Translated by Greg
Kirin Shoten In Kirishima - Make Memories At A Shop In Kagoshima!
Kirin Shoten in Kagoshima prefecture's onsen area of Kirishima is a famous souvenir shop. Leisurely browse through goods, sip on green tea, and converse with other customers. Learn more about this popular local site and why you should visit, too!
Written by Kousuke DEKI
A Fascinating And Friendly Souvenir Shop
Kagoshima Prefecture's Kirishima is a renowned hot springs area that is just a 20-minute bus ride from Kagoshima Airport.
Located in the nearby mountains and accessible only by car is a popular souvenir and gift shop that continually attracts visitors.
In fact, people usually spend upwards of one hour here. What is it about this shop that charms and fascinates everyone so much?
Today we introduce Kirin Shoten, a souvenir shop that is one of the most popular spots in the Kirishima area.
Would You Like a Cup of Tea?
Head to the shop by car. You'll see Kirin Shoten just as you're turning the corner.
You will hear the lively chatter from the customers inside of this shop's relaxed atmosphere,
Once you enter the shop, you will see a selection of lovely handmade products. While browsing through the merchandise here, you will probably notice a tall man chatting with customers.
"Kabosu (a type of citrus fruit) are very delicious and we've just started picking them."
"If you use this garlic and stir-fry it with pork, it tastes great!"
"This wallet was handmade by a local artisan. It's a nice color, isn't it?"
The man talking, Akihiro Sugikawa, is the shop owner of Kirin Shoten.
He approached us and asked,
"Would you like some tea? I just finished brewing a pot."
Sugikawa-san (center of picture) explaining about green tea to customers
He invited us to sit down on the store's bench and drink green tea, and also started serving us snacks.
"Please try some tsukemon (Japanese pickles) if you'd like. They are homemade."
Before long, the benches were filled with guests.
"Where are you from?"
"Is this your first time to Kagoshima?"
Despite being the customers meeting for the first time, with a cup of tea in one hand, conversations started to flow naturally.
The instant you enter the shop will feel just like you've arrived at a relative's home.
Kirin Shoten is perhaps the most cozy and charming souvenir shop in Japan. Time passes by quickly without noticing it at this magical place.
Stay For as Long as You Want!
The entire shop contains a sense of friendliness and comfort. This is a cozy space with tatami flooring.
As you feel the wind softly blowing into the room, you can sit and enjoy a relaxing cup of tea.
A children's fishing pond is outside the store. This was built with the intent of giving children an opportunity to have various kinds of hands-on experiences.
Creating Local Kirishima Souvenirs
The managers of the shop are Akihiro Sugikawa and his wife, Mayumi-san.
They were both born in Kagoshima prefecture, with Mayumi-san originally from Kirishima. The couple previously worked in Fukuoka, but whenever Mayumi-san went back to her parents' home in Kagoshima, she felt dissatisfied about Kirishima not having any local souvenirs.
Although she wanted to take back some souvenirs to Fukuoka with her, Kirishima didn't really have any for her to do so. Kirishima is a famous hot springs area, but there were not many souvenirs.
"When people bought souvenirs in Kirishima, the only thing available was onsen manju (*1).
However, when I looked at the label of the onsen manju sold here, it listed that it was made in a different place and not in Kirishima. I felt extremely disappointed because this area has so many wonderful things to offer!"
*1 onsen manju: manju is a variety of wagashi (Japanese sweets) filled with anko (red bean paste). Onsen manju is technically classified as manju baked by the steam from the hot spring, but in the broader sense it usually just refers to manju sold at an onsen.
Mayumi-san also thought about the delicious local cuisine and food in her hometown.
One item is mentsuyu, which is made Kirishima with local shiitake mushrooms. Mentsuyu is a seasoning that can be used in a variety of foods to enhance the flavor. In particular, it is known as a delicious dipping sauce for soba noodles.
"This mentsuyu has been traditionally made by all the grandmothers living in the local area. When I was a child I used mentsuyu daily and didn't think twice about it. But when I visited my parents' home after being away and had some again, I experienced how fresh and delicious the taste really was."
Kirishima is surrounded by nature, and fresh, pure water runs through the local mountains. This helps with the cultivation of fresh and delicious vegetables and other food.
The people in Kirishima take for granted how tasty and fresh the locally grown food is. But it really is amazing! I'd like everyone to know how wonderful these food and products are. I also want people to know how warm and friendly the people who grow them are.
The Sugikawa's main line of work in design and illustration. Though these foods are grown not by themselves but by the local farmers, the couple believes that they can convey how special these Kirishima products really are to the public.
They opened the shop in Kirishima with this in mind.
Kirin, the word attached to the shop's name, originates from the Kirishima word yokamon (*2).
*2 yokamon: means good things in the Kagoshima Japanese dialect.
