic and social challenges since its independence in the form of a rapidly aging workforce and population,” Tan said.

At this rate, seniors in Singapore’s population will make up more than double the share of the youngest residents in 2030. Tan uses a compounded annual growth rate rather than adjusting for potential policy changes or alteration of trends such as fertility rates, meaning officials could still help redraw those lines, or at least make them appear less menacing, over the next decade.

With already the oldest population in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Singapore of 2030 will probably look a lot like the demographics-embattled Japan of 2016, Tan’s figures show.

That’s all making policy more complicated as the city state seeks to ensure that the elderly population is cared for without curbing the well-being of younger residents.

One way to increase the labor supply would be to ease immigration restrictions, a move that would have to be done at a managed pace to avoid worsening the “foreigner assimilation issue” in Singapore, even though the country can’t afford zero immigration, Tan said. Singapore tightened rules on the hiring of foreigners in the wake of the 2011 election, amid voter discontent over gridlock and competition for employment, property and education.

Few Chefs

Tan uses the analogy of a restaurant’s kitchen for the economy to show how aging threatens growth, and the quality of that output.

“If there are fewer new chefs coming into the kitchen to cook the massive pot of broth (because of low birth rates and low levels of immigration), the existing pool of experienced chefs are aging and retiring, and there is no improvement in labor productivity, the amount of broth (GDP) that will be produced in the next period will certainly be lesser, or worse still, be of inferior quality,” he wrote.

The stark trend also helps explain why Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said tax increases are not a matter of if, but when. His remarks were echoed by other government officials, suggesting that a boost to the goods and services tax, among other proposals, is being considered for implementation as early as next year.

Tan sees the government increasing the GST next year to 8 percent from 7 percent, with an equal boost in 2019.

While Tan’s warnings carry a dark tone, he’s optimistic that the government has time to enact changes that will mitigate the negative effects of aging.

“The demographic time bomb only starts ticking in 2018 — it does not mean that it will explode yet,” he wrote. “There is still a sizable percentage of working-age population supporting the economy. That said, one will have to understand that this cannot last forever.”

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    Why Foodies Should Flock to San Francisco Instead of New York

    Michelin has delivered some good news to the Bay Area.

    Today, the restaurant bible announced the places that it has awarded one, two, and three stars in and around San Francisco. The news had been postponed, due to the wildfires in the area.

    There are now seven Michelin three-star restaurants in San Francisco. The newest addition is Coi, a modern, thought-provoking restaurant near the Financial District. Chef/owner Daniel Patterson handed over kitchen duties to Matthew Kirkley early last year; in response, the restaurant gained a star. “Matthew Kirkley has taken the restaurant to another level,” says Michael Ellis, international director of the . “He can combine sweetbreads and skate. He can serve a dish like sea urchin mousseline with grapefruit caramel. You think, ‘How can that work?’ Yet it does.”

    The newly three-starred dining room at Coi. 
    Source: Coi

    Patterson agreed. “I’m so happy for Matt,” he told Bloomberg after hearing the announcement. “He’s worked incredibly hard and he’s very deserving. I knew when I hired him he would cook at a three-star level and it’s great to see that hard work truly recognized.”

    New York has only six Michelin three-stars, at least for the moment. The 2018 winners will be announced on Monday, Oct. 30. It remains to be seen whether New York will gain any more; the Bay Area seems to be ahead of the Big Apple in terms of creativity and ambitious cooking, and it has an affluent, young, tech-industry workforce that supports this—at least on the higher end. 

    The Michelin two-star category included mostly good news, too, for the Bay Area. Two restaurants were freshly named: the modern Mexican Californos, in the Mission, and the exceptional, farm-based, Japanese-minded Single Thread, in Healdsburg.

    In all, 55 restaurants earned Michelin stars; last year there were 54. That bucked the trend for the area’s inexpensive restaurants—the Bib Gourmands, Michelin’s cheap eats, listed 67 spots this year, down from 74 a year ago. (For anyone wondering whether the charming, New American Rich Table was taken off that list because it landed a Michelin star this year, the answer is “Yes.”)

    Another worthy addition to the list is Kenzo, the elegant Japanese omakase spot in Napa that’s attached to the winery of the same name. It’s owned by video game mogul Kenzo Tsujimoto, chief executive officer of Capcom Co. Also notable is In Situ, from chef Corey Lee. His restaurant in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art received a star for recreating the world’s most famous dishes from such chefs as Massimo Bottura, David Chang, and Wylie Dufresne

    The extraordinary Single Thread catapulted to win two Michelin stars in a single year.
    Photographer: Garrett Rowland

    One restaurant that was downgraded from two stars to one is Campton Place. “It went to an all-tasting-menu format, which is fine, but the bar is higher,” notes Ellis. Several one-star spots shut their doors, including Aziza, Mosu, and Nico.

    “There’s a lot of high level cooking going on in San Francisco right now,” Patterson says. “It’s at the highest level I’ve seen it. When we opened Coi [in 2006], there was nothing. I’ve seen it go from zero to where it is now. It’s been a  remarkable evolution.”

    Ellis says we’ll have to wait until the New York stars are announced to see whether San Francisco has emerged as the better food city. “New York has a lot of talent. But there’s a particular, creative energy and almost unlimited ambition coming out of California. There are huge Asian and Mexican influences, access to incredible products both locally and from Japan, and a young, thriving audience. It’s a perfect cocktail of things coming together for the city’s culinary scene.” The full list follows.

    (An asterisk denotes a new entry.)

    Three Stars

    A post shared by Saison (@saisonsf) on

    Benu, San Francisco
    *Coi, San Francisco 
    The French Laundry, Yountville
    Manresa, Los Gatos
    Quince, San Francisco
    The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena
    Saison, San Francisco


    Two Stars

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    Acquerello, San Francisco
    Atelier Crenn, San Francisco   
    Baumé, Palo Alto
    *Californios, Mission
    Commis, Oakland
    Lazy Bear, San Francisco
    *Single Thread, Sonoma County 

    One Star

    A post shared by Kin Khao (@kinkhao) on

    Adega, San Jose
    Al's Place, San Francisco Mission   
    Aster, San Francisco Mission   
    Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford
    Aziza, San Francisco 
    Bouchon, Yountville
    Campton Place, San Francisco
    Chez TJ, Mountain View
    Commonwealth, San Francisco   
    Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Forestville
    Gary Danko, San Francisco 
    Hashiri, San Francisco
    *In Situ, San Francisco 
    Ju-ni, San Francisco
    Keiko à Nob Hill, San Francisco 
    *Kenzo, Wine Country 
    Kin Khao, San Francisco  
    *Kinjo, San Francisco
    La Toque, Napa 
    Lord Stanley, San Francisco    
    Luce, San Francisco
    Madera, Peninsula, Menlo Park 
    Madrona Manor, Wine Country
    Michael Mina, San Francisco
    Mister Jiu’s, San Francisco
    Mourad, San Francisco
    Octavia, San Francisco
    Omakase, San Francisco
    Plumed Horse, South Bay
    The Progress , San Francisco

    It takes a team to get a Michelin star: the staff of Rich Table.
    Source: Rich Table

    Rasa, Peninsula
    *Rich Table, San Francisco 
    Sons & Daughters, San Francisco
    SPQR, San Francisco
    Spruce, San Francisco
    State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
    Sushi Yoshizumi, Peninsula
    Terra, Wine Country
    Terrapin Creek, Wine country
    The Village Pub, Peninsula
    Wako, San Francisco
    Wakuriya, Peninsula

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