Kinko Bay's Kanpachi: Fresh, Mineral-Rich Premium Fish from Kagoshima
A local gift from the ocean, this fish is like no other!
Where there is good water, there is good fish — and when that happens, you know the difference in taste. As a country that regularly consumes raw seafood, Japan is no stranger to the constant pursuit of excellence in freshness, safety and exquisite taste in its food production, be it raw fish or meat. A primary example of this culinary excellence is Kagoshima's kanpachi, known in English as greater yellowtail or amberjack, a delicious type of fish typically served raw as sashimi or sushi.
Kanpachi is a shiromi (white meat) fish and key representative of the yellowtail family that would typically appear raw — in the form of sashimi or sushi — on a dining table in Japan. It is similar in taste and look to buri (amberjack), though it is slightly lighter in color and has a lean, mild taste. Kanpachi is best in the summer months, especially in June and July. Extremely rich in minerals, among which high doses of healthy omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA), kanpachi is also a type of fish the health benefits of which are believed to expand from memory and concentration improvement to prevention of various diseases, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and heart diseases. It is also rich in vitamins, particularly Vitamin D, which effectively absorbs calcium and supports healthy bone formation and protection. Rumor has it that it also helps relieve bad hangovers thanks to its high concentration of niacin, which works as alcohol dehydrogenase (in other words, helps you decompose the alcohol you have consumed). But beyond the various health benefits it is believed to have, one thing is undeniable: its pleasant taste you should have at least once when visiting Kagoshima.
Kinko Bay is a deep inlet located on the south coast of Kyushu, in Kagoshima Prefecture. Shadowed by the fuming Sakurajima volcano on its right, the bay not only acts as one of the most picturesque destinations in Japan, but also as one of its most fertile grounds (i.e., waters) for farm-raising of kanpachi and buri (another yellowtail). Blessed with a unique terrain that year-round benefits from the Black Current — one of the greatest warm and oxygen-rich currents in the world, Kinko Bay has since ancient times served as one of Kyushu's most crucial fishing ports. Kanpachi, on the other hand, loves high oxygen and warm waters, so a place like Kinko Bay is the perfect location for the fish to grow healthy. Not surprisingly, Kinko Bay is now the largest producer of kanpachi in Japan.
The aquaculture industry in Kinko Bay began in the early 1960s and flourished in the mid-1980s when local fishermen began investing in kanpachi cultivation. The favorable environmental conditions boosted the fish's production, leading to results that were even surprising to local fishermen: today, the area accounts for 60 percent of Japan's production of kanpachi. Its taste and freshness have also earned a world-class reputation of the area. The reason why the aquaculture industry is so prosperous in this area is not only thanks to the warm seawater, but also due to being a deep-sea bay, which provides the perfect environment for corves to be placed in deep waters, thus preserving the fish fresh until the very moment it's shipped away.
Another aspect of the success of growing fish in Kinko Bay is its highly-motivated fishermen. While the average nationwide age of the Japanese fishermen tends to lean on the senior side, here at Kinko Bay, most fishermen are young successors of their parents or elderly fishermen who are determined to continue preserving the legacy of the area and the kanpachi taste that pleases people across the country and beyond.
As noted earlier, kanpachi’s firm texture is high in fat content, making it an unsurpassed choice for sushi and sashimi. Although best enjoyed raw with a bit of soy sauce or ponzu dressing, kanpachi is also delicious when grilled, poached, sauteed or seared. In Kagoshima, you can also enjoy it as shabu-shabu — thin slices boiled in water and served with dipping sauce or dipped in sweet sauce and topped on steamed white rice, a local dish known as kanpachi tsuke-don.
Kanpachi can be enjoyed in various locations in Kagoshima, especially near Kinko Bay, but if one wishes to try it in its freshest and most versatile form, stop by at Minami Suisan Kanpachiya in Tarumizu city. This simple diner offers no stunning interior or fancy menu, but you will be able to enjoy the exquisite taste of kanpachi in various simple teishoku (set)-style dishes.
Wherever you taste kanpachi, though, know two things: one, it most likely comes from the warm seawaters of Kagoshima's Kinko Bay, and two, you are tasting a premium fish that is also full of natural goodies for your health!
Minami Suisan Kanpachiya
3882-1 Honjo, Tarumizu, Kagoshima Prefecture