While Dad was in Nagasaki, we decided to rent a car and go on a few day trips. One of those trips was to Obama, a small town situated by the deep blue Tachibana Bay and overlooked by the Unzen mountains.
Due to the Golden Week holiday traffic, it took us a little longer than usual- about 2.5hrs from Nagasaki City. The drive along the narrow, winding cliff roads and through the bamboo-lined, emerald-green forests was spectacular. The landscape changed so quickly- I almost forgot we were still in Nagasaki.
A family friend recommended Kaisen-ichiba Mushi Gama-ya (海鮮市場 • 蒸し釜や), a seafood market steam-pot restaurant, right in the main part of town. The charming point of this restaurant is that customers can choose to have their food cooked in the sulfuric steam that makes the area famous. Many visitors, most of them Japanese tourists, flock to the area year-round to enjoy the natural mineral-rich hot springs and fresh seafood by the beautiful, enduring bay.
After Dad and I worked out the correct process of choosing our food and having it steamed for us (I can speak Japanese and I still got it wrong), we sat down to a simple, yet delicious sulfur-steamed lunch!
Here’s the correct process in case you’re there without a Japanese speaker (or just wanna look like a pro):
1) Grab the prepared food in the bamboo steamers or baskets and take them to the register (if you want fresh seafood, let a staff member know and they’ll catch it and prepare it for you. Meal sets with rice/noodles/etc are also available, and you can have your chosen fish made into sashimi or tempura if you like).
2) Once you pay for your food and any drinks (order your drinks from the menu or collect them from the esky cooler-box before you line up), take your raw food to the staff outside at the steaming station.
3) You will receive a timer in exchange for your food, which will go off when you’re required back to pick it up. If you are given two or more timers, it means that the steamers you have chosen take different times and you will have to go back each time one goes off.
5) Once the steamer timer goes off, take it (and your tray) to the staff outside to collect your freshly sulfur-steamed food! 6) After enjoying your meal, be sure to take your used plates/etc to the return station.
Being a relatively small town, Obama does not have a very large market for English-speaking overseas tourists. Most signs are in Korean and/or Chinese before they are in English. However, with the popularity in the name, I imagine there to be quite a few American tourists who visit the area. My Dad and I had no problem getting by- we found shop owners to happily spark conversation in whatever English they had and were friendly and helpful.
Bayside Seafood Steam-pot restaurant (海鮮市場 • 蒸し釜や）
19-2 Obama-cho Marina, Unzen city, Nagasaki Prefecture
(Located near Ringer-hut, Obama)
[Open] 9am – 9pm (7 days)
English Menu: No, but really friendly staff who will do their best to help.