By Jemma King
Located in the center of Kannawa, Beppu’s steamy heart, Jigoku Mushi Kobo (literally “steamed dishes from Hell’s kitchen”) will give you an eating experience you can’t get anywhere else.
A short stroll down an elegant slope from Kannawa bus stop, you can immediately notice Kannawa Jigoku Mushi Kobo from its wooden Japanese-style building, the sound of a waterfall, and most of all, steam from the stoves.
This way of cooking using natural steam from hot springs was introduced to Kannawa before the Edo period. It is best to prepare your own menu for steaming; a wonderful meal can be concocted with anything from shrimp, clams, crab, chicken drumsticks and eggs to vegetables, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and pumpkins.
It's not necessary to buy sauces for your food: the people there are kind enough to provide you with all kinds of tasty local sauces made of soybean, citrus, shoyu and more. Knives, dishes and chopsticks are all available. If you don’t know what to do, there is no need to even ask, as the staff will approach with a smile and help you through the entire process: washing the food, cutting it up, arranging it and finally steaming it.
I may have underestimated the steaming power of the hot spring at first, but food can actually be cooked through in just a few minutes. And novices never fear, as they provide instructions for any type of meal. Cooking in this manner, all the nutrients and flavor remain in your food, with additional minerals and a little taste coming via the natural healing water.
When everything’s ready, you can enjoy your healthy meal indoors surrounded by a russet wooden interior, or outdoors looking at the waterfall, which is in fact the hot spring water cooling device. Be sure to drink some water from the mouth of the devil statue, as it is very rich in minerals.
Now that you are full, you will no doubt want to sit back and relax. Don’t be lazy; move yourself to the nearby wooden house, drop your feet into the hot spring water, and feel the zen flow in your blood. If you see a cat there, follow him to the foot steam bath. He loves it when you open the steam box and put your legs inside, as he will be covered with warm air.
Wonder how much you need to pay for such an interesting experience? Brace yourself as you won’t believe it: It’s only 500 yen to rent one stove for 30 minutes, which is enough to cook a whole meal for a group of 5 people. As for the hot spring foot bath and steam bath, it’s FREE!
I recommend buying your favorite foods and bringing along your own towel, but if you don’t have these things it’s not a problem because you can buy everything there or at the shops nearby.
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My name is DO Dieu Huong, and I am currently living in Beppu city, Oita prefecture, the city of the wind, hugged by mountains, soothed by the sea, and best of all, home of the world’s second largest outflow of hot springs. Although the city is quite small, with a population of about 120,000, we have the highest density of foreigners in Japan (approx 3.8%) thanks to the establishment of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) in the year 2000.I am originally from Hanoi, Vietnam. I first arrived in Japan in 2004 when I was 17, did undergraduate and graduate school at APU, finishing in 2010. I am now working as Admissions Counselor for the APU International Admissions Office. Although I have been living in the same city for the last 7 years, I still find Beppu so amazing with all the natural scenery and traditional events. Other nearby cities and towns in Oita prefecture, such as Hiji, Yufuin and Taketa, still hold so many secrets waiting for us to discover. So I hope you can enjoy the experiences with me through my journeys in Oita.