The Itoshima peninsula in western Fukuoka is dotted with countryside attractions, even in winter, where temperatures rarely drop below freezing. During these cold months, a visit out to a kakigoya, or oyster hut, on the seaside can make for a pleasant daytrip (video).
Eight kakigoya in the small fishing village of Shimafunakoshi are located right in the wharf, a few feet from the water (three during low season). The huts are simple in construction—just big vinyl tents filled with a few dozen tables, each with their own grill. You can get kaki (oysters), sazae (sea snails), prawns, fish and other seafood, fresh as fresh can be, by the crate. The hut provides the grill, tongs, cotton gloves, and other tools for you try your hand at grilling your own seafood.
Cooking them right can be tricky, but learning is part of the fun. For oysters, try putting the flat side down first, flip after awhile, and wait for them to open from the heat. Take them off the grill—gloves on of course—and open them the rest of the way with the provided knife. Add a touch of shoyu (soy sauce), ponzu (a tangy citrus-based sauce), lemon juice, or mayonnaise if you like and they’re ready to eat. If you’re unsure how to cook things, just look around at what the other tables are doing or wave over the helpful kakigoya staff.
A few words of caution: Some huts have charcoal grills, which can be fun, but they do get a bit smoky. Also, oysters can pop open, spraying the boiling liquid inside, so you might want to avoid fancy clothes. Furthermore, hours are somewhat flexible, depending on the supply of oysters for the day. The huts only open during the season, which is roughly November to March or April.
Kakigoya are popular, especially on weekends, so be prepared to wait for a table. That’s not a drawback in Shimafunakoshi, though, as there’s a very interesting marina right there to take a stroll through. In fact, the scenic waterfront, the drive through the town, and the trip through the countryside rice fields and villages make the oysters all the more delicious.
Names in Japanese
カキ小屋 or 牡蠣小屋—kakigoya—oyster huts