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Japan Hour

Port Trip around Kyushu by Light Truck (Part 1)

This week, we embark on a 700km-trip from Kumamoto Prefecture to Kagoshima and Miyazaki. We will travel by light truck and make stopovers at various ports around Kyushu to savour different delicacies.

This week, we embark on a 700km-trip from Kumamoto Prefecture to Kagoshima and Miyazaki. We will travel by light truck and make stopovers at various ports around Kyushu to savour different delicacies.

We first visit the Kagami Oyster House in Kagamimachi, Yatsushiro City. It faces the Yatsushiro Sea, which is home to Japan's multitudinous sea life. Around 4km from the port, there is the fishery where the oysters are cultivated. Nowadays, Kagami oysters are even popular overseas. We get to try some grilled oysters.

Yatsushiro boasts the largest harvest of winter tomatoes in Japan. So we drive to a spacious greenhouse where we sample Hachibei tomatoes. We then head to a place to try another delicacy, the Banpeiyu citrus fruit. This fruit, which is originally from Taiwan, was introduced to Japan 60 years ago. It is said to be the largest and heaviest citrus fruit in the world. Its peel is 5cm thick and it is often used as an ingredient in candy.

After this, we make our way to Hinagu Onsen. Opened 600 years ago, it is the oldest hot spring district in Kumamoto. In fact, there is a hot spring bath here called Banpeiyu and pomelo is added to the hot spring water in winter. After a quick dip in the hot spring at Shiranui Hotel, we drive to Tanourako Port at the south of Kumamoto Prefecture. Cutlassfish is a famous delicacy in this area. We treat ourselves to cutlassfish sashimi and salt-grilled cutlassfish.

Our next destination is Satsuma City, where we will spend the night. Unfortunately, we are unable to find lodging here as both the Route Inn and Toyoko Inn are fully booked. So we decide to try our luck at Ichihino Hot Spring. By the time we arrive, it’s after 9pm but we manage to find a room at a hot spring inn. On the first day of our port trip, we have covered a distance of 202km.

The next morning, we drive towards Kagoshima Prefecture. We stop at Kushikinochi, known as the “home of satsuma fries”. We take a tour of the factory which produces this local delicacy made from a white fish called sukesodara and itoyoridai. Next, we make our way to Makurazaki Port. As the port is 60km away, we make a stopover at Odaya Confections to have a snack. It has been around since 1849 and its speciality is Satsuma's waka-ayu. It is a confection shaped like a sweetfish called ayu, hence its name.

We want to have Kagoshima ramen for lunch and ask the staff of Odaya for recommendations. We are told to try Nanameya. Its special soup consists of ingredients from south Satsuma. Its most popular special ramen contains cured black pork and poached local eggs.

After lunch, we drive to Makurazaki City. Makurazaki's fishing port is located at the southernmost edge of Satsuma, Kagoshima. Its haul of bonito is said to the second-largest in Japan. Other types of seafood found at the port include horse mackerel, goma-mackerel and squid. We check out Makurazaki's fish centre, where we order straw-roasted bonito - we thoroughly enjoy the authentic taste of bonito. We also try some horse mackerel sashimi.

We check into the Makurazaki Station Hotel. For dinner, we feast on Makurazaki steak and sea bream shabu-shabu. The latter features a bonito broth with matcha tea added in. On the second day, we have travelled 115km.

Our first stop on the third day is Maruju Ltd, which makes Makurazaki's famous bonito flakes. We get to see how the bonito flakes are processed in the huge factory. Twelve tonnes of bonito are used daily and processed in different ways. Boiled bonito is deboned manually using tweezers, after which it is placed in a cauldron. It takes three weeks for the bonito to dehydrate; it is then shaved and inspected. We are served freshly-shaved bonito flakes on steamed rice.

1) Hachibei tomatoes and the Banpeiyu citrus fruit are well-known delicacies in Yatsushiro
2) Bonito flakes are a must-try item at Makurazaki Port


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