Although located far from typical tourist destinations such as Tokyo and Osaka, Miyazaki in Japan’s Kyushu region is a prefecture that you’ll never forget visiting. A few of its many draws include its lush greenery, near-magical natural scenery, such as the Takachiho Gorge, and picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean. This abundance of nature is also one of the key reasons why Miyazaki prefecture has undeniably delicious food.
When I first visited Miyazaki, I didn’t have any expectations regarding what I would eat as I was more interested in the beaches and the Takachiho Gorge. However, the food there became among the best I’ve had during my decade-long time in Japan. I still get hungry just thinking about it! (I’m not going to lie, I had to fight the urge to book another flight to Miyazaki while writing this article.)
So if you’re planning a trip to this prefecture in southern Japan (and if you’re not, you absolutely should), here’s some of the mouthwatering local Miyazaki food waiting for you.
Chicken Namban (チキン南蛮, チキンなんばん)
Chicken Namban is a popular dish consisting of fried chicken thigh coated with a sweet and sour sauce and then topped with a tartar sauce. It’s commonly found in restaurants, izakaya, and bento shops throughout Japan but it is said to have originated in Nobeoka city in Miyazaki Prefecture.
Unsurprisingly, there’s nothing like having Chicken Namban in its hometown, especially if the restaurant uses locally-raised Miyazaki chicken. The outside of the chicken is crispy, the inside is juicy, and the sauce is rich and complements the chicken perfectly.
Miyazaki-gyu (宮崎牛, みやざきぎゅう)
Most people outside of Japan know about Kobe beef (神戸牛, こうべぎゅう) but personally, I feel that it doesn’t compare to the lesser-known Miyazaki beef, or Miyazaki-gyu (Miyazaki-gyū) in Japanese.
As the name implies, Miyazaki-gyu is beef from cows that are grown and raised in the mountains of Miyazaki prefecture. The peaceful and stress-free environment, as well as a set feeding schedule, allow for the meat to become wonderfully marbled with fat and taste like nothing else.
It’s so tender and flavorful, like butter melting in your mouth. In fact, the high quality of Miyazaki-gyu is one reason why it has won the Prime Minister’s Award for four consecutive years in what’s known as the Wagyu Olympics in Japan.
If you want to enjoy teppanyaki Miyazaki-gyu, one place I highly recommend visiting is Rindo (紫鈴) for an elegant and luscious full-course meal.
Ise-ebi (伊勢海老, いせえび)
Ise-ebi, or Japanese spiny lobster, is one of the most luxurious types of seafood in Japan as the meat is sweet and tender. You can get it throughout the country, although it’s more common at weddings, fancy ryokan, or as part of a celebratory meal after giving birth.
In Miyazaki, Ise-ebi is a popular dish that is caught along its coast in autumn and served in many ways, such as grilled, sashimi, and steamed. The shell is also used as a base for miso soup.
It is so beloved in Miyazaki that there’s even an event from September to November just for eating Ise-ebi, which is called Miyazaki Ise Ebi Itadaki Month (宮崎イセエビいただきマンス), although at the time of writing the event was last held in 2019 (likely due to the pandemic).
Miyazaki Kamaage Udon (宮崎釜揚げうどん)
It’s believed that udon culture in Miyazaki emerged after people from Shikoku moved there and brought their famous udon with them, which was more than welcomed by locals. Now people in Miyazaki love udon, to such an extent that instead of grabbing a bowl of ramen after a night out, they go for udon. This isn’t a difficult task, however, as there are over 100 udon restaurants in Miyazaki city alone.
Kamaage Udon is particularly popular as its thin and soft noodles make it very palatable. The noodles are served in hot water and then dipped into a sweet dashi sauce (tsuyu) with tempura bits and green onion before being eaten. After finishing the noodles, you’re welcome to add some of the udon water to the tsuyu using a spoon and then drink it, similar to drinking the dipping sauce for cold soba noodles, and adjust as you go, adding more udon water if needed. Some restaurants may have different ways to do this so if you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask!
Miyazaki Jidori (宮崎の地鶏, みやざきのじどり)
Miyazaki Jidori, also called Miyazaki Jitokko, is a type of chicken that is free-range and can only be raised by farmers in environments that are approved by the Miyazaki Jitokko Cooperative Association.
It is usually charcoal-grilled and its chewy texture allows the juicy taste of the chicken to spread throughout your mouth with each bite. This chicken is so delicious that it used to be gifted to feudal lords in Kyushu, hence the name jitokko as jito means “feudal lord” in Japanese.
There are many places to enjoy Miyazaki’s unique chicken, such as the aforementioned Chicken Namban restaurants as well as Torio (鳥男), Toritomi (とりとみ), and Torinoya (とり乃屋).
