Most regions have their own culinary specialties in Japan, and Kagoshima is no different. As soon as you walk around in the city or grab a tourist guide, you will notice something called kurobuta, which means black pork. Why is it called black pork? And how does it taste? These were my questions and I found the answers at Ichiniisan.
When you enter the store in Tenmonkan, you'll pass a huge glass fridge at the entrance and can see lots of plates with thinly sliced pork. Of course the meat isn't black; it has the usual pale pink color of pork. The answer to the first question is easy: kurobuta are pigs with black skin! Now you may think, "Sure, so what?" Well, when I heard of kurobuta for the first time, I thought it might be some kind of meat in a dark sauce. So at least for me one mystery was solved. It was time to find out what kurobuta tastes like.
Ichiniisan has a large menu to choose from. The restaurant chain is a bit upscale, but they offer very reasonable lunches for around ¥850-¥1000. Most of the regular dishes include kurobuta as shabu-shabu: thinly sliced meat you dip into boiling broth. Every table has a hotplate, and during dinner you prepare your own food. I think it’s a very communicative and fun way to enjoy a dinner with your friends, cooking while chatting.
However, during lunch the dishes come with the pork already boiled. For a side dish you'll get some vegetables and a soup which also includes black pork. For vegetarians who would like to join their friends, but can't eat kurobuta, there is some very delicious tofu available. Just mention that you would like to go without the soup. I enjoyed the kurobuta and the tofu very much. The meat is very tender and juicy, and I can imagine that preparing it yourself makes it taste even better.
Ichiniisan also has a large variety of sake. Since I came here for lunch, I didn't try any, but the bottles on display add a lot of atmosphere to the restaurant. In general the interior is very appealing. The are lots of wooden elements and Japanese designs. From the seats near the window you'll have a nice view of the shopping street below, as Ichiniisan is on the second floor. If you like kurobuta, you can buy kurobuta miso paste next to the register: a nice souvenir to bring home from Kagoshima!