When the weather starts to get chilly, that means one thing… it’s oyster season! Oyster huts or (kakigoya) are mainly found on the Itoshima coast of Fukuoka and are a winter treat you won’t want to miss.
While all of Japan is renowned for good seafood, oyster huts aren’t found in many places beyond Kyushu. Dining at an oyster hut is a great activity to do with friends – what better way to hide from the winter chill than to eat good food by a hot grill?
When Are Oyster Huts Open?
The oyster season usually starts in October and lasts until late March. Outside of this time you can still eat oysters in restaurants, but Itoshima’s special oyster huts are seasonal. If you are in Kyushu during the winter, make sure to try this unique dining experience.
Where Are the Oyster Huts?
There are several main areas where the oyster huts are located: Shima-Kishi, Funakoshi, Kafuri, Fukuyoshi, and Karatomari. (If you want detailed information on individual oyster huts, check out this Fukuoka Now article).
These areas are a bit difficult to access as Itoshima has very few public transportation options around the coast. If you don’t have a car, you can take a taxi from Maebaru Station, or for those feeling more adventurous, you can rent bikes near the station and cycle.
I visited the Kishi area which has the greatest number of huts. At this location, you will find all the stores lined up next to each other, close to the water’s edge. The “huts” were bigger than I expected, and can seat more than 50 people.
Before deciding where to dine, you can take a look at the menus displayed outside the stores. Other than some places allowing you to bring in food and drink from outside and others not, the huts are quite similar in their offerings.
During the weekends, these places are very popular so be prepared for a wait.
Eating at an Oyster Hut
Inside the hut, you will find tables set up around small charcoal grills. The place I visited, Ebisu Maru, provides colorful jackets to protect from unwanted seafood juices and flying ash.
Even with these jackets, it’s better to not come in nice clothes as you will leave smelling like smoke.
The tools provided at the table are gloves (for handling hot items), tongs, a dump bucket (for scraps and seafood garbage), and shucking knives.
Many of the oyster huts use the app, LINE for ordering. This was the first time I had used LINE to order, but it turned out to be easy… almost too easy as I kept ordering and ordering. 😂
The best thing on the menu was, of course, the oysters! For ¥1000 (~$9) you get 1kg of raw oysters, about 11-12 pieces! I was blown away by the great value, especially given that oysters at restaurants usually sell for around ¥550-750 a pair.
Aside from oysters, the restaurant also offers other seafood to grill (squid, shrimp, sea snails, fish…) as well as sides like oyster rice, sashimi, and tofu soup.
There are also a few sauces provided at the table. Ponzu is my favorite and seems to go well with just about everything.
As mentioned above, the place I visited allows food and drink to be brought in and consumed along with the meal. A revolutionary concept! In the hut, many tables took this allowance to heart and had massive coolers filled with cans of alcohol, side dishes, and special sauces to accompany the meal.
(Just make sure to check if the place you’re going to allows this! Also, you are usually not allowed to cook outside items on the grill).
One tip: as Japan is notorious for not providing napkins at dining establishments, make sure to bring a few for clean up!
A short poem about oyster huts
If you can’t tell, I am a huge fan of kakigoya oyster huts! There is just something so fun and cool about cooking at the table, surrounded by friends and good food.
This kind of dining is a bit on the messy side though – you will leave smelling like a campfire, and there is the chance that oysters juices may explode onto you while cooking. This all makes for a lively and delicious experience however, and one you won’t find many other places!
Itoshima is a lovely place to visit as its nature is top-notch and the seafood is fresh and delicious. I have done a few bike rides and a hike along the coast, so more posts on these coming soon!
In the meantime, don’t forget to check out these other posts about food and adventures around Fukuoka.