Eat & Drink
No trip anywhere in Japan (or rather, anywhere in the world) would be complete if you didn’t get your fill of delicious local food. It’s no exaggeration to say that Kozushima, despite being a modest-sized island, can offer more of that than you could possibly cover in one stay—unless you’re planning to stay for weeks! From laid-back cafeteiras and izakayas to more elegant, but still relaxed restaurants, Kozushima has something for everyone. And wherever you go and whatever you eat you’ll notice there’s one constant among the diversity of tastes and ingredients—everything tastes amazing (well, that and ashitaba leaves; there’s not a single eatery on the island that doesn’t serve something with these omnipresent, pleasantly-bitter greens). Part of the reason behind that is the freshness of the ingredients. While Kozushima needs to import many things from the mainland, they are proudly self-sustainable in terms of seafood and, to some extent, fruits and vegetables. The locals take full advantage of the natural environment around them to make the best possible food with what’s readily available. The other side of the story is Kozushima’s water. It might sound strange, but the water springing up from the underground veins all across the island somehow imbues everything you use it for with truly exceptional freshness and depth of taste. Be it coffee, beer or even plain white rice, everything made with Kozushima’s water is just different—all we can say is that you have to come and see (or rather taste) that for yourself. Please take a look through some of our recommendations for the best food and drink on Kozushima so you can really experience the island with all five senses while you’re there.
You came to Kozushima because you want to eat hotdogs and cotton candy, right? Wrong! You came here to stuff your face with what the locals eat, and they eat what this island gives them: a whole lot of fish!
Yamacho is an izakaya restaurant (which is to say, a Japanese-style bar that offers both alcohol and a wide selection of food) which serves a variety of fish and other meals made with fresh local ingredients. Located approximately 15 minutes from Maehama towards the base of Mt. Tenjyo, you will seldom find this place empty in the evenings. Yamacho is especially unique in that it is run by wholesalers, or the folks that work to bring the fish directly from the island’s fishermen to the Wholesales Co-operative of Tokyo Fish Market in Tokyo proper. So, as you would expect, they get first dibs on a lot of the freshly caught fish that comes in through Kozushima Port! And needless to say, with such freshly caught fish comes some of the most outstanding food you could possibly imagine!
From sushi and sashimi, to even ramen made with ingredients they went out and picked that very day, you will only be indulging in the best of the best the island has to offer! Though we are very confident in saying that you will be satisfied with whatever you choose, we particularly recommend anything on the menu prepared with iwanori, or “rock laver” (a type of seaweed). Often collected throughout the week, iwanori is found locally along the Kozushima coast, and is one of the many fresh ingredients Yamacho uses in their meals. And if seaweed isn’t your thing and you would prefer a more traditional Japanese seafood meal, then the sashimi plate (sashimi moriawase) will certainly not let you down!
And if you need a drink after the long, fun-packed day—fear not, Yamacho’s got you covered. From popular beer on-tap to local spirits like Moriwaka shochu, you’ll definitely find something you like!
If you are looking for outstanding food made from the catch of the day that even the locals love to chow down on, then look no further, for Yamacho is merely a 15-minute-walk away!
Please note that they are only open in the evening, and you will need to make a reservation prior to heading over
So, you have traveled all throughout Kyushu, eaten some okonomiyaki in Kansai, scaled the steep cliffs of Mt. Fuji, explored the depths of Saitama, ate a copious amount of peanuts in Chiba, and now you are finally chilling out in Kozushima. Yet, you still can’t escape…”the urge”…
You realize it has been a total of four days since the last time you consumed a thick, savory, succulent cheeseburger! But before you break out in a panic attack, Cafe & Diner `AILANA comes and saves you from the depths of despair! Because you see, folks, Cafe & Diner `AILANA is a cozy and casual Hawaiian-style restaurant (not a fast food restaurant, mind you) and is the one and only place on the island where you can treat yourself to a nice, juicy cheeseburger with some good old fries!
Located just a five-minute-walk away from Kozushima Port and right on the beachfront, Cafe & Diner `AILANA is a rather happening place where you will find many of the local ladies and children hanging out (of course, the guys dig it too!). Whether it be burgers or fries, steak or pizza, you can get your hit of delectable diner foods in Kozushima as well! What’s more, they use 100% grass-fed lean beef, so leave your calorie worries at the door and come enjoy the tastiest of the tasty!
