Prison Food for Tourist?


Are keen on visiting an actual prison as one of your tour destination? If the goal is to experience prison food, are you willing to do so?

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In this Friday, May 31, 2013 photo displayed are plates of prison food at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. On left, Nutraloaf, presently served in Pennsylvania prisons as a “behavior modified meal” and salt beef, with “Indian Mush,” an inmate dinner from the 1800s — an unappetizing concoction currently served as punishment in prisons across the country. The historic penitentiary plans to serve visitors sample meals from the 1830s, 1940s and today on June 8th and 9th.

Event organizers say the not-so-haute cuisine is a way to stimulate both the taste buds and the mind. The meals reflect the changing nature of food service at penal institutions and, in some ways, attitudes toward inmates, said Sean Kelley, the prison’s director of public programming.


How it started?

Prison food has always been a source of fascination for the general public, so one museum in Japan is capitalizing on the mystery.

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.


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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

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

Prison food Set B

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

Below is video on the journey to dine in Prison Cafeteria (in Japanese “Kangoku Shokudo”), located at Abashirishi Prison Museum, Abashiri city, Hokkaido.


Food review: The 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.


My thought

Just the thought of experiencing the taste of prison food can be intriguing. However, the level of acceptance from a tourist may vary based on their cultural background.

Personally, I like the dining aspect of the idea. However, I am quite reluctant to set foot in actual prison compound. Not that I am not being adventurous, as some may say it is an experience of a life time.

My rational is just as simple as I do not wish to pick up uninvited guest when exposed to these places and do not wish to be accompanied home. We, Asians generally have some form of knowledge of what you called, “dirty things” (a translation from Cantonese) as we understand some places are unclean for a reason.

I don’t not mind experiencing the prison food, while my reservation on venturing to such places stays. Perhaps it is just me.

How about you? Share your thoughts with us.

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