Join us on a culinary journey through hidden gems on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu! Through the power of food, uncover Nagasaki's history, Kunisaki's spirituality, Miyazaki's culture and Kumamoto's resilience, all highlighted by unique local flavors.
Exploring the regional delicacies of Japan
Japan’s culinary landscape features diverse flavors and regional specialties, inviting travelers to embark on a journey beyond the familiar realms of ramen, tonkatsu and sushi. Travelers looking to try unique flavors and new culinary escapes should definitely investigate Kyushu’s culinary landscape.
Traditional ryokan inns serve an array of flavors, and Japanese cuisine is deep and varied.
Savoring somen from Nagasaki Prefecture
From the 1600s to 1800s, Nagasaki was a primary connection between Japan and the outside world during Japan’s isolationist period. The resulting deep connections with countries like China, the Netherlands and Portugal are what gives Nagasaki many unique culinary traditions. One primary example is the famous Nagasaki champon, a Chinese-inspired noodle dish packed with vegetables, pork and seafood in a rich broth. Besides champon, Nagasaki has a long history of amazing noodle dishes, and the city of Shimabara is famous for their somen noodles.
Dine on delicate strands of Shimabara somen noodles.
Shimabara City is located about two hours by train from Nagasaki city and is home to a number of natural mineral-rich springs. To this end, it’s known as the City of Water. Here, visitors can join a somen-making workshop guided by local experts, unraveling the secrets behind these bouncy, light noodles. The hands-on experience tantalizes the taste buds and gives visitors an appreciation for the dedication that goes into every strand of somen. After experiencing these delightful noodles, visitors can enjoy other Shimabara culinary specialties, including food steamed using natural hot spring water and “kanzarashi,” small rice flour dumplings cooked and cooled in Shimabara spring water. If you choose to explore the city instead, you can admire the colorful koi (carp) fish that thrive in the city’s crystal clear waterways .
Nagashi somen, or flowing noodles, are the perfect way to cool off during a summertime trip to Japan .
Indulge in fresh oysters from the Kunisaki Peninsula
Oita Prefecture's Kunisaki Peninsula offers a captivating culinary experience with oysters, an ocean delight that conjures images of vitality and communal tradition. The peninsula's rich seafood culture comes alive through the tradition of harvesting Kitsuki Morie Bay oysters, which are in season from November to February, when the sea is coldest. This culinary tradition gives the entire community a chance to gather and enjoy fresh oysters together. During oyster season, the beach is dotted with shacks and food stalls where visitors can join in and enjoy fresh grilled oysters alongside the local community.
Indulge in a feast of fresh oysters!
In other efforts to engage with the local community, visitors can explore Kitsuki City’s enchanting streets and take in well-preserved samurai residences alongside other culinary delights, or visit Usa-Jingu Shrine, a grand Shinto shrine surrounded by lush greenery.
Experience traditional Kagura cuisine in Miyazaki Prefecture
Miyazaki Prefecture's culinary and cultural wonder is represented by Kagura cuisine, offering a feast for the senses that goes beyond the palate, expressing ideas behind Shinto tradition and even the theatrical arts. Kagura literally means “entertaining the gods,” and refers to a sacred dance and music ritual performed since ancient times.
Miyazaki's magic: A Takachiho Kagura performer displays the ancient, captivating dance.
In Takachiho, Miyazaki, visitors can witness Kagura dance against a backdrop of stunning natural beauty. Weaving traditional dance and theater into the fabric of the region's mythical heritage through dancing, storytelling, drum beating and masks, Kagura is an ancient tradition that must be seen to be understood. This form of entertainment ties back to Japan's historical origin story, offering a blend of immersive tradition with culinary delight that reveals the vibrant soul of Miyazaki Prefecture.
Kappo chicken: A Takachiho specialty blending herbs, veggies and rich flavors.
During the performance, while enjoying the dynamic dance, visitors can savor delicious local vegetables and grilled meats, such as Kappo chicken, a Takachiho specialty including vegetables, mushrooms and herbs cooked over fire inside a piece of cut bamboo.
Enjoy Kumamoto Prefecture’s traditional mustard leaf pickles
In Kumamoto Prefecture, the art of pickling takes center stage with Aso takana (mustard leaf) pickles from Aso City. These tangy pickles have roots that represent local food culture and farming traditions, showcasing Kumamoto's commitment to preserving seasonal produce. Snacking on these pickles is a culinary experience that will pique visitors’ interest in unique Japanese agricultural history and a sustainable approach to food preservation. Preserved foods are one cornerstone of Japanese longevity!
Mustard leaf pickles are a tangy delight preserving local culture in every bite.
Enjoying mustard leaf pickles is just the beginning – Aso City has a rich history of resilience and geological intrigue. While you’re in Aso, embrace adventure on a hike in Aso-Kuju National Park, a national park with an active volcano. You can also visit Aso-jinja Shrine and explore the shopping streets nearby. Who knows what other culinary wonders you might discover across the glittering mosaic that Kyushu offers!
About the author
Author: Sarah Sommer
Profile:An avid traveler, Sarah draws on her firsthand experiences from her travels across Japan. She passionately shares her love for Japanese culture, inviting others to savor the magic of Japan through her words. In her free time, she can be found tasting other cuisines from around the world and running a food truck in Alaska.