oysters on a charcoal grill, Itoshima, Kyushu

Winter Oyster Huts in Itoshima – A Kyushu Specialty

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.

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oyster hut seafood on the grill

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 huddle together in a hut and eat good food by a charcoal 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. (I’ll talk about two of the huts I’ve visited in Shima-Kishi, but if you want more information about the other huts, check out this Fukuoka Now article).

oyster huts in itoshima
Oyster huts at Shima-Kishi

The oyster hut areas are a bit difficult to access as Itoshima has few public transportation options around the coast. If you don’t have a car, you can take a taxi from Maebaru Station, wait for a bus, or for those feeling more adventurous, rent bikes near the station and cycle. (Read more about biking around Itoshima here)

The Kishi area has the greatest number of huts. Here, 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.

oyster hut menu

Before deciding where to dine, you can take a look at the menus displayed outside the stores. Overall, most of the huts are quite similar in their offerings.

During the weekends, these places are very popular so be prepared for a wait. If you are able to plan your trip beforehand, make reservations by calling beforehand. Noburin is one place that makes booking super easy as they accept online reservations.

Eating at an Oyster Hut

Inside the hut, you will find tables set up around small charcoal grills. The places I visited, Ebisu Maru and Noburin, both provided colorful jackets to help protect you 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.

Grilling up some fresh oysters!

The tools provided at the table are gloves (for handling hot items), tongs, a dump bucket (for scraps and seafood garbage), and shucking knives.

glove for hot oysters

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.

LINE ordering oyster hut
LINE app used for 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.

fresh oyster

Aside from oysters, you can also find other seafood to grill like (squid, shrimp, sea snails, and fish…) as well as sides like oyster rice, sashimi, and tofu soup.

squid on the grill, Itoshima oyster hut
Grilling up some squid

There are a few sauces provided at the table, but you are also allowed to bring your own into the hut. Ponzu is my favorite and seems to go well with just about everything.

Many places allow items to be brought inside and consumed along with the meal. This includes drinks, condiments, onigiri, and snacks. Be sure to take advantage of this and hit the conveni beforehand! Many of the other customers around took this allowance to heart and had massive coolers filled with cans of alcohol, side dishes, and special sauces to accompany the meal. (In Japanese this is called mochikomi)

(Make sure to check if the place you’re going to allows this as not all huts do. You are usually not allowed to bring and cook meats on the grill).

sea snail
You can grill and eat sea snails too!

One tip: as Japan is notorious for not providing napkins at dining establishments, make sure to bring a few for clean-up as well as a trash bag.

Final Thoughts

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 oyster juices may explode onto you while cooking. This all makes for a lively and delicious experience, however, and one you won’t find in many other places!

Other Things to Do in Itoshima

Itoshima is a lovely place to visit as its nature is top-notch and the seafood is fresh and delicious. It’s a great place for bike rides along the coast, surfing, cafe hopping, and beautiful hikes. Check out the videos below for some more activities to do during your trip!

If you want to know more about biking in Itoshima, check out this article!

Where to Stay in Itoshima

If convenience is key and you rely on public transportation to get to Itoshima, staying near one of the train stations is easiest. If you base yourself near Chikuzen Maebaru Station, you’ll be close to the Tourist Information Center which rents bikes and can help with your travel planning. (Learn more about biking around Itoshima.)

Shared space – dining table

Itoshima Guest House and Backpakers TOMO is a good place for solo travelers or groups who don’t mind shared dormitory-style lodging.

The downstairs area is clean and spacious with a cooking area provided if needed.

Shared space – kitchen

The beds are super soft and affordable bikes are available to rent. It’s a good place to meet other travelers in the area!

Itomshima Guesthouse and Backpackers TOMO bed
Upper bed

For a private space near the station instead, I recommend Guest House Kotonoha. Here you’ll get a full living space plus a kitchen and bathroom to yourself. The couple that runs this guest house is very friendly and you can rent bikes here too.

Further from Chikuzen Maebaru station, but located near Kyushu University and the public bath, Ito no Yudokoro, is the hotel, settle Glocal Itoshima.

This hotel feels newer and more modern compared to typical Japanese business hotels and with an overnight stay, you get free access to the massive public bath facility across the street!

Looking for more adventures in and around Fukuoka? Check out these posts!

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