Kagoshima’s “Kuro”, or black, is a Japan brand
One way to enjoy gourmet food in Kagoshima is to look for the “Kuro” mark, which means “black”. One famous “Kuro” product is “Kagoshima Kurobuta”, the most popular brand of pork made from Berkshire pigs.
Kurobuta was first produced in Kagoshima around 400 years ago. The Shimazu clan, which ruled Satsuma (the former name of Kagoshima Prefecture) at that time, popularized it and it became known nationwide around the mid-18th century. Tokugawa Nariaki was the father of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, and he is said to have been very impressed with the pork. He is quoted as saying, “This is a delicacy indeed. It not only has an exquisite taste and body but is also nutritious.”
Kagoshima Kurobuta are mainly fed on Satsuma-imo, or sweet potatoes. As you can tell from the “Satsuma” in its name, these sweet potatoes are a local specialty of Kagoshima Prefecture. Satsuma-imo makes the pork fat’s melting point higher, so when you cook Kagoshima Kurobuta at high heat is has a less greasy and uniquely refreshing texture. The fat in the lean meat contains a lot of vitamin E. You can enjoy its mouth-watering flavor in a variety of dishes including Shabushabu and pork cutlet.
You may also want to try “”Wazzeeka-don”” (upper left), which is only available in Kagoshima City. “”Wazzeeka”” means “”impressive”” in Kagoshima dialect and Wazzeeka-don is highly recommended in Kagoshima restaurants. Kagoshima Kurobuta is cooked in “”Waazzeka”” style and served over a bowl of rice. The ingredients and seasoning differ in each restaurant; some combine it with seafood and others may use eggs.
Ramen lovers are recommended to try Kagoshima ramen with its pork and chicken bone soup base. Noodle thickness and toppings vary by restaurant and many places use a nice mild-flavored broth.
“Kagoshima Kuroushi” is a Japanese brand of beef. This fine and high quality sirloin is so tender it can be cut with chopsticks.
“Kuro Satsumadori”, or Kuro Satsuma chicken, is becoming more and more popular as the “third Kuro of Kagoshima”. It contains a lot of amino acids, which add flavor, and does not get tough even after cooking or grilling. Even when eaten cold, it still tastes delicious.
Kagoshima is a treasure house of fresh fish
In Kagoshima City Central Wholesale Market, the fish market facing Kinko bay (also known as Kagoshima bay), fresh fish such as amberjack are gathered from the nearby sea. Kagoshima is the number one producer of amberjack in Japan. You can enjoy delicious fish in any season here.
Another fish you can enjoy in Kagoshima is “Kubiore Saba”, a kind of mackerel which is a local specialty of Yakushima Island. Many people love its firm meat and excellent consistency.
People in Kagoshima also love pond herring which are caught in the sea on the west side of Kagoshima Prefecture. Pond herring are delicate fish which are sensitive to environmental changes and can only live in clean water. You can only eat them as sashimi at their production site.
Experience sushi-making at a “Sushi School”
At “Sushi Sayaka” in Kagoshima City, you can experience sushi-making at an actual restaurant using fresh local fish. This is a popular program and over 1,000 people have participated in this class since it opened in March 2015 (Reservation required for a group of more than 10 people. cost: 3,000 yen per person).
“Satsuma-age”, minced fresh fish deep-fried in oil, is a local specialty of Kagoshima Prefecture which also has “Satsuma” in its name. There are many kinds of Satsuma-age, from ones mixed with seasonal vegetables to ones that have cheese in them. It is still delicious cold, but the freshly fried ones are particularly delicious. You can buy them in specialty stores and delicatessens in the city or enjoy them warm at Kagoshima Airport or Kagoshima Chuo Station.
Sweets that pass on the tradition of the samurai period
The sweets in Kagoshima are made according to the traditions from the Satsuma period. “Karukan” is an excellent sweet which is popular for its beautiful look and fluffy consistency. It is a steamed sweet made from ingredients such as high quality Japanese yam and it is said it was first made by order of Shimazu Nariakira (1809 – 1858), who had a reputation as a wise ruler.
“Jambo-mochi” are round rice cakes of 3 – 4 cm in diameter which have been skewered on sticks and grilled, then smothered with a warmed sweet sauce. It is said that the word Jambo is derived from “Ryambo”, meaning double sticks. Two sticks are used at all times, representing the two katanas that samurai warriors carried at their waist. You can also eat them at Senganen Garden (Iso Teien), one of the tourist spots in Kagoshima City.
Brown sugar, made by boiling down sugar cane juice, is a local specialty of Amami Oshima in Kagoshima Prefecture. The sweets made using this brown sugar have a simple, comforting sweetness and have been made for hundreds of years. In the past, every family used to make their own.
These sweets go very well with teas made in Kagoshima. Kagoshima has a warm climate and fertile land, so their tea leaves are harvested the earliest in Japan. “Chiran-cha”, or Chiran tea, is the most popular Kagoshima tea because of its deep flavor.
“Shirokuma” shaved ice is popular among tourists who “want to taste an authentic flavor” when they visit Kagoshima City. The original one consists of condensed milk poured onto shaved ice and topped with fruit. Many new variations have been created, including ones in a cup or on a stick, and Shirokuma is now a popular treat all over Japan.
2000 different brands can be found
Sweet potatoes were brought back from Ryukyu (now known as Okinawa Prefecture) by a fisherman in Minami-Satsuma in 1705. They became established in Kagoshima due to their ability to resist droughts and typhoons as well as their suitability for growing in volcanic ash soil.
“Satsuma Shochu Liquor” is a distilled spirit brewed in Kagoshima which is made from Kagoshima sweet potatoes and water. It meets the World Trade Organization’s “Satsuma Shochu” standards as a certified “Geographically Indicated” product. Other “Geographically Indicated” products include Bordeaux for wine and Scotch for whisky. There are more than 2000 different brands of Satsuma Shochu and it is a local specialty of Kagoshima that is also exported overseas.
Make with affection as if it is your own child
At “Satsuma Gojugura” brewery of Hombo Shuzo, shochu is made by hand from malt using a traditional production method. The chief brewer attends to it at all times to keep an eye on the fermentation process and the temperature. This brewery has a tour where you can see the distillation process, including the preparation steps where fresh sweet potatoes and mashed soy are added, and enjoy shochu tasting. Shochu goes well with many foods as it is very refreshing in the mouth. It is recommended to enjoy it mixed with water and chilled overnight in the refrigerator. This is called “Maewari”, and you can try it at home and enjoy its mild flavor.
Recommended gourmet tour
Market dining hall in Kagoshima-City Central Wholesale Market
This famous dining hall is located just outside of the Central Wholesale Market. You can enjoy “Kubiore Saba” here and the Sashimi set meal is also popular.
For those who want to try a variety of gourmet foods in Kagoshima, we recommend “Tenmonkan”, the busiest street in Kagoshima. You can stroll around at your leisure, eating freshly fried Satsuma-age and enjoying Kagoshima tea and sweets. Matcha ice cream and crepes made with Kagoshima matcha are also delicious.
Kagomma Furusato Yataimura
In Yataimura, which was remodeled and reopened in April 2015, there are 25 shops standing side-by-side which feature a variety of food. There are shops that serve traditional local cuisine and unique ones that create new Kagoshima flavors from traditional local cuisine. What all of these shops have in common is that they all use carefully selected local ingredients made right in Kagoshima.
After you have fully enjoyed gourmet food in Kagoshima City, you may want to relax in a hot spring bath. In the upcoming October issue, we will introduce some famous and unique hot springs. Stay tuned!