Hooked on a fisherman’s meal at a bonito angler’s district

Translated by Aki Sugawara

Eating bonito isn’t commonplace stateside, except for maybe the flakes used as a garnish. In Japan it’s not uncommon to have the fish seared or raw, and is enjoyed for its thick, flavorful taste that’s like a combination of mackerel and tuna.

But the angler-caught wild bonito I had in Nichinan at Suzuno inn was different.

Known as a fisherman’s meal, the cuts are thin as opposed to thick, is immersed in a special soy-based sauce, and also comes in form of ochazuke—a bowl of rice steeped in tea. A staple at the inn/restaurant, it cost 1200 yen (roughly $11).

Bottomless white rice


Served in a circular wooden pail, it comes with sashimi slices as well as tuna gonguri (stomach).

The bonito itself is marinated in a sweet/spicy sauce of green onions and ginger, which tastes great when poured atop the rice (which has free refills). Due to the winter season striped bonito was used, as explained by store owner Ando Suzuki.

“From December to January oceanic bonito enter the off-season, but striped bonito can be caught along the shore, and it's peak season until March or April, with a nice layer of fat atop the meat,” said Suzuki. “Because it spoils quick, the fish is only really popular locally.”

The taste is exquisite yet the shelf life is short, and isn’t caught in great qualities, which is why striped bonito doesn’t appear in most markets. Growing to a couple feet, it’s characterized by a strong umami flavor and soft flesh.

I placed the bonito atop rice to make a rice bowl and had seconds.

Sauce one of the highlights


Aside from the fish, the sauce is amazing—using locally made soy sauce as the base, it’s combined with sugar, sake and sesame seeds. Called “a fisherman’s rice bowl sauce,” it’s satisfying to finish the meal off as ochazuke (aforementioned tea-immersed rice bowl), with the sauce acting as a sort of soup base.


Here the soup is made both with bonito and steeped kombu kelp, and the end result is a smooth-tasting finale to cap off a wonderful meal.


Sitting in front of Meitsu harbor, it’s a popular spot that sometimes forms lines at peak hours, but is worth the wait.


While it’s a Japanese-style ryokan inn, you can casually drop in during lunch hours, and other well-liked entries include Ise shrimp meal (seasonal pricing), sashimi meal (980 yen), and seafood rice bowl (1620 yen).

Suzunoya Ryokan
Address: 4898 Nangocho Nakamuraotsu, Nichinan, Miyazaki 889-3204
Phone: 0987-64-0015
Hours: 11:30am - 1:30pm (lunch); 6:00pm - 8:00pm (reservations needed); closed on 2nd and 4th Wednesdays

Special thanks to Nichinan City
Welcome to Nichinan: the town in motion
For the best seafood when traveling, head to the local fish market
In Nichinan city of Miyazaki Prefecture--famous for its pole-caught katsuo (bonito)--there are any number of spots where you can find great seafood...
Eating the best chicken I've ever had at Sumibiyaki Sankuu
The person who showed me around Nichinan (a small city on the coast of Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu) told me two intimidating details about the rest...
Take Eat Easy. Diner with local Miyazaki flair
There's a bar in Obi, the heart of Nichinan city in Miyazaki prefecture where people involved in regional and traditional housing revitalization pr...
10 popular spots in Japan's "gateway to the tropics"
Once upon a time, Miyazaki Prefecture was a popular honeymoon destination. Beginning in the 1960s, scores of couples made it their place to visit f...
Traditional cooking, Edo-era lodging in a preserved castletown
"Good morning!" said a lively group of grade-school students, even bowing their heads towards me as we walked by. It's an unexpectedly polite gestu...
5 charming points of Nichinan City
We go to all kinds of locales for our work, and sometimes we’re surprised how much more there is to explore—often leaving us with a sense of “we sh...
120-year-old abandoned school in Japan turns into eclectic marketplace
Drive down south on Route 220 from Miyazaki city, and while traversing next to the glittering Nichinan beaches you’ll encounter (the former) Ushio ...
Yuzu-flavored beer offers a taste of Nichinan microbrew
In recent years microbreweries have spread throughout Japan, thanks in part to the Japanese government easing brewing laws in 1994, with people no ...
Obi, a castle town where tradition, modernity and art meet
Standing at the batter’s box overlooking the field, I see stone walls of an old feudal-era castle on the other side, along with a historic-looking ...
Forest bathing, now moss therapy--the lush woods of Inohae
Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku may envision having a hot-tub in the woods, but it's a relatively new concept birthed in Japan in the '80s. Inohae ...
One social media post, one ton of citrus sold--Nichinan's sweet lemons
When thinking of food that goes viral, you tend to imagine the colurful, lavish or outlandish--like a Unicorn Frappucino. A social media initiative...
Aburatsu hostel doubles as a sports bar, hangout spot
Hostels are typically an option born out of thrift and adventure--a place to connect with like-minded backpackers, and saving on lodgings to maximi...
Michelin-rated affordable French bistro is buried in a Shibuya back alley
234: That’s the latest number of Michelin-rated restaurants in Tokyo according to the 2018 guide, more than doubling second-place Osaka and third-p...
Man drops out of college, now run his own strawberry farm at 25
When thinking of farmers, typically you’d imagine someone older, weathered from long days spent baking in the sun, and with a stiff, salt-and-peppe...
JAPAN LOCAL's guide to Shibuya, Tokyo
On the surface Shibuya is a neon-bathed urban hub, with swarms of high-schoolers and business people flocking to mega department stores, multi-stor...
Vanquish: Men’s Shibuya-style fashion in a post-gyaru generation
Embroidered on the back of a flashy jacket is the lascivious tale of the Shibuya from a bygone era. A businessman full of cash and short on scruple...
For all budgets: 12 restaurants to eat in Shibuya
Dining in Shibuya is a double-edged sword for visitors. On one hand, the scale and density of the city means there’s no shortage of restaurants, wh...
Book Lab Tokyo cafe provides a recharge, refuge from the mayhem at Shibuya scramble
There’s no shortage of shops or cafes in the heart of Shibuya, but one surprisingly difficult commodity to find is a reprieve—a quiet, comfortable ...
Udo Jingu, one of three rare descending Shinto shrines
While gazing at the Pacific I walk through a cave, eventually reaching the vivid vermilion shrine. For my wishes to be granted, I throw undama (sto...