Food in Yakushima

The food in Yakushiam can be said to be an edible treasure equivalent to an island considered as the World Natural Heritage. Rich seafood and mountain products maintain freshness and are exceptionally healthy for your body. There are many excellent cuisines produced widely in different seasons that are served in the inns and restaurants. This section introduces some of the main ingredients and food that are popular on this island. Please try some of the delicious cuisine if you find your way to this magical place.

Kubiore-saba (chub) Mackerel

Season: From September to November
They are called Kubiore (broken-necked) because shortly after they are caught, their necks are snapped and blood is drained to maintain freshness. It is very good to eat them as sashimi. Saba-bushi (dried mackerel) is also a renowned special product of Yakushima since the old times. As it produces rich soup stock, it has been used for noodles such as soba and udon in restaurants.

Prepared methods:
  • Sashimi
  • Sabasuki (sukiyaki )
  • Grilled salted mackerel

Tobi-uo Flying Fish

Various types of flying fish are caught throughout the year in Yakushima. “Tobiuo-no-Sugata-age” is a Yakushima cuisine. We deep fry the entire flying fish, making it so crispy that you can eat the feathers, fins and even the bones. It is so delicious that it will make you think that you are eating a freshwater fish. Also “Tsukeage” is a flying fish that has been deep fried after it has been boiled and mashed into a paste. It does not carry a fishy smell, but instead, it’s rather slightly sweet.

Prepared methods:
  • Sugata-age (fried whole fish)
  • Tsukeage
  • Sashimi
  • Nitsuke (Boiled and Seasoned)

Kibinago

Season: From May to June
Kibinago is a small fish (about 6 cm) that has been caught in the sea near by Yakushima. It is also called the banded blue sprat. You can enjoy various dishes that has been prepared according to your palate. It is delicious to eat them as sashimi with vinigared miso, or you can season them with soy sauce and sugar after it has been boiled. You can also fry them or even use them to make rich delicious soup.

Prepared methods:
  • Sashimi
  • Grilled with salt
  • Tempura
  • Marinade

Mizu-ika

Season: From March to May
The Bigfin Reef Squid, which is said to be the king of the cuttlefish, is a luxury brand in Yakushima. It has a sweet flavor with a thick texture.

Prepared methods:
  • Sashimi
  • Grilled
  • Fried

Nagarame

Season: From May to August
Nagarame are univalves which is very similar to Abalone. They stick on rocks around the seashore and eat seaweeds to maintain their life. They are smaller than abalone but sweeter. Fresh Nanagarame can be eaten as Sashimi from May to August when the ban is lifted.

Prepared methods:
  • Baked with seasoned miso
  • Boiled with soy sauce
  • Tempura
  • Sashimi

Asahi-gani Crab

Season: From October to November
These marine dwellers are found close to the inshore of about 100m away from the beach. They are usually buried in sand where they attack small bottom dwelling fish. They are also known as the frog crab. They walk backwards and forwards instead of walking side ways like a normal crab. They are red even when uncooked. Although it is an exotic food that requires an eccentric palate, eating the body parts and the brown meat that provides a rich flavor can be delicious.  People often pour shochu (distilled clear liquor) into the shells when eating them.

Prepared methods:
  • Boiled with salt
  • Nabe (Pot dish)

Kamente

Kamente literary means “a hand of a turtle.” You will be surprised if this appears in your soup, but do not worry as they are not turtle flippers. They are a kind of crustacean, namely prawn, crab, and rock barnacle. They live attached to hard surface of rocks and they can be found abundantly at sea shores in Yakushima. In Spain, they are called percebes and valued highly. It has a flavor of prawn and shellfish when using it in a miso soup. Break away the shells for a delicious meal!

Prepared methods:
  • Boiled with salt
  • Miso soup

Handama

Handama, also called the Okinawan Spinach, have been a part of many islanders’ daily diet. They are considered to be healthy vegetables that are rich in nutrients and vitamins essential to our body.  They also include polyphenol and beta-carotene which are known to improve blood pressure and even lower the risk of cancer.  They are in season from spring to summer but can be eaten throughout the year.

Prepared methods:
  • Tempura
  • Boiled greens with dressing
  • Salad

Yakutoro

Yam dug from rich soil of Yakushima is yellowish white and has a strong viscosity. They do not get hard when heated. You can grate them and eat them raw. They are also used for various dishes such as okonomiyaki or tempura.

Prepared methods:
  • Sliced in salad
  • Grated and Served in a bowl with food

Tsuwabuki

Tsuwabuki grows wild all over the island. They bloom yellow flowers in the winter. We normally eat the stem part but the flower is also edible. It is very pretty and used in the salads or Chirashi-sushi. Fresh Tsuwabuki sprout in spring are used in various cooking after removing astringent taste by boiling.

Prepared methods:
  • Tempura
  • Stir-fred
  • Nimono (Boiled and Seasoned)

Kakaran-dango

Kakaran-dango is a traditional homemade sweets of Yakushima. The word Kakaran is a play on word of “not getting caught” with the word Kakara leaf. In other words, you can keep a doctor away by not getting caught with an illness when you eat Kakaran-dango. This delicious sweet is a steamed rice cake of mugwort that has been kneaded into rice cake powder and wrapped in Kakara’s leaf. The leafs have an antifungal efficacy and are found abundantly in Yakushima. The mugwort is a herb that is used widely in Japan.

Fruits

The subtropical climate allows Yakushima to have various delicious fruits. These include Ponkan oranges, Tankan mandarins (a cross between Ponkan and navel orange), Bananas, Guavas, Mangos, Passion fruits, dragon fruits, loquats and more. They are all rich and juicy!

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