It’s a uniquely Japanese experience.
In winter, in the northern part of Kyushu, such as Saga and Fukuoka prefectures, kakigoya — oyster huts — spring up along the coastline. Around November to March, these makeshift restaurants mostly ran by small, family-owned fisheries accommodate 30 up to 300 people. One of the most popular sites of kakigoya is at the Itoshima Peninsula, which is about an hour’s drive from the city of Fukuoka.
Spread out across the five towns along the coastline, kakigoya serve oysters by weight (typically about JPY1000 per kg) alongside other seafood such as squids, prawns and scallops. The vibe in each eatery is decidedly casual – all you need to do is decide how much you want to eat and everything is provided for you, from the barbecue stoves (either charcoal or gas-fueled) to gloves and shucking knives. There’s even a plastic raincoat to protect you from any inadvertent hot jets of seawater when the shellfish burst open.
Although the origins of kakigoya lie in Kyushu, you can now find similar dining experiences in Iwate, Mie and other prefectures. In fact, you may sometimes spot permanent kakigoya set-ups in big cities. These kakigoya are fashioned after the ubiquitous Japanese izakaya, those casual dining spots that serve many varieties of dishes.