Day 11: Free Day in Miyazaki
In my other life in orthopedic clinical research I became friendly with a Miyazaki-based orthopedic surgeon who was visiting our hospital as a traveling fellow. We’ve kept in touch over the past few years and when I let him know I was visiting Miyazaki, he insisted on a welcome dinner. Of course, it was on my last night in town. With a full day to kill, Mai-san back in Fukuoka, and Watanabe-san off to Tokyo, I was completely free to spend my day as I pleased.
Sleeping in for the first time in days, I found a Starbucks for some coffee (something I love, but don’t blog about). I’d heard Starbucks in Japan is nicer, and it is – I’m afraid the coffee may be better too. I wonder if this is a water thing. I wandered around the hotel neighborhood looking for a drug store for some supplies. On my wander I discovered a tiny chicken nanban restaurant, Ogura, that’s apparently quite famous. There was a line around the block. Nothing to do, I joined the queue and an hour I later was eating the best chicken nanban I’ve ever had prepared and served by sweet old Japanese who don’t speak a word of English.
(the queue took 35 minutes to get in the door, 5 more to get seated, 15 more to get served)
(the inside – vaguely reminiscent of a country diner in the US)
(chicken nanban – the side of rice was completely superfluous)
Dinner with the surgeon and his colleagues, who I’d met previously at an international conference, was at a traditional Miyazaki izakaya and included completely raw tori sashi (chicken sashimi) including liver (brownish) and kidney (bright red) as well as a number of other local delicacies. The shochu flowed quickly as my friend’s boss, from Kagoshima, proved as much a shochu lover as I am.
Once the manager realized I was a shochu otaku (obsessive), she began bringing samples of all of their finest and gave me a bottle to take with me when I left. I have no idea what it is, but I can’t wait to try it.
(sports surgeon friends. All live in Miyazaki, but none are from Miyazaki. All are from Kyushu)
(shochu education got serious)
We then moved to an affiliated shochu bar with more than 1,000 different shochus. Here the same thing happened with the hostess bringing me lots of different things to try. The surprise dissh ordered was whale meat sashimi, which I didn’t expect to find in Kyushu outside of Nagasaki.
Earlier in the day while doing laundry, I’d met a professional baseball umpire who was in Miyazaki for their fall league. He was eager to speak English since he’ll be visiting Florida in January for umpire school. He joined us at the izakaya with 1,000 shochus and quickly joined my sports surgeon friends in conversation. This is exactly the kind of thing that happens in Japan at local izakayas.
Surgeons work early so they departed while I hung out with the umpire and his friend until we were ready to call it a night – which meant going to the local ramen shop for some spicy ramen. This place takes it’s spice seriously with chili levels ranging from 1 to 100. The umpire’s previous best had been 5, but he encouraged me to try 8. I tasted 8 and quickly switched to 25, the level at which you get your name on the wall. I knew I wouldn’t be happy in the morning, but it was worth it to impress my host. I finished my bowl wit the help of Shiro Kirishima, a local shochu not available in the US, though the sister products, Kuro Kirishima and Aka Kirishima are everywhere stateside.
My long Kagoshima visit starts in the morning so I finally decide it’s time for sleep.