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Study Field Trip to Makurazaki City !!!

Study Field Trip to a Shochu (Distilled Spirit) CellarMeiji Kura

[Meiji Kura] is a Shochu cellar of the Satsuma Brewery.

 

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Speaking of the Satsuma Brewery, long before the popularization of Shochu, Satsuma Brewery has already been producing and exporting the "Satsuma Shiranami", a famous Shochu distilled from sweet potatoes, nationwide. The origin of the name "Meiji Kura" stems from the Meiji era (1868~1912), the time where Shochu distillation was established. Why was the cellar simply named after the period where the distillation method was established? The answer can be found from within the cellar.

 

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The interior of the cellar is dimly lit and made of wood. Large pillars can be found everywhere within the cellar. The floor boards are made of dark coloured wood, and the whole building resembles Meiji period architecture. The staff of Meiji Kura explains the distillation process using easy-to-understand terminology. Besides, the display furniture in the cellar is also built according to Meiji period design.

 

 

Paper clay figurines depict the whole process of the Shochu distillation.

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 Each and every one of these figurines is simple but bears rich facial expressions, bringing a smile to anyone who looks at them. Apparently, these figurines are modelled after the Toji (spirit distillers / wine brewers).

 

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Next, we see pictures hung on the wall. These pictures do not depict the distillation process. Just like the paper clay figurines, people featured in these pictures have rich and warm facial expression. Through these pictures, we can see how these people give their best to distill the tastiest Shochu. Some of the photos show people with jovial smiles. With the Shochu being distilled by such cheerful people, we can expect the Shochu to be tasty.


 

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From selection to the cleaning and steaming of the sweet potatoes, and even the corridors passing through the various distillation processes is filled with retro reminiscence of the Meiji period. With the alcohol barrels stacked up high along the corridors and the metallic advertisements hanging from the ceiling, one can't help but imagine how our grandparents would probably have once walked along such corridors.

 

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The biggest surprise is the steamer and cooler made from wooden buckets. The staff explained, to our disbelief, that these items are still being used for production today.

 

Of course, the ones on display are merely replicas, but even until today, the distillation methods developed since the Meiji period are being followed earnestly, using larger versions of the display replica equipment.

 




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After learning much about the distillation, we proceed towards the souvenir gift shop. The speciality of this shop is that not only it allows the testing of the various Shochu, but the interior, with its wooden pillars and white walls, fits perfectly with the "wa (Japanese)" ambience of our study trip. The best thing here is the "Kurochoga", a black-coloured ceramic pottery for Shochu which is only available here in Meiji Kura. (*The "Kurochoga" belongs to the "Kuro Satsuma" family, and the "Kuro Satsuma" is one of the two branches of the "Satsuma-Yaki", which is essentially traditional ceramic pottery of Kagoshima) The "Kuro Satsuma" is "Satsuma-Yaki" ceramic pottery used in the past by the commoners of Kagoshima, and Shochu-drinking at suppertime can never be without the "Kurochoga". Although these days Shochu is diluted in a pot with hot water and drank using glass cups, do give the "Kurochoga" a try!




There is also a restaurant within the Meiji Kura. Called the "Hanawatarigawa Beer Hall", one can get to taste happoshu (low-malt beer), brewed using sweet potatoes. French cuisine is served in the restaurant, prepared by an overseas-trained chef. You can try great French cuisine at a reasonable price. The first floor of the restaurant is a sun-filled open garden, where garden weddings and other types of parties can be held.

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Another feature of this restaurant is its second floor, where one can see the whole of Meiji Kura. The scene from the second floor takes us back in time to the Meiji era, with white walls, grey tiled roofs, and cobblestone streets.

 

The "Meiji" term of the name "Meiji Kura" not only simply refers to the time period, but it also carries respect and pride for the people of the Satsuma Brewery, the well-kept distillation methods, the importance of the Meiji era, and also aims to emphasize to all visitors the significance of this important time period (in Japanese history). Touring the Meiji Kura is free-of-charge, so let's appreciate the wonders of the Meiji period while learning more about Shochu.



