Gastronomic Destinations: Yakushima Island
(Sashimi plate at Iwasaki Hotel)
Day 1: March 8th
Tokyo Haneda Airport, 10:30 = Kagoshima Airport, 11:30 = 12:45 – Yakushima Airport, 13:30
This was our second trip to Yakushima Island in 4 years. There are two ways to reach this Japanese Worl Nature Geritage: either you fly all the way (with a changeover at Kagoshima Airport), or top in Kafoshima City (Kyushu Island) before boarding on a three-hour voyage.
Both ways may become dodgy in bad weather as planes might easily be cancelled due to poor visibility, while the same could happen to the boats due to rough seas during the typhoon season. After all, the yearly rainfall (10,000 mm, yes you read it well!) is four times the average for the rest of Japan!
Our first hotel bus being scheduled at 15:30, we took the opportunity to take lunch at Il mare, an Italian restaurant conveniently located within 10 minutes walk from the very small airport.
(Asahi Crab Linguine)
Il Mare relocated in 2006 to the present spot along a “busy” road running past the airport for the benefit of travellers.
The food is of a surprisingly good level for a tourist resort, with pasta and pizza all home-made!
The Missus opted for Asahi crab ( a local specialty) Linguine and seemed to be pretty satisfied with it.
I, for once, chose a Quatro Formaggio Pizza, which I must admit was a lot better than some served in vaunted restaurants in some big cities!
Actually, Il mare is a good proposition any time you want to treat yourself to a non-japanese meal as the restaurant is located in a small park with its own herb garden!
891-4207 Kagoshima Ken, Yakushim Cho, Oseda, 815-92
Tel & fax: 0997-43-5666
Opening hours: 11:30~15:00; 18:00~21:00
Closed on Thursdays
Service: Polite and smiling
Facilities: Very clean, inside a forested park, small terrace.
Prices: Slightly expensive
(View of the park and mountain at the back of Iwasaki Hotel)
891-4404 Kagoshima Ken, Kumamo Gun, Yakushima Cho, Onoaida
Free Limousin service from and to Yakushima Airport
-Service: Smiling, kind, attentive and knowledgeable
-Facilities: Above average for a resort hotel. Shop.
Breakfast: self-service. Both Japanese and Continental style. Good
Lunch-Dinner: set menus or a la carte. Good
Restaurant for breakfast and partly so for rest of the day.
-Strong points: One of the best hptel parks in Japan! Natural hotsprings (indoors and outdoors)
As this was our second trip we kept to proven values by stopping in the same hotels.
The Iwasaki Hotel is surrounded by a truly enormous forest/park stretching half way up the neighbouring mountains (over 900 m).
A complete tour of the park will take you almost two hours includind a waterfall, oranges orchard, a small enclosure for deer, and thousands of trees, plants and flowers. Don’t forget your camera!
We were just left enough time until dark to atke a good walk before we took a long dip in teir hotsprings baths (genders separated, sorry! LOL). The water directly comes from a subterranean volcanic waterbed. Its water is claimed to help alleviate nervous (physical) problems, painful joints and skin disorders.
Then, it was time for dinner:
Iwasaki Hotel proposes a seasonal menu and a la carte menu for dinner featuring local specialties such as “kuroge Buta/Black Hair Pork”
and seafod sashimi from fish caughtin the waters surrounding the island.
Among the dishes we shared (portions are large enough) were:
White Flesh Fish Escabeche, first deep-fried,then marinated. A dish that should please Europeans/Americans!
The Sashimi Plate included (from left to right, bottom to top) Mizu-Ika (local name for Aori-Ika/Cuttle fish variety), Maguro, Tobikko (Flying Fish), a specialty of the island and Tai/Snapper Seabream.
Tempura with plenty of large prawns!
Finally, the seafood gratin was more of a French imspiration with a Japanese touch provided by the flying Fish Roe topping.
The real eating and drinking were scheduled on the next day for the Missus’ birthday!
Day 2: March 9th
In Yakushima Island, it doesn’t rain, it pours! That is , you are either in for a continuous shower or beautiful clear skies!
Well today was “pour buckest days”!
(ecological bus stop!)
