The legendary chickens
of Kumamoto's Amakusa islands
The “Amakusa Daio” which can boast of being the largest bodied local breed of chicken. It stands approximately 90 cm, and a large specimen can reach as much as 7 kg. It is a legendary local breed of chicken, which became extinct at one point in the early Showa Period, in the 1930s, but was revived in 2000. The Amakusa Daio which is bred unconstrained in an environment as close to nature as possible, is characterized by the firm texture of its flesh, free from any overpowering smell. If you wish to sample a light yet delectable savory taste, then we simply have to recommend Mizutaki hot pot, the hot pot dish with its origins in Hakata.
The Amakusa Islands are made up of 120 islands, both large and small. Amakusa in Kumamoto prefecture which is located at the center, is an area filled with the lush verdure of mountain forests. In the mountain area of Itsuwamachi where only the sounds of nature can heard, Mr. Toru Tsutsumida raises 5,500 Amakusa Daio chickens. Mr. Tsutsumida is also the first chicken farmer certified to breed the revived Amakusa Daio breed of chickens in the city of Amakusa. Mr. Tsutsumida who believes that “Breeding the birds so that they can live unconstrained in an environment close to nature is directly linked to the birds being healthy” uses an open style chicken coop with good ventilation and there is a limit to the number of birds per tsubo (3.3 m2) so that the birds are not subject to any stress. The chickens move around the inside of the chicken coop basking contentedly in the sunlight streaming in.
It is said that the roots of Amakusa Daio chickens can be found in China. In the Taisho Period, the chickens were bred all around Amakusa, and the meat was transported to Hakata by chicken meat wholesalers from Shimabara in Nagasaki prefecture, and it was prized as an ingredient for Mizutaki hot pot. However, even though the taste was exceedingly popular, the low breeding rates and the popularization of imported chicken caused a decrease in the number of breeders, leading to the extinction of the breed in the early Showa Period. Kumamoto prefecture started the project to bring back Amakusa Daio chickens in 1992. Relying on existing oil paintings and a scant number of documents, Langshan chickens from China and Shamo and Cochin chickens from Kumamoto were repeatedly mated and singled out leading to success in 2001. Finally in 2004, a revived breed/original breed Amakusa Daio and Kyushu Lord were mated to create the Amakusa Daio for meat by 4 producers including Mr. Tsutsumida. Mr. Tsutsumida started breeding with a total of 150 birds, and he now breeds and ships approximately 9,000 birds, which make up approximately 25% of the total production in Amakusa.
For the purposes of the protection and safety of the Amakusa Daio species, the traceability of the lineage, breeding methods, etc., for chicks is based on JAS rules for local breeds of chicken and is strictly managed. What Mr. Tsutsumida is most particular about is the “naturally healthy” quality of the chickens. The hygiene of the chicken coop is thoroughly implemented and an original mixture of non-GMO feed is created. Based on the conviction that “A healthy chicken with a sound body does not need medicines,” the chickens are not administered any antibiotics during the breeding period. With the principles of animal welfare in mind, the chickens are bred over a period of approximately 130 days in a comfortable environment before being shipped out. The meat of Amakusa Daio chickens which are bred over a long period whilst being giving a sufficient amount of exercise, is characterized by a just-right springiness that is not too hard, and possesses a superb chewing consistency. Because it does not have an overpowering smell, it produces an outstanding quality soup, which is an additional attraction. “What I would recommend the most is the breast meat. It is not dry and has a moist meat quality.” He adds “By using the meat in Mizutaki hot pot, it allows the diner to savor the complete deliciousness of Amakusa Daio chickens.”
We quickly moved on to the Japanese style bar “Kura” in Amakusa so that we could enjoy Amakusa Daio bred by Mr. Tsutsumida in a Mizutaki hot pot. Mizutaki hot pot is said to have originated in 1905 when a Nagasaki born chef started offering it in Hakata and it is one of Fukuoka’s representative dishes. It is a hot pot dish where chicken and vegetables are boiled in broth made using chicken bones. A sweet fragrance wafts forth from glowing, golden soup heated by simmering. As soon as we put the steaming chicken flesh lightly flavored with a dash of ponzu, the first thing we noticed was the sweet flavor of the fat spreading over our tongue. Whilst we slowly enjoyed chewing on the springy, firm texture of the chicken, the juices flowing from the meat were a deep, powerful savory taste. However, it has a refreshing aftertaste. Normally, cooking makes the breast meat dry, but Mizutaki makes it juicy and melt-in-the-mouth. This is definitely one of Kyushu’s rare taste that we recommend you try in the area it is produced.
You can enjoy the meat of Amakusa Daio chickens bred locally, of course, but also fresh fish dishes cuisine with fish caught in Amakusa and regional specialties made with local agricultural products at very reasonable prices. A popular shop bustling mainly with local customers where reservations are required for weekends.
2-9 Chuoshinmachi, Amakusa,Kumamoto prefecture