Hello there, fellow Fukuoka Now readers. My name is Fabian, and I’m a university student currently studying at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Oita. It is an honor to be able to share with all of you my three-day adventure, which was made possible by Fukuoka Now and JR Kyushu. The trip itself was a classic gourmet expedition, but with a twist: instead of going to one city that sells all of Kyushu’s famous foods, I went straight to the source, journeying to the cities where each dish first became famous. Between meals, we also managed to squeeze in a few tourist attractions. I was able to cover all this ground conveniently and inexpensively by using a JR Kyushu Foreign Student Pass. If you are a foreign student in Japan, I highly recommend it!
My journey started off at Beppu Station. On the first day we journeyed to Nakatsu, Fukuoka, Sasebo, and Nagasaki. The next day we continued from Nagasaki, stopping at Kanzaki, Kumamoto, and Kagoshima. On the third and final day, we explored Kagoshima, then stopped off at Miyazaki before returning to Beppu.
Day 1 – Nakatsu
Nakatsu is a small town in the northwest corner of the Oita Prefecture. It is here where the famous Nakatsu karaage (Nakatsu-style bite-sized fried chicken) originated. It is so popular that Nakatsu City has a karaage festival each year; 2015’s last event will be held on Sep. 20 to Sep. 21. What makes Nakatsu karaage so special is the marinade they use, with each restaurant in Nakatsu developing their own secret blend of spices, herbs, and sauces to compete with the many other karaage joints across town.
Recommended Spot: Bungoya Honten
We chose to visit Bungoya Honten, which was just a ten-minute walk from Nakatsu Station. They sell their products by weight (much like a butcher shop), and boneless fried chicken costs ¥250 per 100 grams. If you aren’t great with weights and measures, you can also order karaage by the piece, with each piece costing around ¥100. The karaage is crispy on the outside but still very juicy inside, and the meat is thoroughly infused with the taste of the marinade.
Address: 853 Bungo-chou, Nakatsu
Open: 8:00~19:00 (Fried chicken 9:00~)
Menu: Hone-nashi (boneless) karaage ¥250/100 g
For those who wants to try out other shops, there is a Nakatsu karaage guide & map available from the information center at Nakatsu Station, which lists over 50 shops. It would make a great adventure to try out all the different karaage there.
Day 1 – Fukuoka
Being the biggest city in Fukuoka Prefecture, Fukuoka is a place where you can enjoy both western and traditional Japanese dishes, from a quick bite-to-eat to a full course meal. Fukuoka City is also home to the famous Hakata ramen (noodles in a pork broth). Whether it is eaten in the afternoon at a Hakata ramen specialty restaurant, or for dinner at a yatai (food stall) in the heart of Tenjin, is it sure to simultaneously fill you up and leave you hungry for more.
Recommended Spot: Hidechan Ramen
Hidechan Ramen is located at Ramen Stadium, an area at the 5th floor of Canal City Shopping Mall where you can find a whole array of ramen restaurants. Each place offers a different types of ramen, from Hakata ramen to Kumamoto ramen to Kagoshima ramen. Since we had gone there to eat Hakata ramen, Hidechan Ramen seemed to be the right choice. A bowl of ramen with all the toppings costs ¥1,100, while ramen with just egg or just pork costs ¥770 a bowl. Order and pay at the vending machine, then give your order ticket to the attendant.
Shodai Hidechan Ramen
Address: Ramen Stadium, Canal City Hakata 5F, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
Access: 15-20 min. walk from Hakata Sta. or 5 min. by bus (Tenjin Area loop bus or similar) to Canal City Hakata-mae bus stop.
Menu: Ramen with all toppings ¥1,100, ramen with egg, ¥770
Spot Name: Tenjin
Tenjin is a huge shopping district full of malls and department stores. Take the subway to Tenjin Station or one of the many buses that stop in the Tenjin area, which cost only ¥100 one way.
