The culinary culture in Nagasaki Prefecture has always been one of a kind in Japan. Many local cuisines in the prefecture were developed in the Edo Period when Nagasaki was an international trading port. As such, the mixture of cultural influences were also reflected on the local dishes, and these tasty dishes were then passed down for generations to what it is famously known for today (champon, shippoku, castella and many more).
Nagasaki is also a seafood kingdom. Having the fresh catch of the day is very common in local restaurants across the prefecture, and while some fish are limited to its season, the majority of the common and popular fish species are available year-round.
Nagasaki is a Treasure-Chest of Seafood. The coastline of Nagasaki is long and intricate with remote islands, coves and bays. This coastline, along with the sea current, creates one of the best locations for fishing in Japan.
Nagasaki hauls in the second largest fish catch in Japan, but it is ranked No.1 for having the most variety of fish, with over 250 species! Some of the most common types of seafood that you can enjoy year-round include Japanese Horse Mackerel (Aji), Chub Mackerel (Saba), Red Sea Bream (Tai), Grunt (Isaki), Pufferfish (Fugu), Yellowtail Amberjack (Buri), Pike Conger Eels (Anago), and Marble Rockfish (Arakabu). Other seasonal specialities include Japanese Spiny Lobster (Ise-ebi), Flounder (Hirame), Flying Fish (Ago), Cutlassfish (Tachiuo) and many more!
Throughout the prefecture, you can easily enjoy fresh and delicious seafood in various ways including sashimi, sushi, seafood rice bowl, hotpot, and even steaming it over natural hot spring! There are also numerous gourmet events throughout the year for seafood lovers!
Nagasaki has the largest number of Kamaboko (fish cake) stores in Japan. Nagasaki Kamaboko is made from fresh local fish such as sardines, lizardfish, white croakers, and etc. There is a wide variety of Kamaboko available in Nagasaki Prefecture (in terms of shape and cooking method), and you can enjoy it as it is from the stores, or try it in oden, champon, deep-fried and many more.
"Ise-ebi", also known as Japanese Spiny Lobster, has firm white meat and a delicate natural sweet taste. Every September, the Nomozaki region in Nagasaki City holds a festival where one can enjoy Ise-ebi at a bargain price. This festival usually lasts for a month, and it attracts many visitors from within and outside of the prefecture!
Oysters farmed in Nagasaki Prefecture are plump and juicy. Especially during the autumn and winter season, you can enjoy delicious barbequed oysters at little huts along the coast, or choose to have it steamed over natural hot spring in the Obama region. You can also enjoy barbeque oysters during the Oyster Festival at Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort in November and February.
Hirado Hirame Festival
Hirado City is known as one of the top producers of flounder fish in Japan. The Hirado Hirame Festival is held every year from January through the end of March, which is known to be the best season for tasting flounder. During this time you can enjoy premium quality flounder at a reduced price at selected restaurants and hotels throughout the city. Try flounder prepared in different ways such as sashimi, shabu-shabu, ochazuke, donburi, and many more!
Saikai Donburi Fair
Every year, the Saikai-Don Fair is held in autumn at Saikai City, and you can enjoy each restaurant's unique rice bowls made with local ingredients such as fresh seafood, beef, pork and vegetables.
Every five years, the National Japanese Beef Quality Competition (also referred to as the "Wagyu Olympics") is held in Japan. In 2012, the "Nagasaki Wagyu" beef won the Prime Minister's Award, earning recognition as the best Wagyu in Japan.
Today, Nagasaki Prefecture continues to be one of the leading producers of premium Wagyu. In particular, Iki Island and the Goto Islands are renowned for breeding high quality cattle, and those cattle are then shipped to other prefectures to be raised and sold under their own branded name.
There are many restaurants throughout the prefecture that offers exceptional Nagasaki Wagyu at an affordable price. There are also various ways that restaurants incorporate wagyu into their menus such as steak, deep-fried beef cutlets (gyu-katsu), hamburger, suki-yaki and in barbeque.
The superb balance between the lean and marble meat in Nagasaki Wagyu provides a juicy and tender texture to the meat - a must-try for meat lovers!
At the mention of Nagasaki, many people in Japan immediately think of Champon. This dish is loved not only by tourists, but also the locals as well.
Champon is a noodle dish packed with vegetables, pork and seafood in a rich creamy broth made from pork and chicken bones. The dish was created in
the Meiji Period by a local Chinese restaurant that wanted to provide a low-cost yet highly nutritious meal for the local Chinese students. Since then, it has become one of the well-loved and famous gourmet in Nagasaki Prefecture.
