Fukuoka: oysters on the Itoshima peninsula
We knew at the outset that this trip to Japan would be pretty city-heavy. Therefore when we uncovered a Fukuoka Now article suggesting we escape for an afternoon by the sea eating oysters at the kakigoya (oyster huts), we jumped at the chance. The only problem was getting there... actual instructions were, apart from a possibly-out-of-date post on trip advisor, limited with the suggestion that most people travelled by car. We threw caution to the wind and jumped on the Kuko line out of town to Chikuzen-Maebaru where, supposedly we could get a bus onwards to Kishi, the port village where a lot of the huts were located. We slightly chickened out and jumped in a cab there for JPY 2,000 not knowing where we were headed until we rounded a corner and encountered an oyster encampment.
In pidgin Japanese, we tried to ask the taxi driver whether he knew whether one hut was better than the others... "onaji" apparently so we chose based on the colour of the jackets. A mistake it turned out as a BBQ-flushed face is not set off by a fire-hazardous, polyester red windcheater. Our Japanese BBQ terms are somewhat limited but the drill is fairly obvious and there are lots of photos of seafood on the walls. You sit round a grill holding blisteringly hot charcoal, stick your seafood on to cook and then chuck the shells in the bucket below. Sip of ice cold beer, slurp of oyster, repeat.
It is a no frills affair in the best possible way. Baskets of the seafood are delivered to your table and you are each given tongs, an oyster knife, glove and cloth to attack them as best as possible.
Your order oysters by the kilo, or should I say "kiro". We started with a kilo of these, to be topped with splashes of soy and ponzu, and followed up with tuna jaw (maguro no ago - pretty good although we couldn't quite work out the exact cooking time), hamaguri clams, deep fried oysters (kaki furai), and clams (hotate).
It is great for people-watching as the oyster huts seem to attract all sorts from families to courting couples to retirees. The trend at our hut seemed to be to bring your own cheese to sprinkle on top of the oysters. Best of all, it is really good value. The oysters are JPY 1,000 per kilo, so around £6 for 12 and the quality is outstanding and spankingly fresh.
When you have had your fill, it is worth venturing around Kishi and having a poke around the business end of the oyster huts. On a sunny day it is devastatingly beautiful and, if you have a penchant for working harbours, this one will make your heart sing.
Stuffed with oysters, beer and the joys of life we managed to catch the bus home. A piece of cake it turned out as, when we asked the town grandma (it is a small place) for directions to the bus stop, she frogmarched us there, literally put us on the bus and gave us the warmest send off, waving until she disappeared into the distance.
If you are in Fukuoka, please go. You won't regret it. To encourage you further, if the promise of beautiful coastline and oysters weren't enough, I have posted the bus timetable we picked up at the station below.... sideways.