Cheering Up Kyushu
Since April 14 (Japan local time), a series of huge earthquakes of up to 7.3 magnitude have hit Kyushu Island. The ongoing quakes have tremendously damaged the area. Although in New York, we live very far away from the devastated area, here at Chopsticks NY we wish to cheer up the people of Kyushu by appreciating Kyushu products and by contributing to the recovery of the local economy. So what comes from Kyushu? Here is a guide to Kyushu specialties.
Located in the southern part of Japan and consisting of seven prefectures (Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Saga, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima), Kyushu island is blessed with a mild, warm climate, which makes it good for agriculture. Kyushu produces more green tea than any other place in Japan, and Kagoshima, Miyazaki, and Fukuoka are particularly known for the size and quality of their production. When you see green tea in a grocery store, look at the back of the package and see if it comes from one of the prefectures in Kyushu.
Wagyu beef from Miyazaki Prefecture is esteemed in the US because of its superbly marbled meat. Since it’s a premium beef, not all Japanese restaurants in New York City carry it, but you can always inquire. Also, some high-end non-Japanese restaurants might offer this beef. It’s certainly a luxury treat!
Kyushu has other agricultural specialties, such as strawberries, barley, and sweet potatoes, but alas they are not available here in the States. They are used in products like shochu, sake, beer, and sweets, however, and some of these are available here. Also, Kyushu is the mecca of shochu, in terms of both its history as well as the amounts produced and consumed.
Kyushu is surrounded by ocean, so its seafood harvest is abundant. There are several major fish markets in Kyushu, and fresh seafood is shipped to the US almost every day. It might be hard to detect which fish is from Kyushu, but if you sit at an omakase counter in an upscale sushi restaurant, the sushi chef should be able to tell you what is from Kyushu. Speaking of sushi, almost half of Japan’s nori seaweed is from Kyushu as well. By savoring these foods in New York, you may help the economy of Kyushu regain its power.
Finally, many of you who are reading this article might have had tonkotsu ramen (ramen with a cloudy, pork-based broth), which originated in Fukuoka Prefecture in Kyushu. Next time you try tonkotsu ramen, think about the victims in Kyushu and send positive thoughts to them for their recovery!
Crafts from Kyushu
Kyushu is one of the major porcelain and ceramics regions of Japan. Arita-yaki, Imari-yaki, and Karatsu-yaki in Saga Prefecture, Hasami-yaki in Nagasaki Prefecture, and Satsuma-yaki in Kagoshima Prefecture are some of the notable types of regional pottery. Arita and Imari, in particular, are internationally known for their premium porcelain. Both Arita and Imari porcelain items are available in the US. Arita Porcelain Lab, available online in the US, carries modern interpretations of traditional Arita craftsmanship created in a 200-year-old kiln.
Arita Porcelain Lab
During the Edo period (1603–1868), Kagoshima Prefecture, formerly called Satsuma, was governed by the powerful Shimazu clan, which was enthusiastic about introducing new ideas and techniques to help the local economy thrive. Toward the end of this period, a way to make colored crystal carved with geometric patterns was invented. This was the beginning of Satsuma kiriko, which might not be easy to find in the US but can be ordered from Japan.
There are silk kimono and obi fabrics that are unique to parts of Kyushu. Using geometric patterns created in Hakata in Fukuoka Prefecture, Hakata-ori has been used for both male and female obi sashes. Due to its superb quality, a Hakata-ori silk obi was once a necessary item for every samurai during the Edo period. Oshima tsumugi, a specialty of the small island of Oshima, in Kagoshima Prefecture, is a silk fabric used mainly for kimono and made by hand-weaving hand-spun silk threads. Saga-nishiki from Saga Prefecture is a gorgeous, luxurious fabric woven with silk thread and gold-leafed paper.