Day 1 – Sasebo
Continuing the train ride, I headed south-west for Sasebo, a small port town in Nagasaki Prefecture. Sasebo is home to the US Navy Base, where the American Navy have maintained a presence since the end of World War II. Thus began the fusion of the Japanese and American cultures, one of the results of this being our next food: the Sasebo burger. In short, this is the traditional US burger, but reworked by Japanese chefs until the modern Sasebo burger was born. There are dozens of joints that are certified as serving the classic Sasebo burger, some of the most popular options being Hikari, Big Man, and Log Kit. You can pick up a Sasebo burger guide & map from the train station or from your hotel.
Recommended Spot: Saruku City 403 Arcade
Another point of interest in Sasebo is the Saruku City 403 Arcade, a 1 km long shopping street full of shops, eateries and more; you could easily spend a whole day there! The Arcade is a ten-minute walk from Sasebo Station.
Recommended Spot: Log Kit Honten
One of the most popular burger joints in Sasebo, Log Kit has a branch in Sasebo Station itself, making it really easy for travellers to find. But I pilgrimaged to the first Log Kit joint, located ten minutes on foot from the farther entrance of the Saruku City 403 Arcade. I ordered the Special Burger (a burger with Ketchup, lettuce, tomatoes, eggs, cheese, and, of course, bacon), which cost ¥880. This burger may be more expensive compared to the other restaurants, but the taste is immaculate. The burger is juicy, not greasy, and the burger is generally sized, meaning your hunger pangs will be satisfied for quite some time.
Log Kit Sasebo Honten
Address: 1-1 Yatake-chou, Sasebo
Open: 10:00~21:00 (Sun.: 10:00~20:00)
Menu: Special Burger ¥950
Day 1 – Nagasaki
We finished our train journey along the coast of Northern Kyushu in Nagasaki; another port town and the only one open to other countries during Japan’s isolationist period. As a result, Nagasaki’s culture is influenced by the Chinese and European immigrants living there, and this is reflected in their cuisine and tourist attractions.
Recommended Spot: Mount Inasa Observatory
Before we ate, we decided to go to Mount Inasa to take a look at Nagasaki City from above. Mount Inasa is actually rated as having one of the three best views in Japan, and the nighttime view is definitely worth the effort. There are several ways of getting to Mount Inasa, such as a ¥2,000 taxi ride, a ¥150 city bus ride plus an extra 15-minute hike to the observatory, a ropeway ride (which at this moment is unavailable because of construction work), or by chartered bus from certain hotels.
Recommended Spot: Nagasaki Chinatown
Once an area where the Chinese immigrants lived, it is now the scene of many Chinese joints, from the abundance of Chinese-style restaurants to the Chinese merchandise available. If you are thinking of visiting this place, I suggest that you get there before 8:30pm, because most of the shops and restaurants are already closed by 9pm. Get off at Tsukimachi Tram Stop (tram fare is ¥120/person).
Address: 10-13 Shinchimachi, Nagasaki
Recommended Spot: Seiko
Seiko is, in essence, a Chinese-style restaurant, with most of the menu being Chinese family-style food. It is one of the many Chinese restaurants in Nagasaki Chinatown that serve Nagasaki’s regional dishes: chanpon and sara udon. Both chanpon and sara udon use the same ingredient for its broth, but are prepared differently. Chanpon is a ramen-like soupy dish, usually topped with pork, seafood, and vegetables, whereas sara udon consists of dried noodles smothered in a thickened chanpon broth, which is more sauce-like, and topped with the same toppings. A portion of chanpon or sara udon costs ¥1,000.
Address: 9-11 Shinchimachi, Nagasaki
Open: 10:30~15:00, 17:00~22:00 (21:30 Last Order)
Menu: Special Chanpon ¥1,000, Special Sara Udon ¥1,000
Day 2 – Nagasaki
Recommended Spot: Glover Garden
Glover Garden is a park built for Thomas Blake Glover, a merchant who has contributed to the modernization of coal mining in Nagasaki, amongst other fields. It is also an open air museum, showcasing former western residents’ mansions and their interiors. There you can also stroll amongst the flowers and take in the panoramic view of the Nagasaki City.