Miyazaki Karamen (辛麺, からめん)
As the name suggests, Karamen is a noodle (men) dish with a spicy (kara) soy sauce broth. It has tons of flavor thanks to the chili peppers, garlic, chives, and minced meat, and also contains fluffy scrambled eggs.
There tends to be some variation in ingredients and taste depending on the restaurant, so it’s worth having a few bowls of these noodles from different places.
Great places to enjoy Karamen include 麺屋つつみ 加納店 (Menyatsutsumi), which offers various kinds of Karamen such as miso, tomato, and seafood cream, and 唐辛子亭 (Togarashitei).
Hiyajiru (冷や汁, ひやじる)
Hiyajiru literally translates to “chilled soup”, and when considering the humid environment of Miyazaki, it’s no surprise that this would be popular in this prefecture.
The base of this soup consists of dashi, miso, ground sesame seeds, and grilled fish that are abundant along the coast, such as sardines and mackerel. Tofu, as well as sliced shiso (perilla leaves), myōga (Japanese ginger), and cucumbers are then added to the soup, sometimes ice as well. This soup is eaten on top of rice, so it’s satisfying but not too filling, making it an especially perfect meal for the summer.
Nikumaki Onigiri (肉巻きおにぎり, にくまきおにぎり)
Looking at it in the simplest way, Nikumaki Onigiri consists of a ball of rice wrapped (maki) in meat (niku). The slices of award-winning pork meat used for this dish are initially marinated in soy sauce, which gives it a savory and mouth-watering taste.
After the rice balls (onigiri) are wrapped in pork slices, they’re baked in the oven. When done, different toppings are added such as sesame seeds, green onion, cheese, or mayonnaise.
This dish was first created at a restaurant called (unsurprisingly) Nikumaki, which still remains today. Here you can grab a Nikumaki Onigiri to go or dine in.
Lettuce Maki (レタス巻き, レタスまき)
Lettuce Maki is a simple but refreshing and delicious dish that originated at a restaurant called Ippei Sushi in 1966 and soon became a local specialty.
Lettuce, shrimp, mayonnaise, and sushi rice are placed within a crisp and seasoned sheet of nori seaweed and then rolled. The resulting roll (maki) is then sliced into bite-sized pieces.
Sushi restaurants, izakaya, and noodle shops throughout the prefecture offer this dish but if you want to try the original, head to Ippei Sushi in Miyazaki city.
Miyazaki Mango (宮崎マンゴー, みやざきまんごー)
You may have heard about or seen very large and expensive mango in Japan. I’m talking about something the size of your hand with a perfectly red blush to it and nicely cushioned in a styrofoam net.
A single Miyazaki mango will probably set you back at least 1000 yen (the more luxurious mangoes cost more than 5000 yen a piece) and you may wonder, “Is it worth it?”. If that mango is from Miyazaki, then yes, it’s absolutely worth it.
These mangoes, originally from Okinawa, are lovingly grown in Miyazaki. In order to ensure the perfection of these mangoes, they are covered with a net once they reach a certain ripeness so that they aren’t damaged when they fall from the tree. This results in mangoes that are beautiful and also soft, juicy, and sweet with just a hint of sourness.
When we arrived at the airport in Miyazaki, the first thing we did was have some Miyazaki mango juice and it was heavenly. From then on, I made it my mission to have as much mango during our stay as possible — mango ice cream from a store near Takachiho Gorge, mango smoothies at the beach, and mangoes from the supermarket to enjoy later at the hotel.
If you want to try Miyazaki Mango in different ways in one place, check out Mango Star in Miyazaki city. They offer a wide range of mango desserts as well as savory dishes such as mango curries and pasta.
Hyuganatsu (日向夏, ひゅうがなつ)
This bright yellow fruit is native to Miyazaki prefecture and was discovered growing in Miyazaki city around 200 years ago.
Unlike other citrus fruits, the albedo (the white spongy part between the flesh and the leathery peel) is pleasant to eat as it has some sweetness to it, contrasting perfectly with the sour taste of the flesh inside when consumed together. Therefore, the best way to experience Hyuganatsu (hyūganatsu) is to peel it like an apple, not like an orange.
You can enjoy it freshly sliced, dried, as a marmalade, as a cookie, juiced, or jellied, which makes it an ideal souvenir.
I hope this article on where to eat in Miyazaki has been helpful, and even better, has inspired you to visit this wonderful prefecture in the south of Japan —if only for the food.
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Kay is a Canadian freelance translator and writer who has been in Japan for more than a decade. Having lived in the Chugoku, Kanto, and now the Kansai regions, she hopes to share their various local cuisine on JFG.
She also writes about her experiences being a mother in Japan on her website, Tiny Tot in Tokyo.