Sara-udon, another local specialty dish, has vegetables and seafood mixed in a thick creamy sauce that is covered on top of either thin crispy noodles, or on regular champon noodles.
'"Shippoku" is a mixture of traditional Japanese, Chinese and Western cuisine that is unique only to Nagasaki Prefecture. The recipes used for this fusion feast were developed during the Edo Period as a result of international & cultural exchange between Nagasaki and other countries. Using a wealth of ingredients from Nagasaki, Shippoku offers an opportunity to taste the exquisite flavors of a cuisine that brings together elements of Chinese, Japanese and Western dishes.
Nowadays, Shippoku can be enjoyed at establishments such as Ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurants) and at some high-end hotel restaurants.
Guzoni is a Shimabara specialty dish made with mochi rice cakes and approximately ten kinds of fresh local ingredients cooked together in a
light yet flavorful broth. This dish was said to be created during the Shimabara Rebellion in 1637, and because of its nutritious value, it was able to support and feed the warriors for three months.
Today, this dish is loved by the locals, and recipes may vary from household to household. For visitors, you can try guzoni at many restaurants in the Shimabara region!
The vibrant colors of Omura Sushi is appropriate for a dish that was originally served to feudal lords returning from a victorious battle.
It is made with layers of sweet vinegared rice alternating with slices of fish, finely chopped vegetables, and seasoned omelet. Over time, Omura Sushi has become a dish for special occasions and for welcoming guests; of course now it can also be enjoyed at many restaurants.
Goto Udon is one of the top three famous udon noodles in Japan. This speciality noodle is unique to the islands of Goto (literally meaning five islands), and it is only produced on the Goto. The noodles are infused with locally produced camellia oil, and then hand-stretched to its thin and smooth appearance before letting it dry naturally on the racks.
Goto Udon is much thinner than the other types of commonly known udon noodles, yet it retains its springy texture even when its overcooked so it does not get soggy.
Shimabara Somen is a hand-stretched, very thin noodle made with high-quality wheat and spring water from Minami-Shimabara. Although the noodle is quite thin, it has a strong body and a smooth texture. There are approximately 300 local somen manufacturers that produce and contribute to about 30% of all somen production in Japan.
Introduced by American sailors in the 1950s, this American-Japanese fusion burger is famous across Japan. The people of Sasebo
adapted the recipe to create their own style of burger, and nowadays there are many registered Sasebo Burger restaurants in the region that offers their own unique taste.
"Toruko Rice", also known as Turkish Rice, is a Western-inspired dish created in Nagasaki City. This dish consists of pilaf rice, spaghetti, and pork cutlets that are generously covered in sauce such as demi-glace sauce, curry and etc. Each restaurant uses a slightly different mix of ingredients, toppings and sauce, creating many variations of this dish.
While known as Turkish Rice, this dish was actually not inspired by Turkish cuisine.
Kakuniman is Nagasaki's unique way of eating "Dongpo Pork" (Chinese-style braised pork belly) wrapped with Chinese buns called "Bao". The soft and tender pork is extremely flavorful, and when you combine it with the fluffy buns, it makes it a tasty snack while on the go!
Shochu & Sake
Iki Island is said to be the birthplace of barley shochu. Using methods originally brought over from China, the distillers on Iki Island developed their own distinctive barley liquor.
In 1995, Iki Shochu was awarded with a "Geographical Indication" designation by the World Trade Organization, earning its place among the world's top liquors. There are currently 7 breweries on the island offering factory tours and shochu-tasting.
Nagasaki Junmai Ginjo Sake is a premium brand of sake made from Koji rice that uses a special type of yeast during the fermentation process.
During Japan’s national isolation period (1639-1853), Dejima in Nagasaki City was the only port open to foreign trade. One of the commodities that was brought into Dejima was sugar, which at the time was an extremely rare and precious commodity in Japan. The sugar was then passed through Nagasaki Kaido (road) to Kokura in Fukuoka Prefecture, and distributed from there to all over Japan. As such, the sugar culture flourished at each post town along the way in northern Kyushu; i.e. Nagasaki, Saga and Fukuoka Prefecture.
Nagasaki Kaido (now nicknamed as “Sugar Road”), was designated as "Japan Heritage" in 2020 as the history and food culture associated with this road was recognized as an important cultural asset of Japan.
Castella is a sweet and moist sponge cake that was first introduced by the Portugese missionaries in the mid 1600s. The recipe was customized by the people in Nagasaki, and it is now a famous sweet known throughout Japan.
Kanzarashi is a specialty dish in the Shimabara region. This dish consists of cooked small mochi-balls made from rice flour, and it is eaten with a light syrup.