WiFi is available, and burgers are typically available for lunch while steak is available during dinner time. Alcohol is available all throughout the day, they serve dessert in addition to regular meals, and they even have a terrace for outside dining during warmer times of the year! Hours of operation are from 11:00 am till 3:00 pm (last order at 2:00 pm) from May to September, and 11:00 am to 14:30 pm (last order at 2:00 pm) as well as 6:00 pm to 9:30 pm (last order at 8:30 pm) from October through April.
Please note that hours are subject to change and it is advised that you call ahead prior to heading over.
After your first day on Kozushima spent relaxing on the beach, riding your bike down the island’s western coast or hiking up Mt. Chichibu, you might be thinking, “Man, this place is great! I could use a beer after all that. I could really go for a good craft beer, not some generic brand you can find anywhere. If only they had their own little brewery here…”
Well, my beer-loving friend, you’re in luck because they do. Hyuga Brewery (named after the island’s chief Shinto deity, Monoimina-no-mikoto’s little brother) is Kozushima’s own microbrewery that uses locally sourced ingredients and, most importantly, the island’s miraculous water, to make some fantastic beer. They always have four different beers on tap ranging from light and fruity white ales to deep-tasting stouts with coffee and chocolate accents. Their brewmaster loves to experiment so there might be something new waiting for you when you visit (for example, a refreshingly light ale brewed with ashitaba leaves). They also offer some imported beers, cocktails and other spirits, if that’s your cup of tea.
Hyuga has a lot to offer in terms of food as well. At first glance, it’s fairly standard brewery fare: pizza, pasta, curry rice and such. However, everything is made from fresh, local ingredients and they put their own twist on most of these dishes. For example, a pizza with mozzarella, ashitaba leaves, and tuna—a surprisingly delicious combination—or a pasta made with chili and dried fish—a true pinnacle of spicy comfort food.
Hyuga Brewery requires a prior reservation, so make sure to give them a call before you stop by!
If your credo when traveling is to eat the same thing that locals do then for lunch on Kozushima you should head straight to Yocchare Center’s cafeteria. “Yocchare!” is a phrase in the local dialect meaning “come over!” and you should definitely feel invited to stop for a meal.
The Yocchare Center’s cafeteria is on the second floor of a building located inside Kozushima Port—right above the dried and canned seafood store (see the Services page for our introduction of the store). It’s a very casual and laid-back place that only serves lunch and is well-loved by the locals. It works the same way as every other cafeteria in Japan: you buy a ticket from the vending machine (it only accepts cash) and hand it over to one of the ladies behind the counter.
What sets Yocchare apart from every other cafeteria is its food. To put it plainly: it’s ridiculous how good it is. They are situated a stone’s throw from the auction house where the fish are sold every morning and that freshness makes all the difference. They offer kinmedai (known in English as “splendid alfonsino”—and he really is splendid) boiled in soy sauce, fresh sashimi, tsukedon (vinegared rice topped with slices of raw fish and wasabi), seafood curry, and fried ginger pork, each flanked by a number of awesome little side dishes like miso soup with ashitaba leaves or fried lotus root.
Make sure to check out Yocchare if you find yourself in the port area during lunchtime!
Sawaya Cordon Bleu
It would be easy to dismiss Sawaya Cordon Bleu as “a French place” (why would I want to eat French food in Japan?) based on its name. But that would also be a huge mistake because Sawaya is so much more.
Run by a lovely elderly power couple from Kyoto, Sawaya puts an interesting Japanese twist on French cuisine. Even the building the restaurant is situated in—a former traditional Japanese inn—serves to reinforce this concept, with the main dining hall being a Japanese-style room with western-style furniture, decorated with small bits and pieces brought over from Europe. To further complement the experience, some of the meals are prepared so that you can eat them with chopsticks. The restaurant used to operate in Kyoto for 28 years before the owners decided to leave the hustle and bustle of the old capital for a quiet life on Kozushima. Now, they take full advantage of the local ingredients to further polish their art and offer a truly unique experience to their guests.
