event report

vol.38

【Second】 ONSEN Gastronomy Walking in Kamiamakusa Onsen

Kumamoto Prefecture

Sunshine!  It almost feels like you’re being sucked away into the deep blue sky.  Just like last year, the weather is perfect again in Kamiamakusa, the “capital of the sea.”  We were greeted by both the peaceful ocean and “Amakusa Shiro-kun.”After last year’s glowing reviews, applications flooded in no sooner than the event officially opened this year!  The popularity is immense.There was even a participant from the United States!  Apparently this visitor found the event online and applied.
Let’s make this festive and wonderful walking event even more well-known both in and outside of Japan!Things kicked off at the Amakusa Shiro Memorial Hall, which explains Amakusa Shiro’s true identity and conveys the passion of the people.Its elevated perch also offers a nice view, raising spirits for today’s walk.  Before setting off we rang the “Bell of Love” with a wish.


The welcoming ceremony commenced as participants continued to trickle in.  Two serious looking nuns emerged from the front door of the Memorial Hall… but to our surprise, they snapped into a cute dance!  It was a fantastic performance from the girls of the “Hanawarabe” dance troupe.  The bewitching dance, which captured the tragic life of Amakusa Shiro, had the audience in rapt attention.

By now we were fully in the Amakusa mode!  With the yuru-chara (local mascot) “Amakusa Shiro-kun” seeing us off, it was time to embark on the eight kilometer walking !


The general mood matched the sunny skies and roadside flowers in colorful bloom!

We reached the first stop: Hanamizuki Park!  This area is for photos only, and the course cuts through the park and winds upwards.  But wait, what’s this crowd?!

Aha!!  Iwajima mikan (tangerines)!  These delicious sweet-and-sour mikan were served last year as well.  The hospitality was touching, and we had only just begun.

Citrus fruit grows prolifically in the warm climates of Iwajima, an island jutting out in the northern part of the Amakusa Islands.  Apparently there is even a “mikan tree owner” system. With the walk only just begun, it was a good time to charge up on vitamins from the delicious mikan. From here we entered what is perhaps the hardest part of the course?!  We trudged along with our sights set on the Hanamizuki observatory deck.


Students from the local Kamiamakusa high school guided and cheered us up at every turn on the course.


After laboring up the steep steps, we received “ONSEN Gastronomy Walking” tin badges from a Kamiamakusa tour guide mama!  How touching. The badges were promptly adorned on hats and bags, fostering a sense of unity among the participants.  I was very pleased with this nice memento.  Our efforts to climb up to the observation deck were rewarded with a view of the Amakusa seas!   Commemorative pictures were gleefully taken against this stunning vista by all. A tour guide papa shared information on the Amakusa Islands.


Gastronomy Point @ Spa Thalasso

After enjoying the spectacular views, it was time for the much-awaited dining!  The location was Spa Thalasso at the foot of the observation deck.

We discovered a one-kilometer marker from the start line.  What?!  We’ve only gone one kilometer?  This was a bit of a shock.

This impressive facility includes natural onsen, Thalassotherapy using natural seawater, and a restaurant where we were served.

On menu was the “madai (red seabream crispy carpaccio salad”).
Whoa?!  The delectability of this madai!  I am blown away by the flavor of Amakusa fish each and every time.  Complemented perfectly by the crispy fried potatoes sprinkled on top. I sat down by a window and indulged in the ocean view.  A generous serving of vegetables, too—what bliss.  A bubbly beverage would go very nicely with this… but there is no alcohol at this stop, so we’ll have to save that for a bit later.

After this exquisite dish, expectations for the gastronomy delights to come were sky high!
From here we started the coast line walk!  Feeling great!

The flowers were also beautiful.  To a novice like me, they all looked like morning glories.  Don’t morning glories bloom in the summer?  Such were my thoughts as I strolled…

and almost stumbled into a snake (apologies to those who have an aversion).  I’ll be optimistic and take this a lucky sign .


In any case, it’s hot today!  Even though we’re deep into autumn at the end of October, a brilliant sun watches over us from above.  I began to regret not putting on sunscreen or a hat at the start.rt.

 

In any casA Moringa tea pit stop on route to the next stage!  “Moringa” is a super herb dubbed as a “miracle tree” and “medicine cabinet tree” in India.  We gratefully indulged.  Thirsts quenched, and soothed by the beaming smiles—what could be better!  Thank you for the refreshment.

