Nothing is certain at Umeda Yang Rou Chuan.

Umeda Yang Rou Chuan is a restaurant in Osaka that serves yang rou chuan (mutton skewers)…probably. Honestly, it’s kind of hard to say.

Yes, it is located near Umeda Station, and yes, you can eat mutton skewers there. But if your definition of a restaurant is “a place where you order food and the staff prepares it for you,” then Umeda Yang Rou Chuan might possibly not be a restaurant. Even if your criteria for being a restaurant is as simple as “A place where they’ll let you come in and buy food and drinks,” or “A place where the staff does the work of preparing food and drinks,” Umeda Yang Rou Chuan still might not qualify.

So let’s look at the situation a little more closely. First, Umeda Yang Rou Chuan is, without question, a room in a building. You can see the entrance in the photo here.

However, there’s no set schedule as to when that door is and isn’t locked. Umeda Yang Rou Chuan opens and closes whenever the owner, Yohei Ogi, feels like it. You can usually get a heads-up about the day’s schedule through Umeda Yang Rou Chuan’s Instagram and Twitter accounts, and following them is actually a prerequisite for admission to the place.

▼ Yohei Ogi

Since Ogi is the owner of Umeda Yang Rou Chuan, you might assume that when the place is open and he’s there, he’s working. That’s not necessarily the case, though. Through Umeda Yang Rou Chuan’s social media accounts, Ogi has explicitly stated that he doesn’t want to work, and that feeling manifests itself in some unusual systems for procuring food and drink at this maybe-a-restaurant. For starters, all of the drinks are self-serve. You pay a flat fee of 1,000 yen (US$7) an hour for all you can drink, then grab whatever you want from the fridge.

Oh, and once you’ve polished off a can or bottle, or you’re done with your plastic cup? You’re expected to clean up the trash yourself.

▼ Our reporter P.K. Sanjun and Ikuna Kamezawa, enjoying their first round of drinks at Umeda Yang Rou Chuan

As for food, there’s a one-time fee of 1,000 yen per visit, for which you get “food that is served continually until the end of operating hours for the day.” In effect, it’s an all-you-can-eat deal with no time limit for just 1,000 yen, which sounds like a great deal.

Except, there are a couple of catches. First, no matter how long you wait, Ogi is not, on his own, going to whip up a batch of mutton skewers for you. That might be baffling, seeing as how the place is called Umeda Yang Rou Chuan, but Ogi has an airtight reason for not taking the initiative to make his place’s marque dish, which he’s also made clear on the social media accounts:

“The owner does not want to work, and he especially doesn’t want to put meat on skewers.”

The first dish Ogi brought out for P.K. and Ikuna, though, was at least boiled strips of mutton, and was delicious.

P.K. was curious as to how Ogi had come up with such a delicious blend of seasonings and cooking technique, but when he asked, Ogi plainly said “Found a recipe on the Internet.”

But hey, whether it was an Ogi original or not, the mutton still tasted great. As P.K. and Ikuna happily munched and drank, Ogi made his way back to the counter. Our reporters wondered what dish he’d be cooking up next, but when they looked over at the open kitchen area in hopes of catching a sneak peek…

…they saw that instead of firing up his stove, Ogi had fired up his Nintendo Switch and was playing Smash Bros. all by himself.

Apparently the flipside to the unlimited time all-you-can-eat plan is that Ogi doesn’t really have any sense of urgency regarding the cooking. So what about the mutton skewers? It turns out there is a way to get them, but remember, Ogi absolutely doesn’t want to do the skewering. Which means…

customers who want to eat them have to do the skewering themselves.

The way the system works is you tell Ogiyou want to do the skewering, and he supplies you with the mutton, skewers, and plastic gloves. Then, once you’ve got the meat on the sticks, you turn them over to Ogi and he cooks them.

Again, this runs contrary to what we usually expect at a “restaurant.” Even at grill-it-yourself yakiniku and okonomiyaki restaurants, it’s generally the staff that does the preparation, and the customers who do the cooking. At Umeda Yang Rou Chuan, it’s the opposite, at least as far as the mutton skewers are concerned.

▼ According to the sign on the wall explaining the skewer system, anyone who puts the meat on the sticks gets “all-you-can-eat mutton skewers,” but it’s not clear if that means you can opt out of the 1,000-yen all-you-can-eat-food system and just go all-out on skewers.

P.K. and Ikuna were the first customers of the day, but in time several regulars showed up. There was a woman who stopped in just to have some food before starting her night shift at work, and much later on a man who stopped in for a drink on his way home. There was even a guy whose primary purpose in coming was to go a few Smash Bros. rounds with Ogi.

All of this ties in to Ogi’s philosophy. In expanding on his declaration that he doesn’t want to work, he’s said “I only want to work if it’s for the sake of people and a place I like” and “I think what my customers are paying for isn’t the food, but for the community we have here.”

That sounds like a really friendly, open-minded way of running a business…but like with so many other things at Umeda Yang Rou Chuan, there are some complications involved. Earlier we mentioned that in order to be admitted, you have to follow Umeda Yang Rou Chuan’s social media accounts. Apparently, though, that’s not the only criteria if you want to eat and drink there, and unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there’s any way to know for sure if Ogi will let you in until you show up at the door.

During P.K. and Ikuna’s time at Umeda Yang Rou Chuan, a couple, who appeared to be first-timers, showed up. Rather than let them in, though, Ogi turned them away, nonchalantly telling our reporters, “It just didn’t seem like a good match [between the couple and Umeda Yang Rou Chuan].” This happened multiple times while P.K. and Ikuna were there, with a total of six people, who’d come all the way to the place, being told they couldn’t come in.

So in the end, it’s hard to definitively say just what Umeda Yang Rou Chuan is. It’s sort of like a restaurant, but your food options are whatever the owner wants to make, whenever he feels like making it or the skewers that you have to first do the prep work for. It’s sort of like a bar, but you have to serve yourself and bus your own table. It’s sort of like an easygoing home-away-from-home social club, but one that might turn you away based on nothing more apparently substantial than the owner’s whims.

All we can say is that Umeda Yang Rou Chuan is Umeda Yang Rou Chuan.

Umeda Yang Rou Chuan information
Umeda Yang Rou Chuan / 梅田羊肉串
Address: Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Kita-ku, Doyamacho 6-14, Daiichi Matsue Kaikan Room 301
大阪府大阪市北区堂山町6-14 第1松栄会館301
Open: Whenever the owner feels like it
Closed Mondays
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