A Taste of the Countryside in Kyushu, Japan

A Taste of the Countryside in Kyushu, Japan

I realized that in general, Hong Kongers are obsessed with Japan, and for good reasons.
1. Close proximity. Only 2 hours away by plane, that is negligible time comittment.
2. Toilets with wonderfully weird functions, e.g. auto-warming seats, jets of water to cleanse your butt, fake flushing sounds to *ahem* cover up when you do your big business.
3. Vending machines that are literally everywhere, even more numerous than the number of public trash cans (though, to be fair, Japan is famously known for having very limited amount of public bins in order to discourage people from littering)
4. FOOD.

Etc., etc.

So even though I am not as hyped up about Japan as many others around me, and not too crazy about Japanese food in general (to the dismay of many friends), I can totally see why frequent vacationers are so fond of this country.

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[Shimabara] View from the Shimabara Castle.
My family and I sashayed off to Kyushu this summer, one of Japan’s four main islands located in the south. The trip was not exactly what a typical one in Japan would look like. No ramen or sushi was involved, and I didn’t shop till I dropped.

Instead, we commuted between many cities in Kyushu, hopping from place to place by all means of transportations (bus, train, cab, tram, more buses…), visited many temples, walked along shores and beaches and gazed at rocks and waterfalls. Evenings were spent either sitting in hot springs, or playing poker card games on tatamis, throwing friendly insults at each other.

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It was definitely a countryside episode of my summer. Traveling from city to city, we fell asleep on long bus rides, grudgingly lugged our suitcases along bumpy roads towards hotels, ate fresh clementines on trams while watching hill after hill whooshing behind us. Couldn’t even find a single geotag on my Snapchat until we reached the city center of Fukuoka… #firstworldproblems

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[Nobeoka] This is near 高千穗峽 Takachiho-kyo (Gorge) and Manai waterall.
As usual this is a post with a plethora of pictures, so bear with me. I believe someone once said a picture is worth a thousand words… Stay till the end to see what I had at a Michelin-starred restaurant for lunch!

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A Japanese breakfast – the endless options in the breakfast buffet range from traditional Japanese fare, like miso soup, mini fried fish, congee with garnishes, tofu, to your typical breakie items like scrambled eggs and sausages.
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Don’t know what buns these are but can we take a moment to just take in those glossy, perfectly domed surfaces????
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[Miyazaki] 鬼之洗衣板 Oni no Sentakuiwa – literally translates to “the devils’ washboards,”   these naturally formed, perfectly lined ridges along the shorelines are named so because they are as flat and uniform as laundry washboards 😮

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[Miyazaki] 鵜戶神宮 Udo-jingu – a Shinto shrine located on the Nichinan shore, young couples often visit here in hopes for a happy marriage and an easy childbirth.
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[Nagasaki] Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum
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Nana’s Green Tea – a bowl of chewy udon with onsen tamago egg! Sometimes simplicity is perfection – something the Japanese seems to have mastered pretty well.
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Nana’s Green Tea – what is a Japan trip without some MATCHA DESSERTS??? Easily one of the best matcha parfaits I’ve ever had. ❤

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[Nagasaki] Two sad girls who went to visit a store after its closing hours.
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[Nagasaki] A restaurant that used to be a barber’s shop.

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Yogurt with honey – unexpectedly refreshing and delicious!
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Vegetarian curry rice. Rice is a staple food item in Japan – perhaps even more so than some other Asian countries. I think I had rice for almost every single meal…

You know what I noticed about Japan’s food culture? Japanese cuisine is pretty much self-sufficient, and with good reasons. Just think of all the different varieties of local Japanese dishes – donburis, omurice, sushi, ramen, sashimi, soba noodles – even if they stick to their own food for most of their lives they’d hardly get bored. Even the vending machines have pretty much every drink you need. (Warm corn soup in the winters, anyone?)

It’s pretty unusual to find other authentic cuisines in Japan (perhaps apart from in Tokyo), and even if they did take in food from other cuisines, they’ve completely adapted it into their own. Their curry is mild and sweet instead of spicy and bold, and their coffee is far less strong and bitter than what you would get in Western countries. Everything is the Japanese’ own interpretation – something that either pushes away or attract people to this unique food culture.

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Wagyu beef from Tokochiho. Beautiful marbles of fat ❤
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This seafood donburi was so fresh that I swear the slick, wiggly piece of tentacle was going to escape anytime 😮
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Uni (sea urchin) donburi – something I yet to like…
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I love Japanese supermarkets.
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Dolphin-watching in the Amakusa district of Shimabara! The dolphins were not scared of the boats and humans at all – we saw dozens of them swam near us.

AND THEN WE WENT TO A PRETTY FAB MICHELIN RESTAURANT!

On the last full day of our trip, we went to Yuzuan 柚子庵 in Fukuoka, a one-Michelin starred restaurant, for lunch. Dude, the 10-minute trek up the hill to this restaurant, under the blazing sun, was quite a journey. The restaurant is perched on the side of a hill in a secluded spot of a quiet neighborhood, so we literally had to climb up to this place. Panting and our shirts soaked with sweat, we arrived at this peaceful and zen-like restaurant and immediately felt the need to …. CHILL.

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There are two different lunch sets to choose from, both 8-course meals. Below are the selected courses that were particularly noteworthy/photogenic/tasty.

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Sashimi appetizer. (Sorry, I couldn’t really read the menu to translate the proper, beautiful dish name)
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Corn flour/glutinous rice cake of some sort. Chewy and delicate with a crispy, lightly-fried skin.
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Main course – Snapper fish in a sweet, slightly thick soy sauce.
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THIS WAS THE BEST PART OF THE MEAL. Don’t underestimate this humble-looking jelly. It’s embedded with a preserved plum, with a dollop of yogurt on the side. I’ve never had a tangier and sweeter fruit jelly that is bursting with such freshness. Perfectly cleansed my palette after such a rich meal.

The entire dining experience was more about the appeal to all senses than just the taste of the food. Sure, the food was greatly executed and meticulously detailed. But how often do you get to enjoy fine food and feel a true sense of peace deep inside? Sitting there, the four of us quietly munched on our food, the silence comfortably wrapped around us. We were far from whatever that is going on out there, savoring a completely different world.

It’s been a while since I spent much time just relaxing with my family, and all in all it’s a vacation well spent. I wonder where will our next stop be?

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The world-famous Nagasaki night view. Goodnight, world ❤

 

*Comment below if you’d like to know the full itinerary of my trip!* 

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