Gastronomy Point @ Hatonokama  Park (recreation ground)

On to the next stop!  After three kilometers from the starting point we reached a park facing the Hatonokamagyo Harbor, a popular fishing spot on the weekends.
“Salt-boiled prawns and octopus steak” were on offer here.
When it comes to Kumamoto and Amakusa, it’s all about the prawns.  Prawns and octopuses are both staples of Amakusa.  The prawns for today were provided by Maruyama Suisan, a local company.


No paper plates here—the seafood was served on beautiful dishes!  What a treat to eat from ceramic dishes with the seas winds gusting around us.
Boiled prawns, octopus steak and even handmade umeboshi (pickled plum) and other pickled delights.  This lineup begs for accompanying sake (lol). You ask and you shall receive!  A bevy of beverages to choose from: Amakusa shochu, wine, sake, and even Suntory ale!  Perfect!


Smiles everywhere!  Alfresco wining and dining to full satisfaction.

After the meal it was game time in the adjacent field.  We enjoyed ring-toss and miniature golf with youthful exuberance!


Fully sated, it was time to move on.  Finally, the five kilometer marker!


Gastronomy Point @ Tosengahama

We made it to Tosengahama and its fantastic views.  This beach and its calm waters are located at the northern side of Nokama Island, with the Shimabara Peninsula off on the horizon.  The crystal blue skies also gave a clear view of Mount Unzen on the opposite shore.First off is a beach walk and snap-happy picture party.

おThe highly-anticipated cuisine here was “charcoal-grilled Aso Daiou chicken, Amakusa-Mediterranean style.”  The juicy Aso Daiou free-range chicken was grilled to perfection by the chef.


Yum!  This is the real deal.  The Mediterranean theme is also pleasing to the eye.  A mid-walk feast against this spectacular backdrop… pure luxury!

A variety of alcoholic beverages were available including ice-cold beer, Premium Malt’s ale, red wine, white wine, and Amakusa shochu.  After a most satisfying stop, the route began to turn back.  The blueness of the water and comforts of the sea breeze seemed to magnify with each step.

Gastronomy Point @ Hatonokama Harbor (fishing port side)

Back to Hatonokama, where we had feasted on prawns and octopus steak.  The previous stop was in a park; this time, we dine next to the harbor.
On menu was “Hamadai (queen snapper) rice and sea-scented aosa (sea lettuce) miso soup.”
Freshly made, piping hot!  Wonderful.  The rice was topped with both minced and filleted tai (sea bream).  Excellent!  Amakusa fish are the best!
The miso soup came with a generous helping of aosanori (dried sea lettuce), and the scent of the sea tickled the nose.  What flavors!  Handmade pickles augmented the culinary delights.


Yes, we have eaten and drank to our heart’s content!  There were no complaints when we boarded a boat to take us close to the goal line.
A seaside stroll followed by ocean viewing from a boat.  This walking event has been a rare and extravagant treat.  Kamiamakusa, you did not disappoint!


The boat ride and sea breeze were enjoyed by all, and before we knew it, we had arrived at the pier of the Marine Research Center.  It’s just a hop and a skip from here to the finish line.

Goal (Gastronomy Point) @ Miyazukaiyu Park

And here it is, the goal sign!  The course was eight kilometers in total, but we were all smiles at the finish!  Of course, an obligatory commemorative picture at the goal sign.


Last but not least was dessert.  A sweet treat at the end of a pleasantly tiring long walk is especially gratifying.

The “lemon cake” offered here was a collaborative work of “Girasole,” a local cake shop, and Kamiamakusa high school students.  Infused with lemons harvested in Kamiamakusa, the mild cake elicited a chorus of “yum!”  Though it’s called a lemon cake, oranges were also mixed in.  This is the land of citrus, after all!  We slowly savored the sweet treat with the coffee on the side.

Continuing from last year, the weather was perfect for this outing.  Ocean, nature, food, beverages, and the generous hospitality of Kamiamakusa—what more could you ask for?

What a wonderful place.  One starts to understand why so many migrate here. With the goal sign at our backs, the grand finale was the Kamiamakusa onsen.  I’m already looking forward to another satisfying round of “Walk, Eat, Soak” in Kamiamakusa next year!