VIDEO: Usuki City a beautiful castle town with unique gastronomical tradition

Usuki Castle, photos by Takahiro Takiguchi
Usuki Castle, photos by Takahiro Takiguchi

VIDEO: Usuki City a beautiful castle town with unique gastronomical tradition

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

Though Usuki in Oita Prefecture may seem like a tiny city with a modest population of 35,000, its grandeur lies in its rich history, beautiful streets and unique foods.

From the majestic Usuki Castle facing the Bungo Channel, transport to the olden times with a view of Nioza District’s narrow cobblestone-paved roads. The district is home to various Buddhist temples and traditional wooden houses creating a quaint ambiance worthy of recognition as one of the 100 most scenic Japanese towns by the Japanese government in 1993.

Originally, Usuki was developed as an international port town for trading with China, Portugal and other European countries under the rule of a Christian feudal lord Otomo Sorin. Throughout my walk around the town, I found several architectural touches symbolic of this history including the white Portugal-style tourist information center and blue “Azulejo Mural” wall paintings nestled among traditional Japanese buildings.

In the 17th Century, the fermentation industry arrived in Usuki and thus started a unique food culture here. Here you’ll find plenty of fermented dishes, organic farm products, and sake. The quality of the fermenting and brewing skills in Usuki have even garnered international recognition with a UNESCO designation as Creative City of Gastronomy in 2021.

Drop by Kani Shoyu, a miso and soy sauce brewery established in 1600 and Kotegawa Shuzo sake and shochu brewery founded in 1855 to sample their quality fermented products unchanged for hundreds of years.

Another vintage craft from Usaki is Usukiyaki pottery from the former Usuki Domain dating back 200 years. The simple, understated white pottery makes the local foods shine when served on it. Visit Usukiyaki Lab pottery workshop off the old district to learn how the workshop revived the “lost pottery style” and has transformed it for today’s use.

Nioza District, Usuki City (a 3-hour drive from Sasebo Naval Base)
URLs: Nioza District

Kani Shoyu Brewery

Kotegawa Shuzo Brewery

Usukiyaki Lab

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