Sad demise of this Tokyo branch breaks our hearts.

When most people in Japan get a hankering for a rice bowl topped with beef, they usually head out to one of the big-name beef bowl chains like Yoshinoya, but for our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun, the best place to go is a restaurant chain called Okamuraya.

Unlike rival chains like Yoshinoya, who bill their wares as “gyudon” (“beef bowls”), Okamuraya’s bowls of beef and rice are known as “niku meshi” (“meat rice”). While both dishes essentially contain the same core ingredients — meat and rice — Okamuraya’s offerings are substantially meatier, being inspired by hearty sukiyaki (beef hotpot) dishes of the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

▼ A beef bowl at Okamuraya is like a next-level gyudon.

Okamuraya prides itself on making “beef bowls that can’t be found anywhere else”, so it came as devastating news to niku meshi lovers like P.K. when the chain suddenly announced it would be closing its Akihabara branch.

P.K. has been riding a rollercoaster of emotions with Okamuraya since it first opened in Shimbashi in 2013. The chain quickly became so popular that other branches followed soon after, popping up in Akihabara, Shinjuku, Tamachi, Gotanda, and Takadanobaba.

In its heyday, P.K. could enjoy Okamuraya’s Niku Meshi at six different locations in Tokyo. However, as of April 2021, there were only three Okamuraya stores left, located in Shimbashi, Akihabara, and Shinjuku. Then, in May, the Shinjuku branch closed, breaking P.K.’s heart a little further, to the point where news of the Akihabara closure led him to pick up the phone and call the company to find out what was happening to his favourite niku meshi specialist.

▼ P.K. had always thought the Akihabara branch of Okamuraya was the busiest of them all.

Speaking to a representative from the public relations department of Arcland Service Holdings, the company that runs the chain, P.K. attempted to get to the truth about the closing of the Akihabara store, and this is how the conversation went:

P.K.: Aaaaaagh! There are rumours that Okamuraya’s Akihabara store will be closing but tell me it’s a lie!

Arcland: “No, unfortunately the Okamuraya Akihabara store will close on 22 August.”

P.K.: Goddamn! Why?!! Surely the Akihabara store was making a profit!!

Arcland: “It pains us to say it, but the Akihabara store was actually in a very tough situation, business-wise, so we made the overwhelmingly sad decision to close it.”

P.K.: Aaargh……! But the Akihabara store was quite busy!?

Arcland: “Okamuraya is a very important brand for us, so we did our best right up to the breaking point, but in the end it was too difficult to continue running the business.”

P.K.: So it was tough going for even the Akihabara store?

Arcland: “Our customers at Akihabara really supported us, but still…”

P.K.: It…it must’ve been my fault… I should have gone five times a week instead of one…!

Arcland: “Thank you. We hope your patronage will continue at our Shimbashi branch from now on.”

P.K.: Oh, that’s right! Is the Shimbashi branch okay?!

Arcland: “Yes, the Shimbashi branch will continue as it is, and there are no plans to close it.”

P.K.: Yayyyyyy! From now on, I’ll go to the Shimbashi branch seven times a week!! And someday, the Akihabara store will be revived!

▼ Look out, Shimbashi – you have a very enthusiastic customer headed your way.

P.K.’s sense of sadness at the closure of the Akihabara branch was now coupled with relief, after learning that there are no plans to close the final branch in the city. Shimbashi may be a little out of his way, but the trip there for Okamuraya’s epic bowls of Niku Meshi will always be worth it, so he’ll definitely be eating there more frequently from now on.

Until 22 August, though, you’ll be able to find P.K. at the Akihabara branch of Okamuraya, where he may or may not be wiping away a tear at the changing landscape of the area, which has lost too many iconic stores and arcades in the last few months.

Store information
Okamuraya Akihabara Branch / 岡むら屋秋葉原店
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Sotokanda, 4−2−6 AKIBA 426 Building 1F
東京都千代田区外神田4-2-6 AKIBA426ビル 1F
Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Photos © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]