The small sushi restaurant opened in the Hozenji alley two years before Tsuneo Fujishima's hit song "Hozenji Lane in the Moonlight," which begins, "With a single kitchen knife/wrapped in a cloth/ I leave on an apprentice journey/ Darling wait for my return, I know you miss me a lot." Only 27 square meters in size, it served sushi (normally out of the reach of ordinary folk) and nabe hot pot full to the brim at affordable prices. People lined up outside the store and bantered with the owners: "Hey, your place is cheap and good, but having to wait in line is a hassle." "Sorry, we'll make it bigger, so wait until then." Who could imagine such a situation? Thus began the history of Sato Restaurant Systems, which now has more than 200 stores including the renowned Washoku Sato, Sushihan, and Sato Sushihan.
Time passed, and Sushihan and Meotozenzai, now features of Hozenji alley, were both showing their age.
The second president, who had succeeded the first, thought about this.
"We have to cherish tradition, but it's our duty running this restaurant to have our customers eat in greater comfort. I'm sure our founder would accept this," he said. Then on November 23, 2006, a building was constructed reminiscent of the old Dotombori Five Theaters in the Hozenji Temple alley.
It was the Hozenji Meouto building, incorporating the main branch of Sushihan Hozenji and Meotozenzai. This building was adorned with a symbolic monument conveying the feeling of the second owner. Standing around 5 meters high and 2.13 meters at its widest point, the monument is a "banquet tower" of the finest Jingdezhen chinaware made to commission by Mr. Ning Qinzheng, who is recognized as a great master of craft art by China's Jiangxi province. This tower, which was exhibited in the International Festival UTAGE 2009 in Osaka, has paintings of banquet scenes around the world depicting food from seas, mountains, and rivers including the "Last Supper" and the "Banquet of Japanese Gods," and expresses a sense of cherishing abundant food and traditional banquets. Jingdezhen is used as tableware and vases at Sushihan.
These will surely be passed on to the next generation as Hozenji alley's new feature.
More than a century ago, an unusual eatery serving zenzai (sweet red bean soup) opened within the grounds of Hozenji Temple. Jubei Kimonji, chief actor in Japanese bunraku puppet theater with the stage name of Kindayu Takemoto, first named the eatery "Ofuku," meaning "Good fortune" What was unusual about this eatery was that he divided a single portion of zenzai into two bowls. People would say, "Hey, this is different! Why are there two of them?" Hearing this, his wife Koto and daughter Kame, who actually ran the restaurant, laughed and answered, "Thank you. These bowls are husband and wife" They did it because they thought dividing the food into two bowls would make it appear there was a lot inside, but it turned out to be a big hit. Later this idea led to Meotozenzai (Meoto means "husband and wife").
In 1940, Sakunosuke Oda published the novel "Meotozenzai"
Oda was then a popular writer from the west of Japan, rivaling Osamu Dazai from the east.
The story goes as follows: Choko is a firm and steadfast geisha while her husband Ryukichi is the weak-willed, prodigal son of a rich middleman. They try to run a razor shop, Kanto-style food shop, fruit shop, and cafe one after another but all in vain.
At last Ryukichi disappears, leaving her alone. One day, however, he unexpectedly returns and takes Choko out, saying he wants to eat something good. They visit the Hozenji Temple area, and turning from the Dotonbori alley into Sennichimae, they come across the lantern sign of the "Moeto Zenzai" eatery.
Seeing that each person is served two bowls of zenzai.
Choko says, "So you're trying to say that being in a couple is better than being single"
The novel was made into a movie of the same name, which also turned out to be a big hit.