Address: 8-1 Minami-Yamatemachi, Nagasaki
Open: 8:00~18:00 (L.I. 17:40)
Adult: ¥610, HS: ¥300, ES~JHS: ¥180
Access: 5 min. walk from the Ouratenshudo-shita tram station on line 5. If you are coming straight from Nagasaki Station and therefore need to transfer from one line to another, do not forget to ask the driver of the first tram for a “noritsugi” (transfer ticket), or you may have to pay again for the second tram ride.
Day 2 – Kanzaki
Recommended Spot: Man’eidou
Kanzaki is a small town in the Saga Prefecture. Compared to most parks, there isn’t really that much to see in Kanzaki, but I went there specifically for a quick meal of Kanzaki somen (thin buckwheat noodle). Usually served cold, making it the perfect dish for the summer, Kanzaki somen is usually served with a salty, sour dipping sauce. As for the somen itself, it can be served in a bowl, or you can ask for it to be served in flowing cold water, so that you have to catch the flowing somen with your chopsticks before dipping it in the sauce. I ordered the somen and croquette set, which also comes with fried rice and pickled vegetables. Man’eidou is a five-minute taxi ride from the station, although you may want to ask for the taxi company’s phone number in case you are unable to find another taxi for the return journey.
Man’eidou Kanzaki Syukubacyaya shop
Address: 611 Kanzakimachi, Kanzaki
Closed: 2nd and 4th Tue. of every month
Menu: Croquette and Soumen Set ¥500
Day 2 – Kumamoto
Recommended Spot: Kumamoto Castle
The next stop on the adventure was Kumamoto, most famous for Kumamoto Castle. Once home to the Kato and Hosokawa Feudal Lords, it is now one of the biggest castles in Kyushu, and a must see for tourists. If you have the time, I would advise planning to spend an entire day exploring the castle area, because there is so much to see other than the main castle: stone wall paths, turrets, museums, and gardens.
Address: 1-1 Honmaru, Chuo-ku, Kumamoto
Open: Mar.-Nov. 8:30~18:00, Dec.~Feb. 8:30-17:00
Adult: ¥500, ES and JHS: ¥200
Access: 10-15 min. by the A-line tram from Kumamoto station, ¥150. Get off at Kumamoto Castle/City Hall Tram Station.
Recommended Spot: Baniku Kyoudo Ryouri “Kenzou”
“If you are going to Kumamoto, you must try basashi (horse meat sashimi)”, said everyone I have met who has been to Kumamoto and splurged on this delicacy. It is basically a sashimi of raw horse meat, served with a dash of garlic and soy sauce. I went to Kenzou, a horse meat specialty restaurant located in the Ginza Street, only ten minutes from the Hazekata Gate of Kumamoto Castle by foot. It is a little hard to find because the actual restaurant is located underground, but it’s worth the search. I had my doubts about eating raw horse, but it turned out to be better than sublime! The horse sashimi has the texture similar to tuna sashimi, just a little bit chewier. If you don’t much like the sound of raw horse meat, the restaurant also serves it cooked. I recommend getting there early or making a reservation, because the restaurant is packed at dinner time.
Baniku Kyoudo Ryouri “Kenzou”
Address: Shichiko Bld. B1F 1-8 Shimodori, Chuo-ku, Kumamoto
Open: 17:00~23:00 (L.O. 22:15)
Menu: Basashi ¥2,200 (before tax)
Day 2 – Kagoshima
Recommended Spot: Kurobuta Yokochou – Kagomma Furusato Yataimura
During my visit to Kagoshima, it just so happened that there was an event promoting kurobuta (Berkshire Pig), a staple of Kagoshima cuisine. It was located mere minutes from Kagoshima Chuo Station, at a place called Kagomma Yataimura (which translates as ‘Food Stall Village’). There 25 food stalls are packed into a tight space, each stall selling their own versions of a kurobuta dish. I decided to try out kurobuta shabu-shabu (you are served thin slices of meat, which you cook in a pot of boiling water) at Kurobuta Yokochou, one of the stalls there. There are also shabu-shabu restaurants scattered around the Kagoshima Chuo Station area, so if you want a more sophisticated atmosphere while eating, it’s better to go to those restaurants.
