Eat a Free Home Cooked Japanese Meal in Okayama

Formerly an economics and humanities student at UCLA, Oe Kaori is now an intern for the United Nations.

What if I told you that you can sit down at a nice home cooked style restaurant and get your food for free? Sounds too good to be true. Well, it certainly isn’t but there’s a catch to getting that free food.

Ponta is located in Okayama City and boasts an honor system in eating a free meal. Ponta serves breakfast and lunch in a relaxed Japanese home setting. You’ll find light comforting meals that serve grilled fish, miso soup, vegetable side dishes, hot tea and brown rice all for 800 yen or less.

On Sept. 10, Cafe Ponta opened near the Saiseikai General Hospital in Kita Ward, Okayama City.

Toshiko Yokota of the Unita Design Office opened this cafe as a restaurant that serves mainly breakfast and lunch while continuing her architectural design work.

Ms. Yokota, who also works for the NPO “Nagase Kiyoko Birthplace Preservation Association,” said, “I want to aim for a restaurant where I can live no matter how much the times change.”

According to Yokota, some construction workers used to serve convenience store lunches in the morning and afternoon.He thought about opening an izakaya or bar during the evening, but he said he focused on breakfast and lunch. The shop’s name, “Ponta,” is said to have been taken from the lyrics of Hosokawa Takashi’s song “Shinjuku Joyawa.”

The target hours are “Morning Tego” (6:30–7:30), “Daytime Tego” (A=11:30–12:30, B=12:30–13:30), and “Shimai Tego” (14:00–15:00). Yokota says, “I want high school students to eat breakfast and go to school in the morning.”

It’s a system where you can get 800 yen worth of food tickets if you help the restaurant for an hour. That’s right, you can get your meal for free if you led a helping hand. You can help the staff by washing dishes, sweeping floors, cleaning tables, serving a few customers and other light duties.

In Okayama dialect, helping is called “tego” and in this restaurant, it is called the “tego system.

“Tego” is a hands free helper, so there is no employment relationship, so anyone, including office workers, housewives and children, can do it. A male office worker can help prepare for the opening of the shop while at work, and an elementary school girl can help clean chairs and tables.

The dining room has 11 seats. Nowadays, many people eat alone, so even strangers can talk to each other and enjoy eating.

If you happen to be in Okayama City and need a free meal, why not give a helping hand? It’s worth the delicious food that is served here with love and kindness.

For more information you can visit their website here.

Happy eats and stay healthy!

Originally published at on October 4, 2020.




Nature is beautiful and I care about the world around me. I enjoy too much coffee while my dog Coco enjoys too much rainy weather. The world has its secrets.

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Oe Kaori

Oe Kaori

Nature is beautiful and I care about the world around me. I enjoy too much coffee while my dog Coco enjoys too much rainy weather. The world has its secrets.

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