 

 

Makurazaki Fish Centre


Speaking of Makurazaki, we would refer to it as the street of Katsuo (Bonito). The local production of Bonito flakes ranks top in Japan. In the Fish Centre, besides Katsuo, many other processed fish products are on sale.

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The interior of the building is a cross-shape, lined with shops selling local products. Some shops are decorated with huge flags bearing pictures of fish, a bustling place indeed. Filled in abundance with seafood products from furikake (a dried seasoning sprinkled over rice) to frozen fish, this place attracts not only visitors but locals as well. With the products being sold cheaper than market price, we can easily dub this place as "the seafood kitchen of the Makurazaki residents". With children living nearby coming to play in the shop vicinity, we can feel the close relationship of the local residents.

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Although there is a large variety of fish on sales, the top seller is non-other than the Katsuo. One shop selling "Hana Katsuo (bonito flakes)" has staff shaving generous portions of Katsuo. The place is filled with the fragrance of bonito flakes, stopping shoppers in their steps. One can't help but start to imagine making "Chabushi" (a simple soup made by adding hot water to bonito flakes and fermented bean paste). With that thought, the throat thirsts for soup and the appetite grows.

 

Getting hungry, we proceed to the canteen on the second floor, which has a huge selection of seafood cuisine. One can choose to have a simple dish of Nizakana (stewed fish) or savour fresh slices of raw Katsuo (Bonito) and Kanpachi (Amberjack) sashimi. If one prefers Western style meals, there is fried fish and tempura (which essentially also means deep frying) as well. Despite the huge selection of seafood cuisine, the items are reasonably priced, just like the products on sales in the small shops on the first floor.

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After satisfying our hunger with the large variety of seafood cuisine, why not check out the terrace outside? You can see fishing boats and the vast blue sea of Makurazaki leading to the external sea (outside of the Japanese main islands). The openness of the place makes one wants to stretch his body and take a deep breath. There are also benches on the terrace, so for those who cannot move after a heavy meal, feel free to sit and rest, and perhaps drift off into a short nap. Makurazaki Fish Port is a place not only for shopping but also delicious food and enjoying peaceful environment. Do enjoy the scenery of the Makurazaki Fish Port too!

Satsuma's Local Cuisine

Satsuma's Local Cuisine

Kagoshima, blessed with rich nature, is said to be the treasure trove for safe and safe and healthy food ingredients.  Speaking of Kagoshima's local cuisine, one would definitely recommend dishes such as the Kibinago sashimi (raw fish), Tonkotsu (pork cartilage), Keihan (chicken rice) [pronounced as kay-han], and Satsuma-age (fried fish cake) [pronounced as sa-tsu-mah-ah-gay].  Born from the rich culture and history of Kagoshima, let us now take a look at the "Slow Food of Satsuma" (slow food means healthy food prepared using the normal food preparation methods, as opposed to unhealthy fast-food).


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Kagoshima is a livestock producing region, and is famous for its [Kagoshima Black Berkshire Pork].  Soft and tender but highly flavourful, the Kagoshima Black Berkshire Pork is highly regarded throughout Japan.  


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 Kagoshima is also known as the land of Shochu (Japanese distilled alcoholic beverage).  Shochu is most commonly distilled from barley, sweet potatoes, or rice, but sweet potato is most commonly used in Kagoshima. There are countless brands and varieties to be found here, including those of light flavour which barely have the taste of sweet potato, to those of thick and heavy flavour.  Please enjoy the traditional taste of Kagoshima.  

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 First, let us take a look at the Kibinago shashimi (raw fish), which is usually consumed with the Su-Miso sauce. The Su-Miso sauce is made by adding vinegar (su) to fermented bean paste (miso).  The strong sour taste of the vinegar increases the cooling, refreshing feel reduces the fishy odour of the raw fish, and preps our appetite for the next dish.  

