Beppu, in Oita Prefecture, is a destination perhaps best known for its hot springs. Amazingly, this area of Japan has the second largest volume of hot spring water generated on the entire planet – second only to Yellowstone National Park in the United States. Those hot springs mean that there are many onsen dotting the city, including free public foot baths that you’ll find when wandering around the streets.
Alongside those wonderful onsen, the geothermal energy in this part of Japan is also used to cook food! Cooking your food using the steam from the earth is called jigoku mushi (地獄蒸し), which literally translates to ‘hell steaming’ – and you can experience preparing your own lunch via the power of Mother Earth at Jigoku Mushi Kobo Kannawa (地獄蒸し工房 鉄輪).
What’s on the menu?
The menu at Jigoku Mushi Kobo Kannawa has something for just about everyone. There are various types of seafood, meats, nikuman (pork buns), eggs, and vegetables available. Deciding what you want to eat is as easy as heading to their ticket machine, pressing the buttons for the food you want, and collecting those tickets to present to the front counter staff. The staff will then get your order ready in large wire baskets for you to take to the steam ovens and cook! The counter staff will also give you a number for the steam oven you’re required to use, so pay attention to those details. We decided on some pork belly, vegetables and nikuman, and that was plenty of food for my husband and me.
The cooking process
First thing’s first – take note of the protective gear you’ll need to suit up with. There are elbow length gloves and fabric liners that you’ll need to pop on anytime you’re putting something in or taking something out of your oven. The steam that comes out of the ovens is very hot, so be careful. Safety first!
Secondly, different food items take different lengths of time to be cooked by the steam. You’ll be given a timer to keep a track of when to take out your food – but don’t worry, the staff on site also keep track of things and will pop over to assist when your food items are ready. Just for some context, our pork belly took under ten minutes to cook, but the vegetables took a solid 20 minutes.
The taste verdict
I’m not kidding when I say that this was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in Japan. Perhaps it was the amazing experience which made the food taste extra delicious, but the pork belly was melt-in-your-mouth good, the veggies steamed to perfection, and the nikuman wonderfully light and fluffy.
If you’re visiting Beppu, be sure to take some time to enjoy this unique foodie experience. Also, since there’s a free public foot bath right next door, schedule some time into your itinerary to soak your travel-weary feet!
Jigoku Mushi Kobo Kannawa Information
5 Kumi Furomoto, Beppu, Ōita Prefecture 874-0044
- There are three bus routes from the JR Beppu Station.
- From Beppu Station’s West Exit, take one of the following lines: 2, 5, 7, and 41. Get off at Kannawa Stop. The bus ride takes ¥330 and around 20 minutes, and the restaurant is about five minutes on foot from the bus stop.
- From Beppu Station’s East Exit, take one of the following lines: 15, 16, 20, 24, 25. Get off at Kannawa Stop. The bus ride takes ¥340 and around 30 minutes, and the restaurant is about five minutes on foot from the bus stop.
- From Beppu Station’s East Exit, take one of the following lines: 60 and 61. Get off at Kannawa Onsen Stop. The bus ride takes around 25 minutes, and the restaurant is about five minutes on foot from the bus stop.
- The closest train station is Beppudaigaku on the JR Nippo Main Line, and the restaurant is about 30 minutes on foot from there. There are taxis available at the station.
- If you are headed there by private vehicle, there are small paid parking lots in the streets surrounding the restaurant.
The restaurant is open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., but last orders for food are taken at 8 p.m. to ensure there’s enough time to cook what you order. They close on the third Wednesday of every month, so bear that in mind if you’re making a special trip.