No worries, we had bought our “bus day tickets” (they can be bought at major hotels or tourism offices). People tend to forget this is a large island and bus fares can quickly amount to a lot at the end of a day. As an example tickets cost 2,000 yen for one day, 3,000 yen for two days and 4,000 yen for four days. A single tour (you will have to come back!) of the whole island costs almost 3,000 yen!
Ther are enough artists and craftsmen in this island to make it the them of a single tour.
There is one great potter we missed on our first visit of the island, and rain or not we were going to visit it and buy some beautiful small plates and sake cups, all different and lovely!
Yakushima Yaki Shinyakugama
891-4406 Kagoshima Ken, Kumage Gun, Yakushima Cho, Hirauchi, 630-4
Tel/Fax: 0997-67-2624, 0997-47-3088 (night time)
They also organize pottery classes.
Although their HP is in Japanese do check it for a better view of their craft and photoes of their life in Yakushima Island!!
We already knew of the place to go for lunch near Anbo Harbour (the major harbour with Miyanoura for voyages to and from Kagoshima).
Tsuruya is an excellent “minshuku/family inn” which serves exclusively local fare. Reserved for in-guests for breakfast and dinner it opens its doors to the public for lunch.
The Missus opted for the Tempura Set Lunch featuring an unusual fish tempura, “yokowa/ a tuna variety”. Obviously tempura, like sushi or sashimi might be the same word all over Japan, but you will be surprised how many different cuisines they stand for!
I was more interested in sashimi than cooked fish and asked for the sashimi set menu.
the sashimi featured “Akihara” (local fish), “Yokowa/local tuna variety”, “Tobiuo/Flying Fish” (local specialty) and “Tamure” (local fish): a truly gastronomic experience at ridiculous prices!
Lunches are generous, even by European/American standards.
If you add a glass of local shochu to help it down, you won’t feel hungry until late in the evening!
Incidentally, Tsuruya is a rare izakaya in the island which serves the three brew varieties by Mitake, the only truly local shochu brewery.
A special tasting report will come later!
Then it was back in the rain and the buses.
Bus rides are leisurely enough to enjoy the landscapes (and seascapes) along the road. Big families ought to rent a car though. A whole tour of the island stretches over more than 100 km!
Yakushima island 20,000-plus population (they are apparently “recruiting” citizens!), mainly farming and fishing communities, although Miyanoura is a full-fledged “city” with high-school and even a baseball ground!
Fortunately the rain started to let up when we reached the Yakushima Botanical Gardens.
Open all year round, it takes a good half hour to visit and discover all the plants, flowers and fruit cultivated there.
Can you recognize the fruit pictured above?
But don’t forget to climb its view platform from which you will dicover one of the landmarks of the island, the Tooroki Falls pourin directly into the sea!
As buses are not that many, we decided to walk back a good half of the way before boarding one, great physical exercise before taking another well-earned dip into the “rotenburo/open-air hotsprings bath” back at the hotel!
Today (actually the day after) was the Missus’ birthday. More elaborate celebrations being planned once back in Shizuoka, we nonetheless opened a Moulin a Vent, Domaine Bonnet Vieilles Vignes, 2006, excellent enough for any kind of food (I’m cheating as it is a wine brewed near my birthplace!) while we ordered for the food:
Assortment of grilled mushrooms.
Pan-fried “Mizu Ika/Aori Ika=local cuttlefish variety” Salad.
Provencal Scallops (sorry, that’s French!)
Herb-roasted Kagoshima Pork.
Veal Schnitzel with cheese coating.
We finished with (not featured, sorry!) guava sherbet for dessert.
We were tired enough to imediately back to our room and bed!
(Flying Fish Sashimi at Yakushima Toruism Center Restaurant)
Day 3: March 10th
Since we were not in so much of a hurry on that particular day,we thought some exercise would do us some good before the “long” bus ride, first Miyanoura and later to Nagata.
As I said in the previous posting, Iwasaki hotel is a located of its own enormous park stretching half way up the nearby mountain.
Half an hour walk through the forest will lead you to a seclude spot overlooking a grand fall running through the trees in total natural wilderness!
We had in mind to visit Yakushima Tourism Center halfway to Nagata for the simple reason: they have the best shop in the island where you will find not only a vast array of local food and products, but also plenty of island crafts.
Now, their restaurant upstairs deserves a visit if you want to taste real local food.
My wife ordered the Tobiuo/Flying Fish Sashimi set. The fish is so fresh it just melts inside the mouth.
