Day 18: Wandering Kagoshima
After the late night out with the distillers the night before I called for a late check-out at the hotel, feeling absolutely decadent in sleeping until after 10am after all the 5am and 6am mornings. It was well worth the $20 surcharge. I had nothing to do on this Sunday since Tekkan-san had planned a holiday for the entire distillery and he was spending the day with his family.
On my previous visit to Kagoshima in the summer of 2012, I had not done any sightseeing, instead just nonstop distillery tours during the day and izakaya visits at night. I managed to go three days in Kagoshima without even seeing Sakurajima, the volcano that looms over the city from across the bay. I’d already remedied that on previous days, but decided to stroll aimlessly around the city to see what it was like.
“Breakfast” consisted of a hamburg steak at Yatai Mura, the “village” of yatai that is a short walk from the train station. I was tempted to get a beer or shochu with my lunch but thought better of it. I hadn’t even had coffee yet.
After finding coffee back in Amu Plaza (the shopping mall attached to the train station), I discovered a small municipal park that boasts being the site of the home of Saigo Takamori, “the last samurai” who lead the samurai rebellion that brought Japan into the modern age. He also features on the bottle of Satsuma Godai, which reputedly was his favorite shochu (but other shochu distillers make similar claims – I think the man just loved his shochu). The park was overrun with what looked like a family festival. Big groups of relatives playing games like 3 legged races (except it was 3 people tied together running on 4 legs), a rope making competition, and who knows what else. They seemed to be having fun. I enjoyed the show from the shade of a nearby tree.
Finally, I worked up the energy to take the city tram on a short trek to Dolphin Port to see live Mahi Mahi swimming near the shore. Along their large outdoor tank there were floating rocks. These must have come from Sakurajjima, but it was fascinating to find a rock, feel how light it was, toss it into the water, and see it just bob on the surface instead of sink to the bottom. From the Dolphin Port shopping area there was a lovely view of Sakurajima and the bay. Surprisingly, I never thought to take a photo. All in all a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Tekkan-san and his family picked me up for dinner. We went to their favorite “western” restaurant where we ate Japanese versions of American food. He went for the hamburg steak, but since I’d had that for lunch I went for the katsu (fried pork cutlet).
It turns out the chef is a huge fan of Yamato Zakura shochu so when he realized the toji was in the house he came out to say hello. Tekkan-san was humbled by the attention, because he and his family love the food at this restaurant. The chef sent out some enormous oysters as a gift to the table. These were easily the biggest oyters I’ve ever seen. They were steamed and buttery and delicious.
Spending time with Tekkan-san and his family had really given me an appreciation for the Japanese family. His wife keeps an efficient home and dotes over their two lovely children. The children themselves behave much like I’d imagine children anywhere behave, and yet they will eat just about anything put in front of them. I don’t know if this is typical of all Japanese children, but none of the food fussiness I’ve seen with American kids exists in these two. Sure they have their favorites, but if something is put in front of them they’ll eat it. Nothing quite like seeing a 3 year old eat jelly fish without complaint.
Back to work tomorrow.