Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sanzoku (AKA "The Chicken Shack")

One of my favorite places in Iwakuni is Sanzoku. Most people call it the Chicken Shack. I have always known it as Sanzoku so the first time I heard "Chicken Shack", I didn't understand why people called it that. I remember thinking, "Sanzoku isn't a difficult word to say." And I never got the "shack" part. I get the "chicken" part because they are known for their chicken on a stick. Shack?? The only thing I can think of is that because it's made out of wood someone decided to call it a shack....?? Am I close? I'm not sure who gave it that name. It's been around for a very long time. I won't say how long because that would, ummmm....kinda give away my age.

Sanzoku is a famous restaurant in Iwakuni. The food is good, but I think a lot of people go for the atmosphere. When they are super busy (like they were tonight) the service is not so fast, but it's worth the wait. There are three parts to this restaurant. They all pretty much serve the same food. The one on the right has a lot of outdoor seating and you place your order at the window in the front before finding your seat.

This is where you place your order and pay.

Some of the outside seating. There are more in the back and some below. A lot of the trees on this side are Cherry Blossom trees so it's beautiful in the Spring.

If you go to the left side, this is more of a full service style restaurant. You find some seats and they will come to you and take your order. There are even three tables inside that allow you to sit as if you were sitting in a chair instead of on your legs. They also have some outdoor seating. It's pretty nice on this side too because there is a little waterfall you can look at and listen to while you eat.

This is also the side where you will find the third restaurant. I call it the party building. Unfortunately, all of the seating is on the floor, but they can accommodate large groups. If you ask, they can provide some low chairs for those who have trouble sitting on the floor. I just love the decor in each section. I would recommend that you sit somewhere different each time you go. My favorite spot is outside when the weather is nice.
The entrance to the party building. You have to take your shoes off at the bottom of the steps and place them in the shoe cabinet.

Display case of available dishes that is right in front of the party building.

Now on to the food. If you go to Sanzoku, you have to try the chicken. That is what they are really famous for. The chicken is grilled on a stick and it has a teriyaki style sauce on it. For those who are not a big fan of teriyaki or can't have it for some other reason, you can order it without sauce and they will just season it with salt for you.

Sanzoku Yaki (their chicken on a stick)

You also have to get the gyoza. I think their gyoza is pretty amazing. Not as good as my mom's gyoza of course, but it's good.

If you are more into beef, you can try the little strips of beef that you cook yourself at the table. They give you a dipping sauce with it that is really good. They also have steaks. I have never tried a steak here, but I have heard from a few people that it is good.

Another popular item on their menu is the Sanzoku Musubi (rice ball). It is pretty big and has three different fillings. You get cooked salmon, seaweed, and some pickled plum.

My brother and my father really like the tofu salad.

I love agedashitofu (fried tofu in a broth) and theirs is really good.

When it is cold out, I always get a mini udon or a mini soba. My children always ordered the udon when they were little. They loved it!

There are lots of different things on the menu to choose from. You can order a few different items and share so you can all try different dishes.

After you eat, you can walk around and explore a little more. They decorate the outside based on the season. Right now it is still decorated for Tanabata and little trees are full of papers with wishes written on them.

Sanzoku will provide transportation for groups and will pick up at the main gate. We've done this a few times for farewell dinners. They do require that each person order a certain amount of food. It's easier when you have a group so you're not trying to figure out who is driving and how many can fit in their car. Driving there is not a problem though. They have plenty of parking. It takes about 30 minutes or so from base, depending on traffic. You can call to make reservations and arrange for transportation (if you need it). Their number is (0827) 82-3115.

To get to Sanzoku...go out the main gate and go straight until you get to four corners (first intersection after the railroad tracks). Turn left. Drive until you have crossed over a bridge. Keep going straight and then turn right at the very first light after you cross the bridge. At this light you can only go straight or turn right (the ILC is on your left). Stay on this road for a while. You will go through a tunnel, and then another tunnel. Keep going. Eventually, you will go through a third tunnel (it will be longer than the first two you went through). After you have gone through the third tunnel, you will see a light. Turn right at the light. The road looks small. It kind of is. Follow the road up until you come to another road. Be careful, this road is busy sometimes. They do have the mirrors across the street so you can see oncoming traffic. Turn right, and then turn into Sanzoku on your left. Enjoy the food and the atmosphere!


  1. The "Chicken Shack"?! Never heard that one... I think I remember it being called the "water wheel" or something. What I DO remember is hanging out there in the late 70's and early 80's. It used to be a favorite spot for the local "bosozoku". Base hot rodders used to call them "Bozos". I lot of good memories. I used to go there alot with your brother too.

  2. Believe the Water Wheel may have been across the street; it burned prior to 1990. Did you know there are at least two others? One is on way to Tokayama (?) and the other is up in the mountains south of the expressway on the way back from Mominoki (?). We also loved the small trout on a stick grilled on the hibachi. BTW--had a friend in 2001 who figured out the recipe for the Sanzoku sauce. Now we can have it in the states; alas, without the atmosphere.

    1. I would sure like to have the recipe for the Sanzoku sauce. My email is TIA, Rick

  3. Frank - LOL!! I remember hanging out there on the weekends too.....watching the Bozos drive up and down the street and then get in a fight....and then the police came and we would take off. :)

    Anonymous - Yes, the Water Wheel was across the street and it did burn down. They built something else, but then it burned down too, so it is a parking lot. Yes, I have been to the other ones also. They are all a little different. I love Sanzoku! Awesome that you can at least enjoy the sauce!! :)

  4. Lots of good memories here! I spent all my elementary years in Iwakuni and ate at Sanzoku numerous times. Wonderful to find your blog, thanks for sharing your experiences so I can relive mine ;-)

  5. Oh, Yeah! "Chicken Shack" for casual dining (sometimes after chapel on Sunday), and, on rarer occasions, a "fancy" meal across the street at the Water Wheel. Sorry to hear that the WW is no longer there, but it was some AWESOME chicken, and paired with Ramune on a hot August afternoon, what could be better?

  6. I was just on the Iwakuni Facebook page and shared this page because the memory of the Chicken Shack is still so clear and vivid in my mind and memory....I lived in Japan three years and went here when I was able to get a friend to drive...As you may know, not everyone had a car that lived on base! Some of the best times of my life were spent here.

  7. WOW, I was stationed there in early 1990's!! The sause was the best I wish I had the receipe and purchased more bottles!!

  8. Iwakuni, H&MS-12, 1973 ~ 1976, I have the Kintai Bridge as my background. Had thoughts of going back. I wanted pics of the water wheel and sad to know it is a parking lot. Great memories.