I selected a full lunch set of a different kind.
It featured “kubi ore saba/fresh mackerel”. “Kubi ore” means “broken neck”. The fishermen actually break the fish just behind the head to ensure the fish will stay straight and fresh until it is served on your plate. Not easy to find in big cities as most mackerel are a little seared beforehand. In Yakushima it just comes off the boat! A totally different delicacy!
With a glass of Mitake “Aiko” Shochu, just perfect!
Yakushima Tourism Center
891-4205 Kagoshima Ken, Kumage Gun, Yakushima Cho, Miyanoura, 799 (just by the beach)
Business hours: 08:00~19:00
The beach along Nagata is renown for sea turtles laying their eggs there in June! Highly protected then you can be assured!
The sea gets deep very quickly there, but there are plenty of natural pools available for bathing!
No way you can miss your destination with such a bus stop!
Tsuwanoya Inn is not only great for its location near the sea and the mountains, but also for its service. A phone call will have the owner come an pick you up at the bus station!
Another reason is the impregnable view from the open-air bath/”rotenburo!
The inn is a family business helped with local smiling staff.
The food is within possibility completely local. Even the bread and jams are concocted in situ!
Their dinners (always different every evening) and breakfasts (Japanese or continental) are very generous.
Our first dinner included:
Sahimi: Kampachi and Tai.
Kagoshima Black Pork pot.
All kinds of Japanese hors d’oeuvres.
And rice, miso soup and pickles.
A couple of glasses of local Mitake Shochu (tasting notes in the next posting!) and it was time for a quiet evening as we had a long trek planned for the next day!
891-4201 Kagoshima Ken, Kumage Gun, Yakushima Cho, Nagata, 3358-7
Lunch and dinner can be reserved by non-guests.
Credit Cards OK
Day 4: March 11th
(Ancient Cedar Tree in Princess Mononoke Forest)
We had kept the “hard work” for last day, that is more than 3 hours of trekking up in the mountains to visit the most famous forest in Japan, “Mononoke Hime no Mori/Princess Mononoke Forest” which inspired a great manga/cartoon/animated film of the same name.
It is located in a place called Shiratani Usuikyo/白谷雲水峰, up very high in the mountains and a good hour by bus from the hotel (did you notice the sea turtle on the bus stop?)
(if you want larger pics, I’ll mail them to you!)
The owners at Tsuwanoya had given us sandwiches and nigiri/rice balls without being asked. Great service which proved fortuitous as a part of a refuge and fountain half way up, there is no shop in the vicinity, although the forest and mountain are beautifully serviced and equipped by the local government.
Take good shoes, an extra sweater and and be careful. This is a hard climb, and an even harder descent, but so much worth it! Expect wild deer (and monkeys) coming out of the blue (green) in the most unlikely spots!
If you happen to do it too, you will understand how famished and thirsty we were back at the inn!
Luckily, Tsuwanoya had an enormous Japanese dinner ready for us!
Including another plate of succulent sashimi: Mizu Ika/Aori Ika=cuttlefish and Kampachi/Albacore.
And a succulent (half) Asahi Crab!
I took care of the last day to sample the three shochu brewed by Mitake Brewery, the only truly “native” Brewery in th Island!
MItake/”the Three Peaks”
Aroma: Clean, discreet, elegant
Taste: Soft attack, clean. Shortish tail.
Dry. Dry roasted nuts, coffee beans.
Stands well to food with a sweetish undertone.
Comments: Pleasant refined shochu.
Like all shochu brewed by Mitake Brewery, best drunk with ice only.
Aroma: Very dry, clean, strong.
Taste: Soft attack. Clean taste. Nicely warming up back of the palate.
Dry. Shortish tail. Memories of coffee beans and nuts.
Comments: Great with sashimi.
Turns sweetish and deeper with food with memories of brown sugar.
Alcohol: 35%. Genshu/no pure water added. Unaltered.
Aroma: Fine and discreet.
Taste: Clean, deep taste. Fruity: brown sugar. Almost sweet.
Keeps well with food. Turns drier with food. Shortish tail.
Comments: A fine, elegant shochu, which can be enjoyed for its sake or with food. A very high-level shochu!
Well, that was it for our second trip to Yakushima. Of course the day after was busy with buying tons of souvenirs for the friends back home!