February 6, 2019
The 10 Best Places to Eat in Aso, Japan
Cherry blossoms in Spring, fresh greenery in summer, changing colours in autumn and a snowy landscape in winter – they could be in any place, but there is the scenery which you can only see in Aso. The damage from the Kumamoto earthquake is still visible in Aso. However, the reconstruction has been improving little by little. Would you like to make some new memories, tasting the delicious gourmet in Kumamoto together with the landscape which you should see now? I’m introducing 10 shops where you can enjoy the exquisite gourmet as well as the locals also do! When you visit Aso, please fully enjoy the beautiful scenery and the mouth-watering gourmet
1. This is the place to enjoy the Aso gourmet! [Asotore Kitchen Maemi Nikkori].
There are many shops where you can have [Akaushi] in the Aso area, but the cooking, using the special Japanese brown cattle, [Asooh] from [Nikkori] has a good reputation of great taste. They use plenty of [Asooh] in their menu, such as Hamburg-steak, Yogan-yaki (roast on hot cinders) or donburi (served in a china bowl). [Akaushi] (brown cattle)’s lean meat has only reasonable fat, so it provides a refreshing flavour in any menu!
On the top of that, the Farm-Viking (buffet-styled vegetables) is added on every menu for free. Plenty of vegetables which are harvested from their own farm, [Asotore Farm], being particular about organic soil will be served! They offer Aso-takana (pickles), the drink-bar and free refills of rice produced in Aso as well as fresh vegetables. There is no reason not to visit there. As you can experience the harvest in July and August, it is just right for a family outing.
Name: Asotore Kitchen Maemi Nikkori
Address: 1082 Kurahara Aso-city Kumamoto prefecture
Time: 11:00 ~ 15:30 *changes depending on the season
Close: open throughout the year
Access: a 4-minute-walk from the Irori-no-mura station
Map: map to Asotore Kitchen Maemi Nikkori
2. Mother’s flavour in Aso [Asoji].
This shop received damage from the Kumamoto earthquake and was closed for 5 months, but it reopened in September 2016 with the locals’ encouragement. They have been offering their [original Takanameshi] (leaf mustard rice) as ever which everyone wanted to have again. The owner’s mother, Saki Grandma’s way of cooking has been followed and the pickled Aso-takana is home-made.
When the founder opened the Drive-in, Asoji in March 1968, the [Takanameshi] cooked by Saki Grandma was on the menu and that was the start of it. The Aso-takana’s seeds are sown in Autumn and are harvested in March.
The cooking method of the [original Takanameshi] is very simple. Wash the pickled Aso-takana and stir-fry the chopped Takana stalk with a little oil and then after seasoning with a little salt as well as the light soy-sauce, add some chopped, boiled bamboo-shoots. Mix it with the hot rice and finish it with the red pickled ginger, sesame and thin omelette cut into strips. You can enjoy it as it is, but I recommend the set menu together with hormone (fried beef or pork offal), a dish in a small bowl, some pickles and a bowl of soup. When you visit Aso, please try the superb dish there.
Address: 1476-1 Matoishi Aso-machi Aso-city Kumamoto prefecture
Time: 11:00 ~ 14:00
*If it falls on Sunday or a national holiday, the following Tuesday is closed.
Access: a short walking distance from the Ichinokawa station
Map: map to Asoji
3. Speaking of the Aso gourmet, try the horse-meat! You can have the horse-meat croquette at [Asotorimiya].
The [Asotorimiya] is on the shopping street in the shrine town of Higo-no-kuni Ichi-no-miya Aso shrine and the most popular food at this shop is the horse-meat croquette. It has been a long-established butcher since 1955 and their home-made everyday dishes are also popular. In order to cheer up the shopping street with an original gourmet, the shop owner developed it after many trials and errors. I’ve heard that he produced more than 40 types of food experimentally.
It is cooked completely home-made, using horse-meat produced in the Kumamoto prefecture and the potatoes produced in Japan. It is crispy oil-fried, after wrapping the sweet and salty coated mixture in a smooth moisturised soft mashed potato. It will be fried after receiving the order, so you need to wait for a while, but you can taste the piping hot horse-meat croquette. If you love a spicy taste, why don’t you challenge the horse rosso, [sudden death] which is 10 times as spicy as normal hot pepper?
They offer a take-away as a souvenir and you can also buy horse-sashimi (raw meat) as it is a butcher. When you come to Aso, try them without any hesitation!
Address: 3092-2 Miyaji Ichi-no-miya-machi Aso-city Kumamoto prefecture
Time: 8:00 ~ 19:00 *Fried foods are from 9:00 ~
Close: open throughout the year
Access: a 10-minute-walk from the Miyaji station
Map: map to Asotorimiya
4. Founded 50 years ago! The shop which has been loved by the Aso locals. [Sanzokutakiji]
In the shop with the good olden atmosphere, it is interesting to see that the colourful ceramic bells are hanging down. It was founded more than 50 years ago and it is a shop for loving local dishes in the local Aso area. They have the table-seats, the raised tatami floored seating area and the spacious tatami-matted room, so it is convenient for a family or a group.
