Translated by Jay Issei Karslake
Oita: Enjoy Local Products Steamed By Hot Springs!
Written by Keisuke Yamada
Try an experience available only in Oita, where you can cook locally produces vegetables and seafood in a one of a kind way.
Beppu city in Oita prefecture is a prominent hot spring town in Japan. There are 8 hot spring locations clustered together in this city with 408 steam vents releasing their hazy clouds out into the atmosphere. It's an onsen paradise in short. The majority of the steam vents are located at one particular hot spring area: Kannawa onsen.
At Beppu's Kannawa Onsen there is a place where the steam from the onsen is used to cook Oita-produced foods. Today we would like to introduce to you the Jigoku-Mushikōbō Kannawa - a place where you can try steamed dishes!
What is a Jigoku-mushikōbō?
Kannawa Onsen is known for their hot spring heated kitchen hearths, which guests for years have used to prepare and cook their own steamed dishes. The term "Jigoku-Mushikōbō" literally translates to "Hell-steamed Workshop", which means that at Jigoku-Mushikōbō Kannawa it is possible for visitors to experience this unique cooking technique for themselves.
In this kitchen you can cook Oita-grown vegetables and locally caught seafood and eat them on the spot. You can choose which vegetables you want, and are allowed to bring your own ingredients too. This is something that can only be experienced here at Jigoku-Mushikōbō Kannawa.
First, Buy Ingredients and Prepare to Steam
I decided to give this experience a try, by purchasing ingredients and learning how to use the steamers myself. First, I'll explain how to purchase the ingredients with lots of pictures to make it easy to follow.
First, read the disclaimer, which is available in Japanese, English and Chinese. Oh, before you get started, here at Jigoku-Mushikōbō Kannawa, you do everything by yourself including washing the dishes at the end.
Next, buy the necessary tickets. Other than the ingredients, you'll need to buy a rental ticket for the iron pot that you will be cooking with. Don't forget this, or else you won't be able to cook! If you are going to bring foods of your own to prepare, please inform the staff beforehand when purchasing the tickets.
There's a big panel with pictures of the various ingredient sets on it, making it easier to choose which ingredients to buy.
Once you've decided on the ingredients, go to the ticket machine and buy your tickets.
The pot ticket is on the top left of the ticket machine. Be careful not to forget your pot ticket.
Once you've bought the tickets, head to the reception counter and give your tickets to the staff.
They check the ticket and slip like this.
After that you are handed a slip and a timer.
Take your slip and timer to the ingredients counter, where you will receive your items.
Steam the Ingredients
First, go to your specified pot, which is written on both the slip and timer. In my case, I was assigned pot number 3.
Before doing anything else, put on a pair of the thick gloves provided so that you don't get burned by the steam.
Next, take the wooden cover off of the pot. If you are wearing glasses, you might want to stand back a bit so that they don't get all fogged up.
The inside of the pot looks like this.
There is a handled net rack set inside the iron pot.
Place the purchased ingredients on the net.
Depending on the ingredients you select the steaming time is different, so the steaming specialty staff will inform you of the required cooking time.
After the required cooking time has passed, take the ingredients out of the pot. The ingredients have been steamed to perfection.
As hot springs have some salt in them, the steam transfers some of this flavoring to the ingredients, giving them a pleasantly salted taste. Depending on your preferences, you can eat the food as it is, or add other seasonings to them. Finally, you take your dish to the restaurant, grab a seat and dig in!
Jigoku-Mushikōbō Kannawa is so popular with visitors to Beppu that, during lunches on weekends you may find yourself having to wait in line to take part in this unique experience. It's relatively empty on weekdays or just prior to and after peak times, so it may be better to visit then, if your schedule permits. When visiting Oita, why not give this singular experience a try and cook your own Oita-produced ingredients over the hot spring steam pots.
Address: Beppu, Furomoto, 5-kumi (Ideyu-Sakazoi)
Hours: 09:00-21:00 (last entry 20:00)
Closed: Monday, every third Wednesday (if a holiday, the next day it is closed)
Credit cards: -
Other Languages: -
Instructions in Other Languages: English & Chinese
Nearest Station: JR Beppu station (別府駅)
Access: 20 minutes by bus from the west exit of Beppu station; get off at the Kannawa (鉄輪) bus stop
Price Range: Depends on the ingredients; standard pot fee 510 yen (under 30 minutes)/large steaming pot 820 yen (under 30 minutes)
Phone Number: +81-3-0977-66-3775
Website: Jigoku-Mushikōbō Kannawa (Japanese)