Translated by Shinji Takaramura
Kagoshima Prefecture in Southern Kyushu: Its Culture
Written by Natsumi Endo
This article covers the cultural aspects of Kagoshima Prefecture, such as food, hot springs, and the local dialect.
Kagoshima 鹿児島 is the southernmost prefecture in Kyushu. It has the atmosphere and culture of tropical countries, which is rare in Japan.
This article is about the cultural aspects of Kagoshima and its three attractions that tourists can experience, namely the traditional cuisine, the various hot springs located all around in the prefecture, and the local dialect, all of which have been nurtured over time.
The Unique Traditional Cuisine
Kagoshima is famous for its wide variety of ingredients and local cuisine. We will introduce its local product in three sections: Foodstuff, Local Cuisine, Liquor and Green Tea.
Kagoshima is located at the southern end of Kyushu. Due to its warm climate, many special products such as kurobuta 黒豚 (Berkshire pork), jidori 地鶏 (locally raised poultry), sweet potatoes サツマイモ, and mangos are cultivated.
【2. Local Cuisine】
The local cuisine using the characteristic ingredients of the area is one of the treats of Kagoshima.
Dishes such as satsuma-age さつま揚げ, tonkotsu 豚骨料理 (slowly stewed pork chops), keihan 鶏飯 (chicken rice), torisashi 鶏刺し (chicken on a skewer), satsumajiru 薩摩汁 (meat chowder), and karukan, are famous. Some of the dishes are made with pork and brown sugar, which is rare in traditional Japanese cooking.
Satsuma-age, which is also called tsuke-age, is a traditional dish, made by frying fish paste. The fish flavor is well-balanced and it is also used as ingredient in other dishes.
It is said that satsuma-age derived from "sata andagi (*1)," which came from the Ryūkyū (Okinawa) Islands.
Karukan is a Kagoshima-made cake prepared from yams, rice powder and sugar. Its texture is like a sponge cake, but it also has a firmness when you chew on it. Both the yams and sugar are special products of Kagoshima.
For those who have already tried the "ordinary" Japanese food, try the Kagoshima cuisine.
*1 "Sata andagi": Traditional sweets from Okinawa. They are made by frying sweetened flour into a doughnut-like shape.
【3. Liquor and Green Tea】
The most famous liquor in Kagoshima is the imo shōchū 芋焼酎, distilled from sweet potatoes.
There are many imo shōchū brands based in Kagoshima, with a large number of fans all over Japan. It has a distinctive aroma, so it may not be for every taste, but liquor-lovers should give it a try.
Kagoshima is also famous for Kagoshima Green Tea brands, such as the Chiran tea 知覧茶 and the Kirishima tea 霧島茶. The tea leaves produced in Kagoshima have a rich flavor. Besides, it is the first prefecture to present the newly picked tea every year, thanks to its warm climate.
【Onsen】Boasting a Large Number of Hot Springs
The Japanese onsen (hot springs) and sentō (public baths) have a large number of fans all over the world.
In Kagoshima there are many hot springs, especially in the Ibusuki 指宿, Makurazaki 枕崎 and the Kirishima 霧島 areas.
The number of hot spring sources in Kagoshima is 2,769. This is the second largest number in Japan after Oita Prefecture. This is due to the number of active volcanoes like the Sakurajima 桜島 which exist in the region.
The Kagoshima people have been utilizing the groundwater warmed by the geothermal energy of the volacanos.
The hot springs are also used in the sentō (public bath), and it is said that Kagoshima leads the other prefectures in regards to the number of sentōs in the region.
Along with the ordinary hot water bath, there are some unique bathing styles, such as the bedrock bath or the sand bath, which are also warmed by geothermal energy. Kagoshima can truly be called "the city of hot springs".
【Local Dialect】The Easygoing "Satsuma Dialect"
You cannot leave out the local dialect when talking about Kagoshima. In Japan, it is said that there are 16* different dialects, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. The unique dialect in Kagoshima is called the Satsuma dialect. Even the Japanese have a hard time understanding it, especially if you're not from Kagoshima.
But the laid-back speech of Kagoshima people, nurtured by the warm climate, is soothing to the ear, even for people who don't speak Japanese. If you visit Kagoshima, be sure to keep your ears open.
The following are some phrase in the Satsuma dialect. Try using them when you introduce yourself in Kagoshima.
・Me, I →Oi/ You →Omansaa
・Thank you →Arigato gozaimosu
*The number of dialects differs depending on their classification and definition.
Kagoshima: A Fertile Environment and a Diverse Culture
Kagoshima has a very diverse culture, thanks to its fertile environment.
Besides the products in this article, there are various attractions, such as the Satsuma kiriko 薩摩切子, a traditional glasswork, and the "giant tug-of war in Sendai" Sendai Otsunahiki 川内大綱引.
If you have the chance to visit, try to find your own version of Kagoshima.
Kagoshima Prefectural Government Office
Address: Kagoshima, Kagoshima City, Kamoikeshinmachi 10-1,
Local Airport: Kagoshima Airport
Access: One hour and thirty minutes flight from the Tokyo Haneda Airport
Telephone: +81-99-286-2111 (The main switchboard number of the prefectural ofiice.)
Official Website: Kagoshima Prefecture, Kagoshima Travel Guide