Kagoshima Prefecture is a major food hub in Japan. Its “Satsuma Ryori” (named after the prefecture’s former name) is famous for bold flavors that highlight the richness of its landscape, from the farmland to the sea.
Highlights even include food culture from Kagoshima’s picturesque island of Yakushima, one of Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s home to some fantastic ingredients that are rare finds in other parts of the country. Be sure to give these mouthwatering specialties a try while stopping over in Kagoshima before getting on the ferry on the long trek to your final destination.
Here are the five local foods that are must try’s in the prefecture’s varied landscape:
1) Tobiuo (Flying Fish)
Most restaurants will have these flying fish served in some fashion. Flying fish are common in Japan’s southern region of Kyushu, and Yakushima’s love of the little flying dudes proves this. Enjoy them as a mild-flavored sashimi, salted as himono (cured fish), or fried in their entirety. You can eat the whole fish, from the head to its wings, when prepared in this fashion!
2) Kame no Te (‘Turtle Hand’)
Don’t be fooled by the creepy appearance of this barnacle. The name, kame no te, literally means “turtle hand,” and while it’s not the real thing, it’s on-par in the looks department. This barnacle latches on to ocean rocks and is harvested to be cracked open by the “nails” and eaten. Inside is a small, fleshy meat comparable to crab. It tastes faintly of crustacean with a more salty aftertaste reminiscent of its former home in the Sea of Japan. This delicacy can be found at most local restaurants on the island of Yakushima.
3) Satsuma-imo (Sweet potato)
The importance that Kagoshima Prefecture places on sweet potatoes is no joke. It’s hard to find a restaurant that doesn’t have something influenced by satsuma, the prefecture’s namesake food.
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4) Kurobuta (Black Pork)
The term “black pork” has nothing to do with the color of the meat, but rather the color of the pig’s skin. The meat is juicy, fatty and can be prepared in a multitude of ways — from tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet served with a special sauce and cabbage), butaman (steamed bun with pork), or in Kagoshima Ramen. Another delicacy, kuroushi (black beef) is generally pan-fried rare and served in slices, or is eaten as a regular steak.
5) Kagoshima-joyu (Sweet Soy Sauce)
Don’t be surprised if your waiter informs you that there is a difference between the two bottles of soy sauce on your table. One is indeed the regular version, but sitting adjacent will be Kagoshima-joyu. What makes it different? Kagoshima soy sauce’s first ingredient is sugar, making it more viscous and completely changes the flavor profile of your usual sashimi order. Sushi joints in Yakushima will provide you with local white-fish sashimi, such as Kibinago (herring) and Tobiuo (flying fish), that pair well with the sweeter sauce. Take some home on your way out, as it’s difficult to find elsewhere in Japan.
Kagoshima City, Yakushima, and Tanegashima have an abundance of local must-try delicacies that can only be savored in this region. Check out our food and drink section for more information to help you plan your food journey across the culinarily diverse islands of Japan.