Updated: Jun 15, 2020
Kamigoto is best known for amazingly fresh seafood and hand-pulled udon noodles. Yellowtail, turban shell, and boxfish are abundant around the islands, while Goto udon has been a mainstay in Kamigoto for centuries, so much so that individual residences throughout town used to make the noodles for household consumption. Learn more about the cuisine that plays a starring role in the lives of the islanders.
The freshness of island seafood is second to none. The town is supported by year-round catches of horse mackerel, mackerel, yellowtail, squid, skipjack, and other marine products. In recent years, bluefin tuna farming has also gained popularity. Although bluefin tuna is considered difficult to raise, fish farms in Kamigoto take advantage of nutrients brought by the Kuroshio and Tsushima Currents.
Here are the types of seafood featured on restaurant menus throughout town:
Hirasu or Hiramasa (yellowtail): In western Japan, yellowtail amberjack is referred to as “hirasu.” This oily, robust fish has a flavor superior to that of yellowtail. Even when enjoyed simply grilled with salt, the flavor speaks for itself.
Hirasu no kama: This flavorful yellowtail collar meat makes a cheap but tasty dish.
Ago (flying fish): This fish plays a very important supporting role to Goto udon as the flavoring agent for ago dashi, the flying fish broth that complements the noodles.
Kattoppo (broiled boxfish): Boxfish meat is mixed with miso and green onion, which is then stuffed and cooked inside of the fish. This rare delicacy is available fall through winter.
Sazae (turban shell): Nagasaki prefecture has the highest yield of turban shell in Japan. This firm shellfish meat is cooked and served in-shell, often as an appetizer.
Kaisen chirashi: A popular, satisfying rice bowl topped with a variety of sashimi.
Grilled kibinago (silver-stripe round herring): This small fish is easy to find during its season of December through April. Dressed simply with salt and grilled kibinago makes a tasty side dish for beer. Also find kibinago no sashimi, which is served with ponzu, vinegared miso, ginger, soy sauce, and more.
Kibina no Iriyaki: Kibinago is also referred to as “kibina” in Goto. Simmered with vegetables, this local delicacy is also popular in households.
Kuromaguro (bluefin tuna): Bluefin tuna raised and consumed in Kamigoto has never been frozen and thereby retains its rich texture and umami. There are occasional events in which the tuna is filleted in front of an audience and free samples are given out. There are also periodic events in which restaurants throughout the island prepare the raw tuna in a variety of dishes for a limited time. Try the fresh tuna on the island once and it will be easy to see why it generates so much fanfare.
By some accounts, Goto udon is considered one of the top three types of udon in Japan. The noodles are thinner than other types of udon but have a firm texture and satisfying bite. It is believed that Japanese envoy ships going to and coming from Tang Dynasty China brought the noodles back from China over 1000 years ago. Now, there are about 30 manufacturers of udon in town that started out as household operations.
Made with natural salt, coated with camellia oil from the island, and served with ago dashi broth, Goto udon is the ultimate locally-sourced meal.
Jigoku-daki udon, or “hell-cooked” udon, is Goto udon cooked in front of diners in a pot of boiling water. Once it is ready, the udon is scooped directly from the pot and into bowls of ago dashi soup or raw egg topped with green onion, shaved bonito flakes, and/or soy sauce. This simple, traditional method of consumption is still widely practiced throughout the Goto islands.
This dish, which originated in Nagasaki, is a must-try for visitors to the prefecture. Topped with a mound of cooked bean sprouts, pork, cabbage, corn, seafood, green onion and more, this noodle soup is a filling, satisfying meal in which the rich flavors of meat, seafood, and vegetables blend together harmoniously.
This dish, which features the same ingredients as Nagasaki champon, is said to have originated by cooking the broth of champon down so as to make the dish easy to deliver. Sara udon is eaten with either champon noodles or thin, fried noodles.
There are plenty of restaurants and izakaya to choose from in the Arikawa, Aokata/Kamigoto, and Urakuwa areas. Consider finding lodging in these areas to take advantage of the local offerings. For more information, see the area map at bottom of the following page: https://shinkamigoto.com/tour/spot/eat/?wovn=en
Restaurants in outlying areas also have delicious offerings. Here are some gems that are off the beaten path:
Sora to Umi to Jujiro: Savor the seasonal flavors of Goto at this Italian restaurant inside of the beautiful Hotel Margherita in Kogushi. Emphasis is placed on the aesthetic presentation of locally-sourced, fresh seafood, vegetables, Goto beef, Goto pork and other ingredients. Be sure to inquire about the availability of all-you-can-eat pizza, curry and pasta on Sundays.
Lunch hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Dinner hours: 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Cafe hours: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays
Sushidokoro Shima: Skilled preparation equals high quality sushi at this restaurant in Nama. The recommendation is the Shima Sushi Special set (tokusen sushi setto). Kaisendon are also available by reservation. Hours and preparation are dependent on the available fish, so it helps to call and make a reservation in advance.
Hours: 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Cafe KiTA: In addition to coffee, this charming Nama cafe serves curry rice and other set meals.
Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Mondays.
Umi to Sora Maru to Hoshi: This restaurant in Hotel Margherita, Narao, offers upscale Japanese cuisine with an emphasis on Goto. Traditional dishes such as Goto udon and seafood are the definite stars of the restaurant, but the view of Narao Port from the dining area also makes the visit worthwhile.
Lunch hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Dinner hours: 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Goto Adventure Inn, “Narao no Matono” : Enjoy coffee roasted in-house, hand-pulled Goto udon noodles with grilled flying fish broth, or the cafe's specialty tsukiyoma curry with over 10 spices at this cafe/inn where travelers can commune with locals.
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Yushokukan: This restaurant on the second floor of the Wakamatsu Port terminal building features kaisendon among other local specialties. Order via vending machine at the entrance of the restaurant.
Hours: 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Ebiya: This family-run guest house serves traditional Japanese meals. From April to August, lunch guests can feast on rice bowls topped with exquisite sea urchin, referred to as uni donburi. For a truly lavish dining experience, try the set meal, which starts at ￥5400. Requests for lobster outside of winter months can also be accommodated. Reservations are required.
Lunch hours: 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (lunch served from April to August only)
Dinner hours: 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.