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 Next, we hage the Kagoshima Black Berkshire Pork cartilage, which is essentially stewed pork.  Somehow similar to the famous Dongpo's Pork of Hangzhou, China, the Kagoshima version use pork with cartilage and stew the meat slowly over three days with sweet Miso, sugar and rice wine instead of the usual sweet-salty soy sauce.  Throughout the three days, the flame from the stove is not constantly on, but crefully controlled in accordance to the condition of the meat.  By doing so brings out the full flavour of the meat and softens the cartilage further.  After much time and effort spent on stewing the pork cartilage, the meat becomes soft and is easily separated from the cartilage with chopsticks, and even the cartilage itself is softened to the extent where it can be easily broken up with chopsticks too. With strong flavour well-infused into the meat, one can enjoy the sweet taste of this Kagoshima traditional cuisine.  

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 Taking a short break from the heavy dishes, let us enjoy the "Ogojo Manjyu (Japanese bun)". Kagoshima is previously known as Satsuma, and speaking of Satsuma, one will link it to the Satsuma Imo (sweet potato), which is often synonymic to Kagoshima.  Made from Satsuma Imo, this bun is named after women, which are referred to as "Ogojo" in the local dialect.  Lightly fried Satsuma sweet potato filled with soft red bean paste and topped with sugar icing resembling hailstones, one would probably mistake this for a dessert cake.  However, once popped into the mouth, one would feel the light sweetness of the Satsuma sweet potato mixed with a sightly salty taste of the red bean paste.  This is definitely not the sweetness that is typical of desserts...a marvellous dish.  

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 Another dish that is named after Satsuma would be the Satsuma-age.  Surimi (shaved fish meat) and flour is mixed to make a compact oval-shaped pasted that is fried until it becomes crispy and turns light brown.  The Satsuma-age usually has young bamboo shoot or carrot fillings.  The bamboo shoots and the shaved fish are white while the carrot gives the orange tone, and the exterior of the Satsuma-age is light brown.  When one bites into the freshly fried Satsuma-age, one can taste the sweetness of the shaved fish blended perfectly with oil.  Nevertheless, fish cakes are small and are not too oily.    

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 Finally, we move on to the Roppaku Kurobuta Shabu-Shabu (Six Whites Black Berkshire Pork Hot Pot).  In order not to destroy the original flavour of the pork, it is best consumed by dipping in Ponzu (citrus-based sauce).  The name Roppaku (meaning Six Whites) comes from the colour of the Berkshire pig, which is fyully black with distinctive whites located on the wrists and the ankles the nose and the tail.  The meat, when dipped in hot water, does not produce much scum.  It does not have any meat odour, and the fatty areas are flavourful and sweet, which goes perfectly with the Ponzu citrus sauce.  The more we eat, the better our appetite becomes ~ that is the wonder of the Roppaku Kurobuta!

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 Last but not least, we have the Keihan (chicken rice).  Although we would usually associate the Keihan with the Amami Oshima Island (as the latter is the place of origin), the broth of the Keihan that we will introduce today is actually made from the Ingi chicken of Minamitane Town of Tanegashima Island, So we are actually introducing the Tanegashima Keihan.  The way it is being eaten is similar to that of the Amami Keihan, where chicken broth is added to rice topped with

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 chicken, omelette strips, muchrooms, ginger strips, shredded seaweeds and sesame seeds. The uniqueness of the Tanegashima Keihan lies in the Paitan (white coloured) soup, where the umami of the Ingi chicken mixes perfectly with the salt flavour of the soup, bringing out not only the salty taste but also a little sweetness. Of course, the traditional way to eat the Keihan is by topping the rice with all the ingredients (as mentioned above), but do also try the soup by itself!  Oh and of course, not forgetting the homemade pickles preserved using beer!




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6-29 Higashisengoku-cho, Kagoshima-shi 〒892-0842
TEL: 099-226-0525
FAX: 099-239-1139





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