Ever wondered what Japanese prison food tastes like?

By Andrew Miller

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, 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.

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.

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 Holidays: November – March

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Super Rice Ball – get four flavors in one ball -- How about some fish flavored gum – to boost your intelligence? -- Treat Yourself to this Japanese Delicacy if You Dare – Ovaries From a Poisonous Fish

© RocketNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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There should be a caption for the photo: "Why old folks are committing crimes in Japan".

5 ( +6 / -1 )

It's the reporter that tried the US school lunch ? He preferred which one ?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Actually NO, I have never wondered what the food tastes like!!!

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Looks yummy, but the journalist is clearly lacking the balls to get the real story. We've seen a Japan and American school food comparison this week, so the journalist now needs to get himself locked up in overseas prisons in order to do a proper job. I look forward to the Bangkok Hilton edition.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Let's laugh about people in prison, lol and speculate what they eat as there is no evidence that is the normal prison grub.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Being a prisoner means, they do not need to worry about food, clothes and shelter. They even can enjoy the free physical fitness class and equipment. Many homeless prefer to go stay inside prison however they are so relutant to commit the crime.

Society is rewarding criminals instead of punishing. I remember the aritcle about homeless man damanged car for being arrested. Prison is a luxury for them. Some of them have not showered or decent bed for ages. If they see that yummy photo, they will get hungry.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

correction as sleep on decent bed for ages.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

That's a long way to go for such a spartan meal! A store at the nearby Memanbetsu Airport sells all kinds of cute Abashiri Prison omiyage with prison motifs, like towels, T-shirts, ash trays, etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have never wondered what Japanese prison food tastes like, nor American prison food or any other countries. Why would I care? I highly doubt this store would stay in business selling food if it tasted bland. Why would anyone go there a second time? For punishment? Why is this even a story? Are they trying to make us jealous of the food prisoners eat? Are they trying to make us angry that prisoners eat "good" food? Who cares?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Society is rewarding criminals instead of punishing.

Do you propose gulags and chain gangs, Zenpun? Sleep deprivation and water boarding?

Do we want prisoners coming out of jail totally broken and dependent, or with a new moral compass and real self esteem (not the bravado that might have got them there in the first place) as productive members of society?

Which scenario rewards society?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I really like Indian food, so I figured being incarcerated in an Indian prison be OK. I imagine you'd get to eat all sorts of spicy curries, samosa, tandoori chicken, and washed down with a lassi or chai every day. Not bad. Thailand and Singapore, too.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I think Japanese prison is not place for punishment but for rebuild prisoner's life urging more better. Think about Horiemon (Takafumi Horie), After he was released from prison, he looks so healthy than before!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Zenpun: "They even can enjoy the free physical fitness class and equipment."

In a Japanese prison? I don't think so.

2 ( +2 / -0 )


0 ( +2 / -2 )

Prisoners are the perfect group on which to see the advantages of a vegan diet.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Get Real

with a new moral compass and real self esteem (not the bravado that might have got them there in the first place) as productive members of society?

In some cases, released prisoners are remorseful and transformed themselves as productive members of socitey. However not all of them will be happily live after. Most of them will be not accepted by society as new, decent and law abiding person. Some are getting more daring for repeating their past. Therefore, it is a vicious cycle for rewarding and pampering criminals in the prisons.

According my research, Singapore Changi prison is the most successful one for transforming criminals. However it is touch, harsh and similar with Japanese miltary style punishment during WWII. Changi by self is Japanese name. It is not a Singapore name.

Which scenario rewards society?

Society will get some reward from criminals. It is not from staying at the prions and having nice meals. Such as criminals perform community service and cleaning for public. If we Get Real, there is no free lunch except for minors, elderly and disabled. Criminals have to contribute for their meals.

Being in prion is deterrent for commitiing the crime again in the future. Not for pampering and entertaining as rewards.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Looks a lot better than our school lunch!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I've eaten here. I was very hungry at the time ... so the prison food tasted very good. I enjoyed sitting at the tables with the "prisoners" ... dummies that were made to look like prisoners ... and chowing down on my food.

Also at the prison is a communal bath, which is constantly watched over by the guards. I removed my shirt, sat in with the washing dummy "prisoners" and "bathed" with them while another visitor like myself took my picture with my camera. It made a very nice photo ... me and the other prisoners ...

If you haven't visited the Abashiri prison museum where all this takes place, I recommend that you do so. You will never forget this place.

By the way ... I bought a nice Abashiri prison T-shirt ... but my wife won't let me wear it around her. She said everyone might think my visit here might have been a more permanent one somewhere in my past. Anyway, I like the Tee ...

Moreover ... Abashiri is a very nice place to visit ... I enjoyed it very much. The best ramen I have ever eaten in Japan was eaten here ... but then, I was also very hungry at the time.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Very interesting story. And yes, I just want to read about it, not really experience it. Good story!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm sure it's a lot better than Nutraloaf.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What I wonder is if the gaijin prisoners continually get asked if they can use chopsticks by the Japanese prisoners and if the Japanese prisoners always chew thoughtfully on their food for a few seconds then look surprised and shout "Umai!!" wide-eyed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Better than American school lunches and American fast food places! I just returned from an extended stay in America, wow! What junk food!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

i wonder if it's possible to "okawari"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Society is rewarding criminals instead of punishing.

Hardly rewarding. You argue that it is better to be in prison rather than spending life hungry on the streets. It is, but that is hardly a "reward". Being hungry and on the streets is a life much worse than prison and we would all logically choose relative comfort and food to either starving or freezing to death.

I can resist the "rewards" of a life in prison because I have a job and a home.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I can resist the "rewards" of a life in prison because I have a job and a home.

Someone I have known who worked as investment banker have highly paid job, Mansion and Yacht. However he could not control his greed and stole more money from his clients. He is enjoying his prisoner life now.

The moral of story is not only unemployed or homeless but also highly educated professional or CEO can end up in prison. That prison food menu may be catered for that sort of criminals. White collar crimes are out of control in modern information age.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )


Changi by self is Japanese name. It is not a Singapore name.

That's not what Wikipedia says. Are you just making things up?


i wonder if it's possible to "okawari"

Judging by how Horiemon looked when he came out of prison, I guess not.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Looks like home cooking in our place.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

oh good, similar menu (Lunch Set A) is served in the University Cafeteria once a week. I can tell my folks back home that I eat prison food occasionally!!!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Looks exactly like what they feed to kids at schools.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I wonder how much a meal costs?

0 ( +0 / -0 )


I think Zenpun is correct for pronounciation of Changi as Japanese. Wiki did not mention anything about that words belong to which nationality. However it is a native word for the 'Balanocarpus' tree, some of the tallest trees that used to grow on Singapore.

Native pronouciation was slightly different from Changi. When Japan invaded Singapore, they pronouned as Changi. There is more information about Changi museum.

That prison was very famous during WWII. Thanks to that prison! Singapore is realtively low in crime.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ever been to a Turkish prison, Bobby?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No I have not not do I care to.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Never wondered. We're living in the 21 century in a democratic country where inmates are not starved to death or fed like they were in the middle ages. The regime in Japanese prisons is rigid, but not like (I imagine) in a lot of countries we read about and the inmates get properly fed. Hospital and school meals l've experienced and the prison diet looks similar. I have no desire really to visit the Hokkaido restaurants!

0 ( +0 / -0 )


0 ( +0 / -0 )

Looks good and nutritious.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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