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Why can't all hospital food look like it does in Japan?

No, these aren't dishes from a fancy restaurant's tasting menu — this is the hospital food one woman ate after giving birth in Japan.
/ Source: TODAY

Hospital food typically ranks on par with gas station or airline food — except in Japan, apparently.

After giving birth in a hospital in Japan, one woman recently posted pictures on Imgur of one amazing meal after another, which quickly went viral among those of us used to seeing gelatin cups on hospital trays.

"I'm very happy to see that so many people are interested in the photos and about Japanese food culture," the woman told TODAY Food in an email. She did not disclose her name for privacy.

Among the dishes pictured: an artfully garnished Japanese rice omelette, squid rings, braised pumpkin and pork, and soba noodles, plus lots of healthy sustenance, like salmon, fresh fruit and green tea.

"The bitter melon stir fry is a local specialty here," she added.

Originally from Canada, the woman has been living in Japan for nine years, is married to a Japanese citizen, and gave birth to their daughter in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan.

It is standard for women there to stay in hospital for four days after giving birth, and "I looked forward to meal time so much that I wanted to document it," she said. She was in the hospital from Sept. 26 to 30.

Calorie information was included: about 2,000 to 2,500 per day total for the three meals, plus an afternoon snack such as a cream puff or small piece of cake and tea. (Breastfeeding burns an extra 300 to 500 calories per day.)

The bill for all the woman's prenatal care, delivery and hospital stay totaled about $4,000 but was completely covered by national insurance, she added on a Reddit post. Oh, and thanks to a Japanese government initiative to boost the birth rate, the couple will receive ¥15000, or about $2,262 a month, from now on, she wrote.

Japan's delicious-looking hospital food shouldn't come as a surprise — it has a rep for being some of the tastiest in the world; plus, a 2016 Lancet study found that Japanese children have the longest life expectancy in the world, likely due in large part to their healthy diets, with smaller portions, more veggies and fish, and less meat and dairy.

It's worth noting that while this patient had a standout, five-star experience in particular, it's not necessarily representative of every hospital meal in Japan.

"I think the hospital food like this is standard," she added, "but my clinic had a reputation for having great food — above average — I think!"