Without actually getting arrested and being thrust into the confines of a prison cell, there is little if any chance of us being able to taste real prison food. However, this doesn’t stop many of us wondering on the odd occasion what all those guys doing hard labor actually eat day after day. It could possibly be the most revolting thing known to man but if only there were a way to at least try it…. In this vain, our RocketNews24 reporter Kuzo searched high and low for a place where all of us upstanding citizens can try the stuff without resorting to breaking the law. Thankfully, this is Japan, so it didn’t take long for him to track down a cafeteria in northern part of Japan that specializes solely in Japanese prison food.

All dishes are based on actual recipes of the food served inside Japanese prisons

Located in the town of Abashiri, Hokkaido, this alternative dining room goes by the name of “Prison Cafeteria”. Here it is possible to eat the same food that the genuine inmates of Abashirishi prison eat for lunch each day. This food is served to the general public just like any normal cafeteria.


The only difference lies in the soup

Lunch set A retails at 800 yen (US$8), and set B at 700 yen ($7). Both sets are served with traditional Japanese miso soup, however the original meals served in prison, instead of the miso soup, come with the slightly cheaper and arguably somewhat mediocre coarse tea. Even so, if you put this slight difference aside, the meal remains strikingly true to the original recipe.

Prison food Set A



– Rice boiled with barley,
– Fried fish (mackerel pike)
– Thinly sliced Japanese daikon radish
– “Harusame” noodle salad,
– Miso soup


Perhaps Kuzo’s biggest apprehension was just how the food would taste. Being prison food, it’s hard not to hold the preconception of things being a little on the bland side. However, to his surprise, the meal was not wanting in flavor, with the sweetness of the Japanese radish complementing the rice and the aroma of the mackerel creating a taste-bud explosion.

Prison food set B



– Rice boiled with barley
– Fried fish (Atka mackerel)
– Fried dish with Japanese vegetables
– Chinese yam
– Miso soup


The mackerel on offer here is garnished with grated Japanese radish which complements the mackerel superbly. To make an already delicious meal even more tantalizing, sprinkling a little soy sauce on the fish and taking a mouthful along with the rice really does give the meal a sophisticated edge. Adding the Chinese yam to the equation, our reporter couldn’t contain his emotion any more, softly muttering “amazing” as he looked down at his tray of prison food.

Not only is the food healthy but it’s also rich in fiber

Obviously no one wants to be sent to prison, but judging from the sheer quality of the food on offer here, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that this is something you wouldn’t get fed up with eating everyday. There’s everything from your dietary fibers, to your daily intake of salt and carbohydrates. Admittedly, the food that real inmates eat is lacking in miso soup, carrying the dumbed-down coarse tea. However, this arguably could be seen as a form of “punishment” for the prisoners. After all, for them, complimenting this all off with miso soup might just make offenders of the law a little too accustomed to that longed-for home-cooked flavor.




Restaurant info:

Prison Cafeteria (in Japanese “Kangoku Shokudo”)
Address: Abashirishi Prison Museum, Abashiri city, Hokkaido
Opening hours: 10:30 – 15:30
Holiday: November – March

If the photos aren’t enough to whet your appetite, take a look at the video below:

Photos: RocketNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]