Kyushu is situated in the southernwest part of Japan, contains seven prefectures, and is surrounded by the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is also blessed with magnificent natural scenery, such as the great caldera of Mt. Aso in Kumamoto, Sakurajima in Kagoshima and the many other mountains, as well as the hot springs that ooze out of the ground. Kyushu has very fertile land and is also a place of amazing cuisine, with different food cultures unique to each region.
Eels fed on sweetfish; Osumi, the peninsula with the largest eel production in Japan
Kagoshima, located in southern Kyushu, is known for various local products like sweet potato shochu and black pork, but it also produces the greatest number of eels in Japan. This is especially true for the Osumi Peninsula in the southernmost end of the prefecture, with temperate climate brought in by the Japan Current and pure groundwater filtered by the Shirasu Plateau, which is comprised of layers of volcanic ash. The combination of this creates the perfect environment for growing quality eels.
In recent years, natural eels have been labeled as an endangered species and eel producers in each re-gion are trying to create quasi-natural eels by farming. Fumio Kawaminami, who runs the eel farm Kawako in Kanoya, teamed up with eel restaurant Edogawa and turned their attention to the food nat-ural eels feed on. Spending nearly four years, they developed Unagimaru, a unique type of eel that are fed on sweetfish.
“Wild, river-grown eels feed on sweetfish and char. We wanted to grow eels that were as close to wild eels as possible, so we mixed sweetfish meat into the feed. Also, to create a pond that was as close to natural conditions as possible, we stopped heating the pond and kept groundwater flowing through to replicate natural water temperatures and flow. This is something we can do only because we are in Kagoshima, with its temperate climate and plentiful, pure water,” says Kawaminami.
Kawaminami’s eels, fed on sweetfish and grown in a more natural environment, look definitively dif-ferent from other farmed eels. They are light blue with a hint of green, a characteristic associated with high-quality eels, and are soft to the touch. Eels are extremely delicate creatures and it is incredibly difficult to farm them using Kawaminami’s method. They take time to grow, and if there are too many of them in a single pond, they will not be as healthy, resulting in a very small yield. Still, Kawaminami looks forward to serving his great eels to people, a dream that has finally been granted after four years.
Black-haired Wagyu cows grown in a free environment
The town of Amakusa, Kumamoto Prefecture, is linked to mainland Kyushu via five bridges called the Amakusa Gokyo. It consists of about 120 islands of varying sizes, surrounded by the beautiful sea, and has an idyllic, strangely charming atmosphere that evokes a sense of nostalgia. Amakusa is also famous in Japan as the place that breeds Black-haired Wagyu calves.
We visited Tanaka Chikusan, a farm in Amakusa that breeds, grows, ships and sells calves from start to finish. Guided by Kenji Tanaka, the farm’s representative, we went into the barn. There were over 200 cows taking it easy in the barn, including relaxed-looking mother cows that were grazing in the field.
“We have a lot of clean groundwater and we also have cool summers thanks to the gentle winds. It is a good environment for breeding cows. We also have red soil; we sometimes see the cows licking it. It’s probably red because the minerals from the sea breeze have settled on the soil,” says Tanaka.
From the age of 18, Tanaka had spent all his life on raising livestock. He is an experienced livestock farmer with 37 years in the business, but according to him, there is no set way of raising cows and that trial and error is something he does to this day. He says he is at his happiest when the calves he had been bringing up with attention and care for 30 months become fully grown.
Collaboration of Kyushu’s delicacies with a full-bodied beer
E-ZEYJAPAN has matched the foods from Kumamoto reported in this article with Asahi Dry Premi-um Hojo beer.
The special sweetfish-fed eels are split open and grilled until they are aromatic. The Salisbury steaks are made with Black-haired Wagyu beef from Kumamoto (partly using beef from Tanaka Chikusan) and come with demi-glace and tomato sauces. The Dry Premium Hojo beer offers a rich taste and a flamboyant aroma, a perfect match with the great, juicy foods from Kyushu. We invite our readers to savor this combination of food and drink.
Writer : ASAKO INOUE / Photographer : SATOSHI TACHIBANA & CHIE MARUYAMA / Movie : CHIZU TAKAKURA
〈E-ZEY JAPAN〉Assortment pack of mixed-meat Salisbury steak containing black-haired wag-yu beef from Kumamoto with Asahi Dry Premium Hojo
〈E-ZEY JAPAN〉An assortment pack of grilled eel from Kagoshima and Asahi Dry Premium Hojo
Kumamoto Prefecture Tourism Information
Kagoshima Prefecture Tourism Information
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