There are plenty of good value buffets to be enjoyed in Japan but none of them come as low in price as this one as it costs absolutely nothing! You might protest by saying that some hotel buffets are free but they’re included in your night stay unless you’re one of those people who sneak into such places pretending to be a guest! You only need to watch YouTube to know such people exist! Anyway, this place does offer a free buffet and there really is no catch!
Well maybe it’s location is! It’s located a couple of hours north of Tokyo in Gunma Prefecture. It is actually a theme park called Konnyaku Park which is about two kilometres (24 minutes on foot) south of Joshu-Fukushima Station on the privately owned Joshin Dentetsu Line which runs south-west of Takasaki.
Beforehand I thought it was actually ¥1000 to enter but I had misunderstood somewhere and it was actually free to enter. Not only that but I was also given a packet of konnyaku (konjac in English) too! As I was fairly short of time I headed straight in to the restaurant area to take advantage of what I’d come to see. On entering the buffet corner there was not only hand sanitizer but plastic gloves too. Of course masks had to be worn at all times apart from when actually eating.
This is no ordinary buffet though as it’s primarily konnyaku which is famed for being a zero calorie food. It’s nice enough but I can imagine many people are put off by it’s rubbery, slimy grey texture. It is a kind of jelly made from a type of potato if I can be so vague! It really is difficult to describe it though! It’s grown in tropical and sub-tropical Asia and is perhaps mostly common in bowls of oden.
Konnyaku is a major part of the buffet but there are other food items like yakisoba, ramen-style noodles, soup, kimchi and tempura.
Making such dishes look artistically presentable is sadly something I’m not normally too good at but it was a lot easier to do with what was on offer here. I’ll admit that my expectations weren’t too high but I was ultimately very satisfied with everything as shown by my repeat visits to refill my tray!
That wasn’t the end though as there were also some desserts available which are maybe a bit more palatable for those unsure about konnyaku. There were about four jelly-style dishes with the green one being the most vivid.
To exit the buffet dining area you have to walk through the ubiquitous Japanese souvenir shop which was much bigger than I’d have expected for such a food item. Ever keen to sample unique and weird tasting snacks in this country I could not resist buying a couple of jelly drinks for ¥100 a piece. If you want to see the inner contents of them then scroll down to the foot of this post!
I thought I should go through the motions of proceeding upstairs to see the museum whilst looking down on the operating factory part. It is possible to actually join a workshop (reasonably priced at ¥500 – ¥1000 for adults depending on which course is chosen) and make your own konyakku but advance reservations are required for that.
There was of course information about how konnyaku is made but I obviously didn’t take note as I’ve just had to scour the net to find this out! I’m still not too sure I understand it but it sure is a long and arduous process! History, trivia and interesting facts are aplenty but be aware that it is in Japanese only.
There were a few things of note outside. There is a footbath zone featuring five baths with rich variations but I didn’t have a hand towel or anything with me to dry off afterwards so bypassed that area. I wanted to sample konnyaku ice-cream but sadly that stall was closed. Just a bit further along from there was something which caught my eye though; a rare and unique pink torii gate!
I didn’t go to Gunma specifically for this theme park but was just through on the way back to the station from the big stone Buddha face carved into a cliff. It’s probably not worth going there just for the buffet but if you’re in Gunma then why not stop by to try it out.
- Konnyaku Park is located at 204-1 Obata, Kanra, Kanra-Gun, Gunma
Bonus: Whilst in the souvenir shop I bought a couple of interesting and unique flavoured jelly drinks which I then sampled at the start of this year. Apologies if you’re eating or about to eat!
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