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King of the Free Range

Meet Miyazaki Prefecture’s delectable Jitokko chicken

Miyazaki City, Miyazaki Prefecture - Kyushu



Journey southward to Miyazaki Prefecture and explore its many faces. Located on the southeastern coast of the island of Kyushu, the prefecture has much to offer visitors: spectacular seascapes, stunning mountainous landscapes, and incredible historical sites.


One of Japan’s leading prefectures in raising livestock, Miyazaki prides itself on its branded meat products, including Miyazaki beef and a variety of Miyazaki pork. Not to be forgotten is Miyazaki’s own brand of chicken, Miyazaki Jitokko, known for its tender texture and terrific flavor. Make the trip to Miyazaki—bask in its subtropical climate, adventure across its length, and savor its exquisite regional cuisine.


The Legend of Miyazaki Chickens


Charcoal-grilling is not for the faint of heart! Specially designed spatulas with long handles are used to make it easier and safer.


Like any good breed, Miyazaki Jitokko chickens can trace their lineage, which dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867) with chickens raised at the foot of Mt. Kirishima. So delicious were those chickens that the local people presented them to the feudal lord of the region’s Shimazu clan.


Many years later, in 1943, the Jitokko chicken was designated a Natural Monument of Japan, and in 1985 the breed began to be developed as a brand of chicken. In 2014, the breed was first distributed under the brand name Miyazaki Jitokko. The brand is tightly controlled by the Miyazaki Jitokko Cooperative Association. Only certified farms can raise this free-range chicken, and they must do so according to guidelines laid out in the association’s manual. It’s all about ensuring quality, which is certified at association-designated restaurants like Gunkei Honten Kakushigura.


A Miyazaki Brand Served the Miyazaki Way


The restaurant catches the eye with its exterior that resembles a traditional Japanese warehouse.


Located near the bustling downtown area of Miyazaki, which is the prefecture’s capital city, Gunkei Honten Kakushigura on a typical day is filled with office workers and families. Tourists who are in town and eager for their first taste of Jitokko chicken are also often seen at the restaurant.


A photo of the restaurant’s founder and representative, Kuroki Kenji, graces the poster of the Miyazaki Jitokko Cooperative Association.


Regional cuisine made with Miyazaki’s free-range chickens is diverse, but the preferred method of preparation is charcoal-grilling. You’ll also find Jitokko chicken spit-roasted or deep-fried as chicken nanban (served with tartar sauce) or karaage (served in bite-size pieces). Of course, fried chicken wings are popular too.



Grilled to Perfection


Add zing to your Jitokko with a dab of yuzukosho.


Start the evening off with the popular charcoal-grilled Jitokko. Choose a meal of thigh, breast, or both in one of three sizes—large (400 grams), medium (300 grams), or small (200 grams).


You might be surprised when you see your meal, because charcoal-grilled Jitokko appears quite black when it is served. One bite, however, and any reservations will evaporate. The meat is tender, with a delightfully rich flavor. Seasoned only with roasted salt prepared in the restaurant, the meat shines. Sprinkle with yuzukosho, a seasoning made from yuzu rind, salt, and chili pepper, to add a refreshing bite.



Next, try Gunkei’s tsukune (chicken meatballs). The meat mixture is lightly cooked in the oven before being shaped, skewered, and grilled over charcoal. Prepared in this way, the meatballs are springy, tender, and juicy. The minced green onion adds an exquisite touch of texture. Dip it in egg yolk to add a creamy richness to the celebration of tastes and textures in this tsukune.


Chicken nanban served with tartar sauce is an old favorite.


Classic Miyazaki Cuisine and a Gunkei Original


Chicken nanban adds a sauce very similar to tartar to the already rich taste of Miyazaki chicken – fabulous!


When you are in Miyazaki, eating chicken nanban is a must. Gunkei uses the tenderloin part of the chicken to keep the dish on the lighter side and gives it a splash of sweet vinegar after frying. Tenderloin is lighter than breast meat, and the flavor of the chicken comes through all the better for it. The smaller cut of meat makes Gunkei’s chicken nanban the perfect snack to accompany drinks.


The tartar sauce contains boiled egg—an addition that is of great importance in Miyazaki. With the egg, the sauce is elevated—from a humble dressing that is only good for dipping to a luscious sauce that Miyazaki locals look forward to eating almost as much as they do the chicken itself.