Kagomma Furusato Yataimura
Address: 6-4 Chuo-chou, Kagoshima
Open: Lunch 12:00~14:00, Dinner 17:00~24:00
Closed: 1st and 3rd Mon. of every month. (If Mon. is a national holiday, then closed Tue.)
Menu: Kurobuta shabu-shabu ¥800. (Kurobuta Yokocho)
Day 3 – Kagoshima
Recommended Spot: Shiroyama Observatory
One way of travelling around Kagoshima City is by the Kagoshima City View Bus. For ¥190 one way, or ¥500 for a one-day pass, you will be guided to tourist attractions around the city. We chose to visit Shiroyama Observatory to take a look at the view of Sakurajima Island and walk around the park located near the observatory. I was planning to visit the island itself, but due to the volcanic activity of Sakurajima Island, I felt it best to come back another day.
Day 3 – Miyazaki
Recommended Spot: Ogura Honten
Our last stop on this journey was Miyazaki Prefecture, the origin of Japan’s chicken nanban (fried chicken dipped in vinegar and served with tartar sauce). Ogura has been serving chicken nanban in Miyazaki City for years, and is still regularly packed with customers. The restaurant itself is a small shack in the middle of the shopping malls of Miyazaki, a 20-minute walk from Miyazaki Station. It’s quite hard to find, but for only ¥1,010 you can enjoy the Ogura Chicken Nanban Set, which comes with a side of cabbage and pasta, as well as rice.
Address: 3-4-24 Tachibanadorihigashi, Miyazaki
Open: 11:00~15:00 (L.O. 14:30), 17:00~20:30 (L.O. 20:00)
Closed: Tues., 1st Wed. of every month
Menu: Ogura Chicken Nanban Set ¥1,010
Recommended Spot: Miyazaki Jinguu (Miyazaki Shrine)
Just a five- to ten-minute walk from JR Miyazaki-Jinguu Station is Miyazaki Shrine, a large yet tranquil shrine, not often visited by tourists. This makes Miyazaki Shrine a perfect place to relax, take a walk around and rest after a hard day’s journeying. As with every shrine in Japan, there are little shops to buy fortunes, charms and mementos.
Recommended Spot: Ooyodo Kahan Miyachiku
The last meal of the journey, and the most prestigious of all the foods eaten on this epic journey, was Miyazaki beef, Kyushu’s answer to Kobe beef. Ooyodo Kahan Miyachiku is located on the second floor of Miyazaki Kankou Hotel, a 30-minute walk from Miyazaki Station. The most expensive item of the menu, the Premium Miyazaki Tenderloin Beef Course, comes at a whopping ¥15,500 (excl. tax); yet despite the high price, this meal was the best present I have ever bought myself. The course starts with a small appetizer and salad, followed by the actual beef, cooked to your preferred temperature, vegetables, fried rice, miso soup, and finished off with desserts and coffee, all prepared in front of you on a teppan (iron hot plate) by the chef. And the whole time we had a beautiful view of the Ooyodo River from the window. It was clearly the perfect ending to my gourmet journey. Reservations are a must as the restaurant is usually fully booked.
Ooyodo Kahan Miyachiku
Address: Miyazaki Kanko Hotel 2F, 1-1-1 Matsuyama, Miyazaki
Open: 11:00~15:00 (L.O. 14:00), 17:00~22:00 (L.O. 21:00)
Menu: Premium Miyazaki Tenderloin Beef Course ¥15,500, Miyazaki Sirloin Beef Course ¥6,800, Sirloin Wagyu Course ¥5,900.
Once again I wish to convey my deepest gratitude to the staff of Fukuoka Now and JR Kyushu, for giving me the opportunity to indulge in this adventure and to share it with you fellow readers. If you’re planning to follow in my footsteps, I’d recommend either planning your itinerary in detail, or giving yourself more days to travel (or both); I felt three days were not enough to fully explore each city’s attractions. Perhaps a whole week or two would be sufficient to explore all the hidden gems of the Kyushu region. But I strongly urge anyone planning a trip around Kyushu to try some, if not all, of the foods and places mentioned in this report! Thank you very much.