No doubt Gunma prefecture possesses a wide range of great and tasty local delicacies but sadly all I wanted to do was go to this quirky place in the middle of nowhere. I say that last bit based purely on the fact that there is no train station anywhere near it. This is very much a drive-thru style place but one that is worth the effort.
The vending machine stand in Shimbashi had whetted my appetite for going to this place but I had to bide my time as the idea of visiting Gunma just to dine out here was ridiculous. Thankfully, this trip gave me the chance to combine a few things including the J2 football match at Thespakusatsu Gunma.
We took the train to Honjo station (still in Saitama) and then took a bus from the north exit side to Yatojima Minai bus stop which is about ten minutes on foot from the “restaurant”! There were a couple of people already in there when we arrived and though there are no staff in the place, the owner was lingering around in the back somewhere.
The place is a surprisingly clean one full of retro vending machines although there’s actually less choice in this place than at the aforementioned stand in Shimbashi. This one is more of a family place so there are no tobacco or alcohol machines. It is fairly spacious and contains a microwave, change machine, toilets, a load of manga comics, kids toys, condiments and the many hand-written notes on the machines reminded me of those annoying bosses or parents who like to leave post-it notes all over the place! Customers are expected to clean up after themselves and dispose of bowls, wrappers and chopsticks into the correct bin.
Neil got some tempura udon (330 yen) whilst I went for the chashu-men ramen (400 yen) which was really disappointing on first appearance. However, once I got my chopsticks in there and started to stir it there were three pieces of chashu (Japanese braised pork) to be found as well as some bamboo.
Next up for me was Italian toast with basil (250 yen) which was so hot that tongs and a tray are provided for taking it out. Wrapped in tin foil, it sure is a basic thin sandwich with a sparse spread inside but the taste was very nice.
It wasn’t exactly the most healthiest of lunches but with so much walking coming up after this place I wasn’t too worried. The burger machine sells three types of burger (300 yen each) and I sampled two of them starting with the tar tar meat sauce burger followed by the Mexican burger. For the record, these burgers are cooked and boxed up daily. The patties are actually quite thick, and though they’re not too much to look at once unboxed, the smell and taste were both very satisfactory although the bun was a bit overdone.
It’s not just food and drink on sale from machines for there are also ones selling toys, bags (rather expensive ones too!), key-rings, stamps, badges and there’s a retro game or two too. It is a fun place to visit and we couldn’t believe how many customers there were during our 90 minutes or so at the place. Yes, we really did stay there that long though that was mainly down to a very limited bus service and the lack of others things to do in Isesaki City.
Jihanki Shokudo is at 293-3 Tomizukachō, Isesaki-shi, Gunma-ken and is open daily from 10am till midnight.
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