With so much to see and do in Kagoshima, eating your way through the city is sure to be on your list. As you explore the sights and sounds, don’t miss out on these classic Kagoshima dishes as well. Known as the Satsuma cuisine, this southern gateway to Japan has food with a very distinctive taste. It might be an acquired taste, but whist you’re there, be sure to try it out!
Kibinago (Silver Herring)
One of the most popular dishes in Kagoshima is this tiny silver herring served as sashimi, normally paired with a soybean vinegar paste. It is a specialty to Kagoshima since the fish is only found around the area due to warm currents. The tiny fish are eaten best with a vinegar Miso or soy sauce, but the Kibinago Tempura with its deep fried batter is a favourite as well.
Not only one of the most popular dishes in the area, satsumaage is also known nation-wide. This dried minced fish paste is made using various types of fish – usually mackerel, sardine or bonito, and deep fried to crispy perfection. Vegetables and pickled ginger are generally added to enhance the flavour. Some have shochu (a local wine) mixed in, so take care and ask before you order!
Somen-Nagashi (Cold “Swimming” Noodles)
This is the most fun way you will ever eat your noodles! Open throughout the year, the Somen-Nagashi in Tosenkyo ravine in Kaimon serves the noodles in natural spring water, giving it a refreshing taste. A pipe made of bamboo serves as the dish for the noodles, with people on either side of it ready with bowls of dipping sauce. Once the server yells “Ikuyo!” – which translates to “Hey, somen is coming. Are you ready?” – the noodles are sent down the pipe, waiting to be picked off and dipped in the sauce using chopsticks. Not as easy as it may seem, this sport takes a while to get the hang of, but it definitely gives eating another dimension! Some dipping sauces, including a ready-made sauce, contains mirin, so request to have it without it.
Jambo Mochi (Twin Skewered Glutinous Rice Balls)
Getting its name from the different sized swords carried by Samurai warriors, freshly pounded glutinous rice balls (mochi) are skewered on two bamboo sticks that resemble those swords (jambo). The mochi is then basted in a sweet sauce made from miso and black sugar, thickened with starch. Soy sauce is also a flavour option, and they both go perfectly with the soft mochi.
Shirokuma (Shaved Ice Dessert)
This popular dessert is exactly what it states – shaved ice drowned in condensed milk and plenty of fruit. This simple sweet comes with a lot of history, and brings about nostalgia in the citizens of Kagoshima. Translated as “polar bear”, some say the name comes from the label of the can of condensed milk that was used when the dessert first originated, while others say it comes from the appearance of the sweet. Regardless of where it came from, this is a taste that every visitor to Kagoshima should experience.
Tea and Karukan (Steamed Rice Cake)
Besides being the second largest producer of green tea in Japan, Kagoshima also prides itself on being the first prefecture to harvest the tea every year, thanks to its warm climate. The rich flavour of the tea is paired perfectly with karukan, a steamed rice cake made from yams, non-glutinous rice and sugar. The high quality of the yams, along with their sweet fragrance, favours karukan as a gift item.
Sakurajima Daikon (Radish)
The largest radish in the world, the Sakurajima Daikon weighs anything from 20kg to 30kg, sometimes even more. Grown in volcanic ash since a rice crop wouldn’t thrive, the masses of radishes planted since 1804 have flourished in terms of their size. Recognised in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest radish, it is delicious when eaten raw, cooked, or pickled. So when in the area, make sure to locate a restaurant serving the vegetable in a multitude of ways!