Foodie travel secrets: Kyushu, Japan

BANGKOK, Thailand – The third largest island of Japan – Kyushu – offers great cuisine, an abundance of nature, and unique world-class attractions. Andrew Wood, British-born veteran travel writer, author and resident of Asia for the past 25 years, shares his travel secrets.

Here is one of my favorite experiences, and it includes food!

Have you eaten yet?

Big Pot Shabu-Shabu with Kagoshima’s signature pork.

Kurobuta black pork is famous the world over. Internationally, it is highly prized; 5-star hotels and restaurants across the globe feature this revered pork. Kagoshima is the largest producer in Japan, accounting for 15% of all the pigs produced in the country.

Pork is the most popular type of meat by far in Japan. Nearly as much pork is consumed as chicken and beef combined.

Pork is a prominent part of Kagoshima cuisine. The Kagoshima Kurobuta (black pig) is the most highly-regarded variety. Described as “soft, tender and tasty,” it is the pride of Kagoshima prefecture. Ironically, modern Kagoshima Kurobuta is a hybrid of the British Berkshire and Japan’s domestic black pig. Kagoshima’s mascot is a green pig, paying homage to the famous pork and also its natural heritage.

In Japan, I was delighted to revisit the Nanshukan Restaurant which we “discovered” last year. Situated just a 10-minute taxi ride from our Kagoshima base (the luxurious 5-star Hotel Shiroyama perched high above the city, with spectacular views of the city and Sakurajima volcano across the bay).

It was to be our farewell dinner with our organizers and principles – THAI Airways and Kagoshima Prefecture Visitors Bureau.

Dinner at the Nanshukan is a fun affair. Tables of 8-10 pax around a huge 70 cm cast-iron pot. Cold appetizers are served first then the hot pot becomes the focal point – into a delicious broth organic vegetables are added, then later, paper-thin slices of the famous Kurobuta black pork. They are gently placed over upturned iceberg lettuce leaves so as not to overcook.

It was simply wonderful, and later Kurokuma ramen noodles were added to soak in the delicious tasty broth.

The restaurant is open year round along with the hotel of the same name.

Tosenkyo Flowing Somen Noodles

Delicious fresh somen noodles in ice-cold flowing spring water. (Somen are very thin white Japanese noodles made of wheat flour, less than 1.3 mm in diameter and usually served cold).

Located in the Tosenkyo valley in Ibusuki, it is the only place to visit to experience the wonderful unique serving style of somen noodles, “Somen Nagashi.” The noodles are placed in the swirling waters of the round centerpiece to refresh and cool the noodles before you scoop them up with chopsticks and place in your somen dipping sauce with finely-chopped spring onions and wasabi.

The unique centerpiece on each table allows gravity-fed clear spring water to rotate the noodles while cooling them in a “stream” of flowing water.

Tosenkyo has the best and it is the most famous Somen Nagashi restaurant in Japan. The food was absolutely delicious. Our set menu consisted of sushi, miso soup, deep-fried sweet potato, and grilled trout, which are farmed there in the clear waters. (They are also experimenting with Russian sturgeons to produce Japanese caviar.) A great stop for lunch.

It’s really fun and the meal was delicious and healthy. The sound of running water nearby is very calming, and as you can imagine the atmosphere was wonderfully cool and clean. Surrounded by nature and greenery. A lovely place.

Close to the headwaters, 10 tons of water gush out from the valley every day at 13 degrees, and it is ranked as one of the 100 best water sources in Japan by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism.

Getting there

20 minutes by car from the Ibusuki city center or 10 minutes by car from Lake Ikeda.

JR Ibusuki-Makurazaki Line to Kaimon Station at Kagoshima

Kotsu bus to Ibusuki Station (about 10 mins)

Opening times

Open all year round

9:30 am – 5:00 pm with extended hours during the summer

For further information, click here.