As the Sugikawas continue to build new relationships with local residents, they also occasionally even contribute to the development of the products themselves. Featuring innovative and eye-catching designs, these special products also appear on Kirin Shoten's shelves.
Now let's introduce some of these goods.
Made with Care - Special Kirishima Items
Sakurajima Chopstick Holders
Here are some adorable chopstick holders.
Picture courtesy of K.P.V.B
This is Sakurajima, a mountain representative of Kagoshima Prefecture.
Sakurajima is an active volcano located in central Kagoshima. It's almost always emitting volcanic smoke and is a familiar fixture to Kagoshima residents. On days when it's releasing off a lot of smoke, the locals will sometimes say, "Sakurajima is in good spirits today!"
We think these holders would make a good interior decoration even without using it to hold chopsticks. They cost 700 yen (before tax).
These wallets have a handmade feel to them and are called dochu zaifu. During the Edo period, people would often carry these wallets when they set off on a trip or an outing.
Made out of cloth and bound together with string, they are ideal to take on a walk.
Today people often carry them when going to festivals or other events. When paired with a yukata or kimono, they look really cool and stylish.
They can also be for everyday use as well. They retail from 1,600 yen and up (before tax).
Buy a Business Card Case and Enjoy a Local Game
Our writer especially recommends the business card holder. This item isn't simply a card holder. It also allows you to play nanko, a local game popular in Kagoshima.
Nanko is a game with simple rules. You simply have to try to guess how many wooden sticks are in your opponent's hand.
How many sticks there are?
The answer is: three! When playing nanko while drinking, the losing player has to drink a glass of shochu. Sweet potato shochu is part of Kagoshima's very own famous game.
This business card holder, including the nanko game, sells for 3,500 yen (before tax).
Freshly Baked Local Bread
Ham and cheese, caramel, anko (red bean paste), and matcha green tea anko... When you purchase bread filled with these different ingredients, Kirin Shoten will heat it up for you on the shop's stove.
Also when you step inside the shop, the wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread fills the air.
This bread is baked at a shop just a 5-minute walk away from Kirin Shoten. The breadmakers are very particular about preparing the bread by hand and also about the ingredients they use.
Delicious and made with local Kirishima ingredients, the bread sells for 160 yen and up (before tax).
Bold, Rich-Tasting Green Tea
The complimentary green tea served to customers is also available for purchase here. You can buy whatever catches your eye.
As Mayumi-san's parents run a green tea business, the tea items at Kirin Shoten are all produced at the factory and are also organic.
The tea leaves are picked in Kirishima, where the temperatures vary drastically between winter and summer. As a result, the tea has a distinct fragrance, and a bold sweetness and umami flavor.
We recommend the ippuku matcha which retails for 200 yen (before tax). Simply pour the contents into a glass with water and ice, and you can easily enjoy a cool, refreshing matcha drink.
Our writer was told that when one party drinks tea at the shop, other visitors quickly join in, wanting to enjoy the same delicious experience.
Create Lasting Memories with Chaippe
Kagoshima is home to a local custom called chaippe. Chaippe means one cup of green tea.
When someone visits your home, it's customary to serve them tea and some snacks. This is done in order to make visitors feel relaxed and comfortable and is a common practice in the Kagoshima area.
Mayumi-san's mother apparently serves tea and sometimes even a meal when people visit, all while managing the tea factory.
"When I was a young, I remember feeling embarrassed when I saw my mother serving a meal to a visitor. But now I think it was such a neat thing to do!
Unfortunately, we can't go as far as serving complimentary meals here, but we do strive to offer some warm hospitality to our visitors, just like my mother did," says Mayumi-san.
During the interview at this Kirin Shoten, the shop was lively and filled with customers, and with the sounds of conversation and laughter.
While watching over the atmosphere of his shop, Akihiro-san told us:
Akihiro-san climbs up into the treehouse he built himself
"While there's nothing wrong with a quiet shop with an elegant atmosphere, we prefer noisy and bustling places. In that kind of noisy, friendly environment we want to help everyone have a meaningful experience."
Akihiro-san says that experiencing something firsthand make deep impressions and lasting memories.
"Rather than being soothed and relaxed, I think it's better to have a lively atmosphere. This way, your mood will feel lifted, and memories are born. I think I'd like to create that kind of shop."
All the items on the shelves of Kirin Shoten are unique and contain thought and care.
While browsing through the merchandise and sipping on tea, customers can naturally interact and chat with each other. This friendly environment in Kirin Shoten is truly enjoyable and continues to attract new customers and visitors.
After a special experience here, customers return home with souvenirs as well as unforgettable memories.
Kirin Shoten isn't a just a shop where customers can buy keepsakes, but also a place where memories are made.
When you have a chance to visit Kirishima remember to come here for a visit.
In cooperation with Kirin Shoten