The Kirishima Azalea (Rhododendron obtusum) grows wild in the mountains and plains of Kirishima. They bloom in April and May and turn the landscape pink and red. The azalea is so common here that it’s the official flower of Kirishima City. Outside of Japan this flower is often just called the Japanese Azalea, but in actuality there are many different varieties of azalea native to Japan.
Wherever there is really fresh water, there is really good soba. Because there are so many great hot springs and clean rivers, Kirishima is no exception to the rule. You can find great soba shops everywhere. The ones to look out for are the ones where you know the soba is made by hand on site – often such shops have a window so you can watch the staff knead and cut the noodles. At these kinds of shops you can usually buy dry pasta to take home or give to friends and family. You can also find it at gift shops here and there.
Southern Kyushu (and former Satsuma Province specifically) is famous for raising black haired pigs called kurobuta. The meat is prized for its succulence and flavor with a soft, juicy texture. It’s quite expensive outside of Kyushu, but as the region is famous for this type of pork, it’s heavily promoted at much more reasonable prices than elsewhere. You’ll see it on menus everywhere in all kinds of dishes. It’s particularly suited for shabu shabu, so if you like pork, yeah, don’t miss out.
Kurozu literally means black vinegar, but the color may range from pinkish yellow to dark brown or black. It’s made from rice and can be used as a healthy substitute for mirin in Japanese and Chinese cuisine. The master brewers of this region are famous for preserving the natural Edo Period techniques as opposed to mass production in factories. The high end stuff is expensive outside of Japan, but is reasonable in Kagoshima Prefecture. You can find it everywhere and many restaurants will advertise dishes made with kurozu.
Locally known as Tsuke-age, but called Satsuma-age in the rest of the country, these are mixtures of fish paste and flour made into various shaped and lightly fried. While it’s often used as an ingredient in various dishes, you can also eat them individually by dipping them in soy sauce. Chances are you’ll eat something featuring this delicacy.
While there are sake brewers in Kyushu – some quite famous indeed – the area is much more famous for shochu. The main varieties have distinct tastes: potato, rice, soba, and sugar; but there are other styles too. It’s a versatile alcohol. You can drink it straight, on the rocks, mixed with warm water, or mixed with fruit juice or oolong tea. Many brands aren’t available outside of Kyushu or even the areas in which their brewed. Be sure to ask for recommended local brews in restaurants and gift shops to get the good stuff.
Posts by Marky Star
What to Buy in Kirishima
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