Oita Prefecture in Kyushu is well-known for its onsen. But you should also visit the region to discover authentic culinary wonders and the chill lifestyle cultivated at its tranquil islands and fishing villages. Find vibrant hideaways where indigenous crabs are caught by hand in freshwater streams and inviting locals make the most of the land and the sea.
The Famous Flavors of Himeshima’s Tiger Prawns
At the serene island of Himeshima in northeast Oita Prefecture the local kuruma ebi – tiger prawn – are the pride of the island. Raised from eggs in aquaculture ponds built on former salt farms, the prawns are tended to with utmost care. Local prawn farmer Mr. Yukishige Shimasaki says he dives into the ponds at Himeshima Tiger Prawn Farming Corp. every day to feed the prawns, monitor the water temperature and make sure they are not under stress. “These are delicate creatures, just like humans,” says Mr. Shimasaki, with a laugh. “Diving every day, you get to know how the prawns feel.”
Natural Rainbow Shellfish that Brighten Any Occasion
Hiougigai – the noble scallop – is a scrumptious morsel that grows in vibrant shells and is raised in farms in the Saiki area of southern Oita. Mr. Takeshi Goto runs the Yakatajima Guest House on the Saiki island of Yakatajima (population: 14), where he also farms edible scallops at Goto Hiougigai. Mr. Goto says the nutrients from mountainous Rias coastline flows through rivers and into the seas, creating an active breeding ground where the noble scallops can thrive. Mr. Goto says boiling the scallops in a frying pan might seem like a simple preparation method, but it brings out the full richness and succulence of the local delicacy.
Farm Stays Connect Home Life with Nature
Mrs. Shoko Kawachi and her husband operate Farm Stay Kawachin-chi (The House of Kawachi) out of their home. Time passes slowly here, amidst the verdant and calm nature. You can hear the comforting murmur of the mountain stream located directly in front of the house, where guests can venture with Mr. Kawachi to catch freshwater crab by hand. For dinner, the Kawachi family boasts a variety of home dishes that use organic seasonal ingredients such as their home vegetables, horse mackerel caught in the Saiki sea and, of course, fresh crab.
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