Japanese Language Blog

鹿児島 Kagoshima Posted by on Sep 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

島娘 (Shimamusume), one of 鹿児島's most popular brands of shochu.

島娘 (Shimamusume), one of 鹿児島's most popular brands of shochu, which is probably Kagoshima's most famous export.

日本 (にっぽん/Japan) consists of four main 島 (しま/islands), starting with 本州(ほんしゅう/Honshu), the large main 島. To the 北 (きた/north) you’ll find 北海道 (ほっかいどう/Hokkaido), 南 (みなみ/south) of it’s middle you’ll find 四国 (しこく/Shikoku), and to the 西 (にし/west) you’ll find 九州 (きゅうしゅう/Kyushu). The biggest and most famous city in 九州 is 福岡 (ふくおか/Fukuoka), but if you travel far 南, almost as far as you can go you’ll find my adopted hometown 鹿児島 (かごしま/Kagoshima) city in 鹿児島県 (かごしまけん/Kagoshima Prefecture).

As far as I know, the main exports of 鹿児島 are 焼酎 (しょうちゅう/Shochu), 緑茶 (りょくちゃ/green tea), 黒豚 (くろぶた/black pork) and 芋 (いも/potatoes), both 薩摩芋 (さつまいも/sweet potatoes) and じゃが芋 (じゃがいもregular potatoes). 薩摩芋 were such a common food for this area that the Japanese name for this 野菜 (やさい/vegetable) references the name of the old domain that this area used to be, 薩摩 (さつま/Satsuma). Less exported, but a popular souvenir among visitors is 薩摩揚げ (さつまあげ/Satsuma-age), which is a chewy fish-based food. The texture is similar to a firm 豆腐 (とうふ/tofu), and the taste is 甘い (あまい/sweet) without any hint of the 魚 (さかな/fish) inside.

The most famous person from 鹿児島 is likely 西郷隆盛 (さいごうたかもり/Saigo Takamori), who was a key player in many of the events around the time of the Meiji Restoration in the mid 19th century. The Ken Watanabe / Tom Cruise movie, “The Last Samurai”, is loosely based on a rebellion led by Saigo, with Ken Watanabe’s character (Katsumoto) loosely based on him.

桜島 (Sakurajima) letting us know who's in charge.

桜島 (Sakurajima) letting us know who's in charge.

Finally, perhaps 鹿児島’s most famous feature is 桜島 (さくらじま/Sakurajima), the volcano that looms over it from across the harbour. While it is not dangerous, it burps up smoke and 灰 (はい/ash) almost 毎日 (まいにち/daily), sometimes coating the city in a fine layer of grey 灰. It doesn’t cause health problems, but it can be extremely annoying if if it’s dry and the ash gets kicked up by the wind, or if you have to wash the 車 (くるま/car) before you can drive it because the windows are coated.

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  1. Tim Upham:

    Shochu is distilled from barley, sweet potatoes, and rice, and is 35% alcohol. It was first distilled in Kagoshima in the 15th century, and the concept of distilling it first developed and spread all the way from ancient Persia along the Silk Road to China, then eventually to Japan.