Former inmates in tears…! Reproduction of “Prison Meishi” served by Nishinari Izakaya | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Former inmates in tears…! Reproduction of “Prison Meishi” served by Nishinari Izakaya

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Mr. Omae is the owner of Awajiyamaru. Based on his experience as a former inmate, he has recreated “prison food.

A former inmate took one bite and said, “This is what it tastes like! He was impressed. I don’t think many people have “good memories” of their prison days, but I think it makes them nostalgic.

Takashi Omae, 46, says this with a friendly smile that is a sharp contrast to his strong face. He is the owner of Awajiyamaru, a seafood tavern in Nishinari Ward, Osaka City.

Awajiyamaru” not only purchases seafood daily from Wakayama, where Omae is from, but also brings in seawater from Wakayama for its large fish tank. Although it just opened on December 4, 2011, the restaurant has already become popular for its fresh and inexpensive fish.

But seafood is not the only thing Awajiyamaru sells. But seafood is not the only thing on the menu at Awajiyamaru, as one of the menu items that Ohmae sometimes serves is secretly attracting attention.

We serve meals that are a replica of those served in Kobe Prison,” says Ohmae. What we serve is a two-top menu that was extremely popular among the inmates. They are ‘sausage and potatoes’ and ‘chikuzen-ni’ (stewed chicken and vegetables),” says Omae.

Mr. Omae is a former yakuza who served about five years in Kobe Prison from the age of 27. He has recreated “prison food” based on his memories of that time.

He originally served “Jail Meshi” at an udon shop called “Awaji-ya,” which opened in the Airin area around 2005. It was so well received that we started serving it at ‘Awajiyamaru.

Sausage and potatoes” (left) and “Chikuzen-ni” were two of the most popular dishes at Kobe Prison. Both cost 300 yen.
After much trial and error, Mr. Omae has succeeded in recreating the taste of “prison food.

Awajiyamaru” has served “Jail Meshi” twice so far. The most recent such event was held on March 26-27, and some former inmates were said to have shed tears of nostalgia. One staff member who has served time in Osaka Prison who works at “Awajiyamaru” expressed his surprise, saying, “I’ve never seen anything like it.

The food at the Osaka Penitentiary is famous for being so bad that it is called dog food. Prison curry and beef stew were popular, but they were light in flavor. Sometimes retort-packed meatballs were served, and everyone ate the sauce on the plate. Compared to that, when I learned thatKobe (prison ) served such delicious food, I was envious.

In recreating the food of Kobe Prison, we were very particular about the ingredients. Mr. Ohmae explains his obsession.

We didn’t use any good ingredients because we were in prison. The sausage used for “Sausage Jaga” was too high quality to be sold in supermarkets. There is no such thing as Chiawesen. So we tried different kinds of sausages. Even with red sausage, the ingredients still won out, so I ended up with frankfurters. This was the closest. Sausage Jaga” is, in other words, a sausage that replaces the meat in the meat and potatoes. It has a unique sweet flavor and is made with potatoes, string beans, onions, and frankfurters.

The reporter tried the dish and found the tender sausage to be a surprisingly good match for the sweetened meatballs. No wonder it is so popular, as prisons are said to have few dishes with strong flavors.

The “Chikuzen-ni,” on the other hand, was made with a special soup stock, as the restaurant is owned by an udon shop.

Chikuzen-ni” is made from our special soup stock. We also use an original blend of soy sauce and sesame oil. The ingredients are chicken, carrots, bamboo shoots, burdock root, and lotus root. Chikuzen-ni” at the prison had a secret ingredient to make it a little spicy. We don’t use it in ours, but I have recently begun to think that perhaps a small amount of curry powder is used to enhance the spiciness.

However, it seems that “Chikuzen-ni” could not be reproduced exactly.

The seasoning is almost the same, but our Chikuzen-ni is definitely better (laughs). We use juicy thigh meat, but I think the real meat is breast meat. In addition, the prison cooks the meat for a large number of people at once under pressure in a round steam pot, so the meat becomes dry. That’s why the root vegetables are hard. But you can’t replicate that.

About six months ago, Ohmae launched “Nishinari Kin-chan’s Wasshoi TV” and is also active as a youtuber. Recently, he says, more and more YouTube viewers have been coming to his restaurant.

There are people who come all the way from Nagoya and Okinawa to see me,” he says. I often get life advice from people who have completed their prison sentences about what to do with their lives. They ask me how they should live their lives from now on. Sometimes they ask me for advice about their love lives, which is surprising.

Awajiyamaru” is said to have many customers who are former inmates who come to see Mr. Omae. Incidentally, it was a standard practice at Kobe Prison to eat “Chikuzen-ni” by pouring it over rice. When Mr. Omae asks his customers how they used to eat it, all former inmates, no matter what age they were, always reply, “I used to pour it over rice, too! He replies, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

At Awajiyamaru, we also prepare rice made in Uonuma. If you eat ‘Chikuzen-ni’ over it, you will know how delicious it is.”

Those interested in “prison food” are encouraged to visit the restaurant.

Awajiyamaru” opened last December 4 in Nishinari-ku, Osaka City. It is gaining popularity for its fresh seafood.
  • Photo Kei Kato

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