If you’re a fan of spicy food, give the shop’s Jitokko sunazuri-engawa-chanja a try. An original creation, the dish is a peppery take on chicken gizzards. Expect a crunch to go along with the cayenne bite.


Gunkei’s selection of shochu. It’s common for such restaurants to have well-stocked shelves like this one.


Quenching Your Thirst Miyazaki-Style


Hyakunen no Kodoku shochu is as stylish as it is delicious.


When your tongue starts to tingle from the Jitokko sunazuri-engawa-chanja, it’s time to order a drink. In Miyazaki, the drink of choice is shochu, a distilled spirit that can be made from different grains or vegetables, such as sweet potatoes or barley. Standard choices are Unkai Shuzo’s Kobiki BLUE or Kirishima Shuzo’s Kirishima [Miyazaki Gentei].


Either one would make a marvelous companion to your meal, but since you’ve come all the way to Miyazaki, ask for something special, like Hyakunen no Kodoku, a barley shochu from the venerable distillery Kuroki Honten.


Hyakunen no Kodoku is a rarity in Miyazaki, being aged in wooden barrels. The result is a shochu with a whisky-like aroma. Rare as this shochu is, Gunkei always has a few bottles ready to open and serve.



Finish off your feast of chicken and shochu with a bowl of keihan. Consisting of chicken breast and neck meat on rice in a broth of skipjack tuna, konbu, and shiitake, this refreshing dish also includes burdock root, carrots, mitsuba, and other vegetables. The invigorating aroma of yuzu rind adds zest to the whole dish. It’s the perfect end to an outstanding meal.


A tray of tsukune (chicken meatballs), lightly baked and waiting to be shaped and skewered.


Jitokko chicken is just one of the many delights of Miyazaki. A gourmet’s paradise, the prefecture brims with exceptional examples of Japan’s famous branded meats. Those meats together with the prefecture’s spectacular scenery and fascinating historical sites make Miyazaki a region that visitors to Japan should not miss. Set your sights on southeastern Kyushu, and prepare to discover a world of exceptional flavors and stunning beauty.



Contact Information


Gunkei Honten Kakushigura

8-12 Chuo-dori Street, Miyazaki, Miyazaki Prefecture 880-0002



How to Get There


Miyazaki Prefecture is located in southeastern Kyushu. The capital city, Miyazaki, is located on the coast in the southern half of the prefecture. The closest airport to the city is Miyazaki Airport. From the airport, the city’s downtown area can be reached in as little as eleven minutes by way of the Miyazaki Kuko Line and the Nippou Line.


To reach Gunkei Honten Kakushigura, board a Miyazaki Kotsu bus and get off at the Tachibana-dori 3-chome bus stop. The restaurant is a ten-minute walk from the bus stop.


Recommended Itineraries


Miyazaki Prefecture abounds with nature and is the perfect spot for the adventurous to explore. Those with access to a car will want to check out Aya Evergreen Forest for hiking and incredible views and Cape Toi in the far south of the prefecture for seascapes and wild horses. Those using public transportation have access to many sites, including the Udo Shrine at the seaside, the Aya Castle on a mountaintop, and the Saitobaru Burial Mounds, built approximately 1,700 years ago. If a seaside holiday is more your style, head down the coast to Aoshima for sandy beaches and an island with fascinating rock formations.


Related Links



Miyazaki City Tourism (English)

JNTO, Miyazaki and Vicinity (English)

​​​​Gunkei Honten Kakushigura (Japanese)

​​​​Miyazaki Jitokko Cooperative Association (English)

​​​​Miyazaki (English)






Featured Cuisine


Miyazaki Jitokko chicken is a tightly controlled breed of free-range chicken from Miyazaki Prefecture on the island of Kyushu. The meat is tender and flavorful. Locally, it is prepared in a variety of ways, with charcoal-grilling being the most popular. There are numerous varieties of Japanese chicken, just as there are of Japanese beef, so enjoy seeking out premium chicken on the menu as you travel.




    Author: Helen

    Helen hails from a small town in Central Canada. Shortly after completing an honors degree in history, a desire to study karate in its birthplace drew her to Japan. Since arriving in 2006, she has earned her second dan in Goju-ryu karate, fallen head-first into Japanese culture by way of cross-cultural marriage, and written about Japan for a variety of publications. She loves traveling by Shinkansen, curling up under a heated kotatsu blanket, and eating anything with mochi.











All information is correct as of the time of writing.
Please check for the latest information before you travel.


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