What should supporters eat at the 2019 Rugby World Cup? Kyushu features a range of classic dishes, as this guide to gourmet food and dining culture in the region explains
Kyushu Food Guide & Dining Culture: Gourmet Highlights
With the Rugby World Cup coming to Asia for the first time in 2019, Japan will be hoping to capture the imagination and inspire rugby fans next year by showcasing its diverse culture.
Japan’s western region of Kyushu will have a key role to play here, thanks to many of the top-ranked teams playing here – with the England team, led by former Japan coach Eddie Jones, also basing their training camp on the island.
Kyushu has a wide range of culture on offer that’s sure to keep rugby fans busy between fixtures, with Kyushu’s food in particular a much-celebrated regional highlight. With Japanese cuisine gaining in popularity around the world, a visit to Kyushu promises classic Japanese dishes that will keep rugby fans well fed throughout the tournament.
1. Hakata Ramen
Ramen – and even tsukemen – has enjoyed something of a boom outside Japan in recent years, with shops popping up across the globe, including London, Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United States. It’s not just smaller upstarts trying to export the dish, as many of the big names, including Fukuoka’s Ippudo, are also leading the noodle charge.
Fukuoka is considered something of a ramen capital, with more than 2,000 ramen shops located here! Many are clustered around the Hakata area, with ‘Hakata ramen’ a much-loved favourite, being the local name for tonkotsu (pork-bone broth) ramen. ‘Hakata’ is actually a historical name for Fukuoka which still enjoys widespread popularity amongst the locals.
Tonkotsu ramen is defined by its creamy white broth and thin noodles, with ICHIRAN – another homegrown brand – worth stopping by to see its unique approach to ramen dining. Counter seating is split into dedicated booths, with partitions completely separating you from your neighbours – even if you came in to dine together (so be warned!).
This concept puts the full focus on the bowl of ramen itself and allows you to appreciate ICHIRAN’s tonkotsu ramen to maximum effect. Even interactions with the staff are kept to a minimum; they take your food ticket and custom requests (such as noodle firmness) in relative silence and from behind a curtain, making sure nobody will judge you for ordering extra garlic or pork char siu toppings.
2. Yatai Street Stalls
You don’t have to go far to bump into another of Fukuoka’s famous food cultures. Food stalls, or yatai, are spread out all across the city, including in Tenjin and Nakasu, and they serve up all manner of cuisine to the locals.
Yatai are a much-loved staple amongst Hakata locals, and popular with tourists coming from around Japan too. These open-air stalls provide seating for about 7-8 people and provide all manner of dishes from yakitori (grilled chicken) to oden (hot pot dish), yakiniku (grilled beef), gyoza dumplings – and even ramen!
Alcohol is also served, and the cozy, close-knit atmosphere can make it a great way to interact with the locals too.
With more than 150 yatai in the city, you’ll come across the most in the Nakasu Island area, along the river between Tenjin and Hakata stations. Yatai stall owners can be pretty friendly, so expect them to help you order even if you don’t speak any Japanese.
3. Miyazaki Chicken & Oita Chicken
Kyushu’s southern region of Miyazaki enjoys an abundance of warm weather and fertile land, making it a strong agricultural producer in the region and nationwide. Chicken is a key staple here and Miyazaki is popular for a number of chicken dishes that can be enjoyed.
Chicken Nanban is arguably the signature dish of Miyazaki, which sees succulent free-range chicken marinated in a soy sauce-base sweet ‘Nanban’ sauce, then fried and served with a tartar sauce.
It is definitely something of a guilty pleasure but very much a local favourite – and has since spread in popularity across all of Japan. It’s worthwhile hunting down the dish in Miyazaki itself, with Ogura a popular local family restaurant.
Last but not least – although not technically from Miyazaki but a little further north in Oita prefecture – Toriten, or chicken tempura, also has something of a cult status for its Kyushu origin. A local restaurant in Beppu was allegedly the first to invent the tempura form of chicken, which has since gained popularity and can now also be savoured all over Japan.
4. Kumamoto’s Akaushi Wagyu Beef
Kumamoto’s Aso region is blessed with abundant nature, providing the perfect habitat for the region’s Akaushi cattle to graze on the fertile land. Akaushi (literally ‘red cattle’) belongs to the Japanese Brown category of Japanese wagyu beef breeds.
Japanese wagyu is well known for its trademark marbling and tender melt-in-the-mouth texture, with Akaushi providing the perfect balance of both.
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Yoka-Yoka over in Kumamoto City serves up Akaushi beef rice bowls, alongside steaks and hamburger steaks. The beef bowls come served with onsen tamago (poached-style ‘hot-spring eggs’) and wasabi on the side for an added kick, and make a great feast before venturing out to Mount Aso to the east of the city.