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What to Eat in Yakushima

Yakushima is best known for its epic hikes and ancient cedar forests. The cuisine is plentiful with fresh delicacies unique to this southern island. Yakushima has created its own spin on dishes inspired by nearby Kagoshima and Kyushu and specializes in popular, domestic products that are packaged and sold around the country. From tiny sea creatures to smoked fish, Yakushima’s food reflects its wild and untamed atmosphere.

  • Flying Fish

    Flying Fish

    Flying Fish

    Flying fish, or tobio, is a delicacy found only on Yakushima. The freshly caught fish is normally served fried or filleted alongside rice or other side dishes. The fish is one of the most popular dishes in Yakushima and can be found whole or minced, fried or raw. In restaurants, the fish is commonly served whole and fried. The entire body, including the head, can be eaten. How can you tell if your fish is a flying fish or not? A tobio is served with its wings, so check to see if the wings are still in place on the fish’s body. The local name for tobio is “toppy,” so servers might refer to it as such.

    Flying Fish

    Flying Fish

    Almost every area in Japan has a ramen dish unique to the local culture and Yakushima is no exception. The local ramen is topped with a fried tobio, which can be eaten from head to wing to tail. Be sure to watch out for the tiny bones!

  • Kame no te

    Kame no te

    Kame no te

    Kame no te directly translates to “turtle’s hand” and deceptively looks so. But don’t be fooled by the eerily similar appearance. Kame no te is, in fact, a sea barnacle that resembles a turtle’s appendage. The barnacle is found underwater attached to rocks. The meat inside is more akin in texture to crab or lobster and has a briny taste. It is normally eaten boiled as a snack or added to soup broth for a marine-inspired dish. A few pieces can often be found in miso soup served alongside lunch or dinner. It is normally served in season from April to June.

  • Green Tea

    Green Tea

    Green Tea

    Yakushima’s rainy and temperate climate is perfect for growing tea. Tea plantations and fields can be found all over the island and some have been there for over a hundred years. Sencha, or whole-leaf green tea, is mainly grown on the island. Sencha tea is vacuum-packed and sold both domestically and abroad, or cooked into a variety of foods. Green tea desserts are popular in cafes throughout the island. Green tea chiffon cake is an airy accompaniment to a cup of coffee and perfect for a relaxing rainy day on the island. While the cake is popular throughout Japan, it is special in Yakushima due to the freshly ground tea inside the spongy loaf.

  • Smoked Mackerel

    Smoked Mackerel

    Smoked Mackerel

    Smoked mackerel is very popular around the island and smoking plants can be found everywhere. The smoking industry is based in Yakushima and some factories are over 200 years old. The mackerel fishing industry was originally based in the north of Yakushima in an area known as Isso. The nearby sea is filled with spotted chub mackerel, which has a higher percentage of body fat than regular mackerel and can be smoked more easily. Dried smoked mackerel is a popular souvenir for both domestic and foreign tourists.

    Smoked Mackerel

    Smoked Mackerel

  • Hombo Brewery

    Hombo Brewery

    Hombo Brewery

    Hombo brewery is one of the two main shochu breweries on the island. The entire brewing process of the award-winning sweet potato shochu is done by hand. The amount of shochu made is limited, which makes it unique to Kagoshima. The brewery is open for tours and is popular with both domestic and foreign tourists. The tour explains the brewing process and visitors can see firsthand each step of how this rare shochu is made. The tour ends with a tasting where visitors can try shochu or the plum wine that is also made in the same brewery.

  • Tankan

    Tankan

    Tankan

    Tankan is a type of orange originally from Taiwan. This sweet citrus fruit is similar to a tangerine and just as easy to peel. The residents of Yakushima take pride in their oranges and each region claims to make the sweetest juice. Smiley Cafe on the Anbo river is a cozy waterfront venue. It serves a fresh tankan juice float with vanilla ice cream, a summery twist on the wintertime fruit.

    Yakushima
    Address
    Kagoshima prefecture Kumage gun Yakushima cho
    Phone
    0997494010
    Hombo Sake Brewing yakushimadenshozo
    Address
    Kagoshima Pref. Kumagegunyakushimachou Ambou 2384
    Phone
    0997462511
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