29 January 2015


Rotorua plans to tap the experience of Japanese sister city Beppu to help the city to harness steam from its hot springs to cook food in a steam cuisine centre.


A report in the Japan Times says the city of Beppu, in the Oita Prefecture, is renowned for its “jigokumushi” (hell steaming) cuisine.  It is reportedly sharing that know-how with Rotorua, its sister city in New Zealand that likewise has hot springs.


“It is our first foray overseas and we are proud of it,” an official in the Beppu Municipal Government is quoted as saying. “We hope exchanges between Japan and New Zealand will also flourish.”


Last [northern hemisphere] spring, Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick visited Jigokumushi Kobo Kannawa, a hands-on cooking centre in Beppu.


Rotorua plans to build “Beppu Kitchen,” a wooden building measuring 250 sq. meters, next to an existing foot bath facility in a city park, writes Mari Tokumitsu.


In jigokumushi, meat, fish, seafood or vegetables are cooked on a strainer over a steaming oven. The flow of steam can be adjusted, but the cooking temperature is normally around 100 degrees.


Jigokumushi aficionados say the technique is special because the rapid heating of the food helps it maintain its true flavour.


The technique is reported to date back to the Edo Period (1603-1868), when the dishes would be served for clients taking hot-spring baths as a form of therapy.

Today, about 100 steaming ovens remain, mainly in guesthouses and “ryokan” inns in Beppu, the local government says.


The city’s Jigokumushi Kobo Kannawa is a popular tourist destination, visited by nearly 100,000 people every year.


One recent visitor, Kobe resident Chikashi Noguchi, 65, is reported as saying, “Unlike hot springs themselves, the food doesn’t smell sulphurous; it is easy to eat.”


The articles notes that New Zealand has a traditional steam cooking method of its own using hot stones called “hangi.”  This involves digging a pit in the ground for food and covering it with cotton cloth.


The schedule for construction of Beppu Kitchen has yet to be decided, the article says, but the Rotorua District Council plans to raise cash for the project from local companies and to obtain contributions from Japan by the end of 2015.


“Beppu officials have already provided architectural drawings of Jigokumushi Kobo showing the facility’s construction and piping, and will consider sending engineers as well.”


When Beppu Mayor Hiroshi Hamada visited Rotorua last October, Chadwick reportedly showed him the site for the Beppu Kitchen in the city park.

Chadwick drew parallels between Rotorua and Beppu.


“We could look to Beppu for new ideas to take full advantage of Rotorua’s unique environment,” a Beppu official recalled Chadwick saying. “They are ahead of us in aspects of how they use geothermal (heat),” she was quoted as saying.

Beppu to help Rotorua build steam cuisine centre

This computer image provided by the city of Beppu shows what the 'Beppu Kitchen' will look like when built in Rotorua, New Zealand. Source: Japan Times

Cooking Jigokumushi style

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