Being a fan of charming themed restaurants, the moment I noticed this particular one gaining popularity, I felt compelled to experience it. The Kumanchan Onsen, a hot pot eatery, offers a delightful bear-shaped gelatinous soup that transforms into a luscious and creamy hot pot when melted.
You may be curious about the reason behind its name, Onsen, referring to a Japanese bathhouse. Well it’s because the bear looks like it’s sitting in a sauna. Typically adorned with a folded towel on its head, the bear’s embellishment mirrors a tradition commonly observed in Japanese bathhouses. He then melts down like he’s in a steam room. This fall, while I was in Japan for my birthday, I was able experience this bathhouse bear out for myself.
Having spent the entire day shopping in Harajuku and Shibuya, my craving for hot pot spiked as my stomach knew it was time for my dinner reservations. The directions led me to a seemingly unassuming spot as I was initially unsure if I had found the correct place. Its exterior lacked the expected flair but my uncertainty quickly dissipated as I peeked inside and discovered adorable bear prints everywhere, confirming I had indeed arrived at the right destination.
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If you’d like to check out this and other themed restaurants in Japan, save my Cool Girl City Travel Themed Cafe Google Maps for your next trip!
Upon entering, it became apparent that the lower level was dedicated to desserts, while the restaurant occupied the upper floor. The receptionist at the front desk warmly welcomed me and, with confidence, acknowledged my reservation by stating my name—a familiar experience at all the places I had booked in Japan. It seemed as if they anticipated the arrival of this foreign visitor, eliminating the need for further confirmation. This amusingly smooth check-in process was greatly appreciated. Thank you, Japan!
Afterwards I was directed to make my way upstairs to experience my hot pot bear dinner, being shown to my window facing seat overlooking the backstreets of Shibuya.
This restaurant is by reservation only but you can easily make one here.
I was given an English menu and instructed to scan the QR code to order my dinner. There were many shabu shabu choices including chicken collagen , pure rice gingo miso, Korean gochujang and soy milk stock. I opted for the Golden Hot Water Bonito soup stock with beef.
After placing my order I headed to the sauce bar and mixed me up some goodies. I don’t remember which I chose but I do remember one was a mix of flavors I had never tried that was quite delicious. I added a bit of garlic (because everything is better with more garlic) and happily trotted to my seat.
Soon a portable, table top burner and a dish of vegetables were laid in front of me and I became more excited and hungry. I eagerly unfolded the provided paper apron and smiled at my reflection in the window as I people watched.
Moments later I was greeted but a cute and bouncy brown bear in a silver hammered bowl. The spread looked amazing and I was ready for my bear to start his Onsen experience. I had a bit of trouble turning the burner on at first. I wondered where the fire was since I was smelling gas so stupidly decided to go ahead and turn the dial to which a huge flame jumped out. After that small scare the fire was on and Mr.Teddy was ready for the sauna.
It took about 10-15 mins for Mr. Bear to fully melt down. As he did, I did as instructed and added the gelatin to the stock to thicken and began to add my veggies. Overall the food was quite flavorful and worth the price for a themed restaurant. The meat wasn’t too chewy like a lot of beef usually is and paired well with the sauces I chose. I had looked forward to finishing off the broth as it’s usually my favorite part, but it had gotten a bit thick so I ended up leaving about half of it in the bowl. Sad face.
My reservation allowed me 80 minutes to eat which was more than enough time to finish and enjoy the experience. I would have loved to try some of the fun desserts downstairs but like I stated in my Vampire Cafe post, my body wouldn’t allow me to indulge in sweets as much as I would have liked while I was in Japan.
As a souvenir I grabbed an adorable mini hot pot bear gatcha which came in 3 pieces. The bear head even bobbled like the real thing: too cute.
Overall themed restaurants get a bad reputation for being gimmicky and overpriced but there many that give a great experience along with tasty food: Kumanchan Onsen being one of them.
Check out the Kumanchan Onsen in Shibuya on Instagram
Would you try this hot pot bear restaurant? Let me know in the comments!