Text & Photography | Fiona M. King
Jigoku Mushi Kobo made a fantastic detour trip during my visit to Kyushu‘s renowned onsen town, Beppu. It not only offered a glimpse into the local culture but also a tactile and interactive dining experience.
Jigoku Mushi has been a popular cooking style practiced by the locals since before the Edo period. Jigoku literally means “hell” in Japanese, and mushi means “steam”, while kobo means “workshop”. Jigoku Mushi Kobo is a workshop/kitchen/restaurant where you can experience cooking with natural hot spring steam coming out from under the ground.
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To get started, you choose your food and purchase coupons from the vendor machine. You also need to rent a stove, which costs 500 yen for 30 minutes. After picking up your food (which is all thoroughly cut and washed by the staff) at the counter, you then move outside to enter the “kitchen”, which is equipped with rows of large steamers made from wood and brick. You then place your food inside your rental steamer and let it sit for a few minutes. Voilà, your dinner is ready.
Our small group made eggs, eggplants, rice, corn, mushrooms, shrimps, crabs, clams and a few other bits and pieces. The food was very tasty with a special sweetness coming from the hot spring water. Needless to say, steaming the food helped seal in all of the nutrients and helped retain the food’s natural flavor.
There is also a foot onsen bath and foot steam nearby available free of charge for visitors. However, we decided to skip that in favor of Hyotan Onsen, which is only a 15-minute walk down the road.
Touted as the only Michelin 3-star onsen in Japan and “the most beautiful hot spring facility in Beppu”, Hyotan Onsen offers a wide variety of options for the hot spring enthusiast. Click HERE to read my write-up on Hyotan Onsen.
The town of Beppu, which is famously known for its eight geothermal hot springs (or onsen) collectively referred to as the “eight hells of Beppu”, is located about 2.5 hours south-east of Fukuoka. For our trip, we took the Limited Express Train Sonic by JR Kyushu, which connects Beppu station to Hakata station (Fukuoka). After getting off at Beppu station, we took a taxi to Jigoku Mushi Kobo. The ride is only about 20 minutes but is quite expensive. Alternatively, there are several buses that would take you there, albeit not directly to the door.
Address: 5-Kumi Furomoto Beppu (along the Ideyu-zakaj)
Hours: 9:00am – 9:00pm
To use the Jigokugama, enter before 8:00pm
Closed every 3rd Wed. of the month or the day after, if it falls on a holiday
Fee: Jigokugamai: within 30 minutes – 500 yen
Additional fees per 10mins – 150yen
Book of coupons 10 coupons /within 30mins each – 3,000yen
Admission/ Foot Steam Bath / Foot Bath: Free of charge
Jigoku Mushi Kobo TEL 0977-66-3775
Tourist Information Office TEL 0977-66-3855