Konnyaku! What is it? Why is it in many Japanese dishes? Why do they have choking hazard stickers on many of the products? Well, all your answers and more could be answered at the Konnyaku Park in Gunma Prefecture.
At first, I heard that Konnyaku Park was an "amusement park" and was very skeptical because, if you didn't know, konnyaku is a low-calories rubbery, flavorless block of jelly made of konnyaku potato, devil’s tongue. If you look at one of those kiddy maps of Japan with little pictures over each prefecture to represent what is popular there, you’ll find a gray spotted block hovering over Gunma. It seems like konnyaku is what Gunma is famous for.
How could this be an "amusement park"? Well, it's not. It's just a factory where you can watch from above as the factory members...work. But it is free and many big tour buses lined the parking lot outside.
Once you walk in, you can take the elevators or stairs to the second floor. There, you’ll follow the rainbow path into the factory. From above, you can see how they make two products using both konnyaku potato and konnyaku powder. Every step of the manufacturing process is explained by videos and panels, from how certain machines function to the simple history of production.
Not only do you get the chance to tour the factory, but also have a konnyaku-making experience. Downstairs they offer four different cooking classes every hour. All the courses require reservations in advance though.
Also downstairs is a free all-you-can-eat konnyaku buffet! Walk through the buffet and enjoy various kinds of konnyaku dishes. From konnyaku curry and fried konnyaku, to konnyaku noodle ramen and konnyaku fruit desserts.
After eating these delicious dishes, you can make your way to the konnyaku souvenirs market to buy little gifts and konnyaku sweets. Also for 500 yen, you can take home as many packages of konnyaku you can fit in a pre-assigned bag.
And as you exit the park, take a dip in one of the five foot baths heated by the high-temperature steam that is generated from the konnyaku manufacturing process.
Overall, this is definitely not an amusement park but it is a whole lot of fun and relaxing to just stroll along and eat some surprisingly delicious konnyaku treats.