The exact dinner menu depends on the season and which fish caught the chef’s eye at the auction, but definitely expect some assortment of local fish for hors d’oeuvres, often sauteed, smoked or grilled, possibly even sashimi. A potage made with potatoes and sweet satsumaimo potatoes is a creamy and comforting mainstay throughout the year. Salads are always made with fresh seasonal vegetables and may include some more fish, for instance smoked mackerel. For the main dish look forward to a savory wagyu steak with steamed vegetables. After a great meal you can wind down over a cup of coffee and a small French-style desert. We absolutely recommend you come over for a dinner at Sawaya Cordon Bleu, which brings together the best of French cuisine, Japanese culinary creativity, and the freshest of Kozushima’s ingredients.
Nora is a cozy little guesthouse tucked away from the village at the foot of Mt. Chichibu, near Miura Bay. Aside from offering their guests a place to stay, Nora also operates as a cafe serving lunch, drinks and snacks.
Nora has some ardent followers among the locals who claim it’s one of the best places for lunch on the island and it’s not hard to see why. Cafe Nora’s meals are all authentic home cuisine, hearty and filling, with absolutely no cheaping out on ingredients. The contents of the generous lunch set change every day, but it often includes delicious fresh kinmedai in soy sauce, an assortment of sashimi, tempura made with seasonal vegetables, minced meat cutlet and other delicious side dishes. After the meal you can pick a drink—coffee, tea, matcha latte or a soda—and relax while nibbling on a Japanese-style sweet snack like a little cake made with sweet potatoes.
Nora has some seats in the garden outside as well as a comfy Japanese-style room inside. Mind you that there’s not that many seats, which is part of the reason you need to call in advance and make a reservation—you can’t just pop in unannounced. The owner is a strong-willed and witty lady with a wide breadth of knowledge about the island, so if you feel confident about your Japanese, make sure to chat her up.
Restaurant Sabisaki (Hot Springs Recreation Center)
What do we want?! A stellar oceanfront view and breathtaking sunset with an immensely relaxing dip in the hot springs followed by a tasty local island dinner made with nothing but local ingredients! Where do we find it?! At Kozushima Hot Springs Recreation Center’s Restaurant Sabisaki, of course!
Because honestly, what is better than a natural hot springs situated directly on the coastline with its own planetarium?! Obviously, one with excellent food! Not only is Kozushima Hot Springs one of the largest open-air hot springs in Japan made from nothing but natural rocks from the coast, but you can also enjoy exquisite meals made with the freshest of the fresh!
From curry to sweets, to freshly caught fish purchased directly from Kozushima Port, you will definitely find something that suits your fancy at Restaurant Sabisaki. And if you can’t decide on what to chow down on, then we highly recommend you try the shima tendon or “island tempura bowl”!
Restaurant Sabisaki is located approximately a 35-to-40-minute walk away from town and is easily accessible via the local bus or car (parking is available). The hours of operation are from 11:30 am till 2:00 pm, and 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm every day except Wednesday, and it is even open throughout major Japanese holiday seasons such as Obon, the New Year, and Golden Week.
Cafe & Bar FamiliA (Vacation House FamiliA)
Located only a few minutes away from the island’s only traffic light, Vacation House FamiliA is a bed and breakfast run by a very kind, open-minded, and super-welcoming Japanese couple.
In addition to offering accommodation, FamiliA is also a cafe where you can enjoy some tasty drinks! In fact, if you are looking for a place to get coffee and aren’t in the mood to make your own, then this is probably your only option on the island. But fret not, for they offer an incredibly wide variety of stellar coffee from all over the world and prepare it with the island’s very own natural spring water—you have yet to try coffee made with water this tasty!
The number one drink on their menu has got to be their cold brew coffee (limited to three cups per person). Over a period of eight hours, they slowly brew a batch of cold brew using none other than the delectable local natural spring water that they fetched that day. And not only do they serve coffee, they also whip out wine in the evening! For those old enough, they recommend you stop by, open up a bottle and enjoy some of their Dutch cheese as well.
The owners, Ayano and Ken, are very welcoming, high on life, and absolutely love Kozushima and its culture. Whether it be the island food or enjoying the popular sights, they are savvy about everything and want nothing more than to share it with their guests. And perhaps the most convenient of all, they can even help you out in English if the need arises!
Whether you simply need to get your dose of some mighty fine coffee, have a few questions about the island, or simply just want to chit-chat, Ayano and Ken are always available to help you out!
Please note that because the brewing process takes around eight hours to complete, they required a reservation a day in advance.