It is a must to eat the hormone (broiled beef or pork offal) here. Especially, the hormone boiled set menu with the dago (dumpling) –soup (￥1600) is recommended. You can choose your favourite rice from a white one, a sanzoku (bandit) one and a takana (leaf mustard) one. It is quite a substantial meal with the dish in a small bowl. The broiled pork offal, being particular about a black pig is very tender with their own-made sauce. The dago-soup with soft, bouncy dumplings is excellent. You can order the miso-soup instead of the dago-soup from a set menu and it is possible to order a single dish. Let’s try another one, [freshly grilled stamina hormone] on the piping hot iron pan!
Address: 2127 Kurokawa Aso-city Kumamoto prefecture
Time: 11:00 ~ 17:30
Access: a 15-minute-walk from the Aso station
Map：map to Sanzokutabiji
5. Aso gourmet which you can taste at the charming Japanese-style old house![Takamori Dengaku-no-sato]
Are you interested in having the local cuisine, dengaku at the shop which is a more than 200-year-old thatched house among the trees? [Dengaku] is a rustic food on which the ingredients are coated with miso, grilled on the charcoal fire sitting around the olden irori ( a hearth constructed in the floor).
The most popular food is the [Dengaku set menu]. The menu consists of the Tsuru-no-koimo (taro) produced in Takamori, the Higo-murasaki aubergine, the Yamame (trout) and Sawa-gani (fresh water crab) which grow only in fresh water, the tofu which is made using the water in Aso and Konnyaku (jelly made from Konnyaku-yam routs) from Gokasecho in the Miyazaki prefecture. They are all simple, but have the profound taste. Their original Sansho-miso (Japanese pepper) mixed with miso (soy-bean paste) and Yuzu-miso (yuzu orange) adds to the accented taste.
The set menu has the kibi-meshi (grain rice) and the dago-soup with a soy-sauce flavour based on torigara (chicken bone flavour). It consists of the local vegetables, the seasonal edible wild plants and the bouncy dumplings. The local dishes at the shop with the superb taste as well as the nice atmosphere will sustain in the memory of your trip. Please pay it a visit!
Name: Takamori Dengaku-no-sato
Address: 2685-2 Takamori Oaza Takamori-machi Aso-county Kumamoto prefecture
Time: (Monday ~ Friday) 10:00 ~ 17:45
(Saturday, Sunday & national holidays) 10:00 ~ 19:15
*from mid March to the end of November: 10:00 ~ 19:30
Close: open throughout the year
Access: a 6-minute-ride in a car from the Takamori station
Map：map to Takamori Dengaku-no-sato
6. You can have the local dishes of the Kumamoto prefecture! They use the organic vegetables![Nagomino]
Dago-soup is one of the Kumakoto and Oita prefectures’ local dishes and they are called [Dango-soup], depending on the area. In Kumamoto, the dumpling which is made from flour is called [dago] and [dago-soup] has the kneaded and torn off dough in, so it is called [dago-soup]. It has been thought that it had spread because the farmers could eat it without any hustle and bustle and it kept them going for a long time./p>
The [dago-soup] from the recommended shop, [Nagomino] has a plain taste, using their own-produced organic vegetables and the chicken stock soup. It has plenty of largely chopped vegetables and the feeling of fullness is perfect! You can order a single dish, but they have a set menu with the white rice, the dish on a small bowl or a set with the takana (leaf mustard) rice.
The menu has a lot of local dishes from Aso, so please enjoy those dishes which only Aso can offer as a souvenir from your visit to Aso. The shop is a wonderful space which makes you feel at ease as if you were visiting your Grandma in your hometown.
Name: Dagojiru-no-mise Nagomino
Address: 569-7 Sakanashi Ichinomiyamachi Aso-city Kumamoto prefecture
Time: 11:00 ~ 18:00 *Reservation is required for evenings
Access: a 3-minute-ride in a car from the Miyaji station
Map: map to Dagojiru-no-mise Nagomino
7. If you would like to taste the exquisite home-bred chicken gourmet in Aso, this is it! [Rakuda-yama] (camel’s mountain)
Please visit this shop when you want to eat the home-bred chicken dish in Aso. The locals also recommend [Sumiyaki-jikei-no-mise Rakuda-yama]. The present owner’s Grandpa used to love drinking sake with a chicken dish as a nibble. That made him open a shop by himself. The mountain at the back of his shop has the shape of a camel’s hump, so the locals used to call it Rakuda-yama and he decided to take it as his shop’s name.
The wooden shop is very spacious, but at weekends and at lunch time, it is quite crowded. Also, as it is cooked on the charcoal fire, the smoke as well as the smell may stick to your clothes. If you don’t like it, please be aware of it. Even though, it is worth visiting, It is interesting that they put a sign board written [Gassenchu] (in the middle of a battle) as a signal of [We are open.]
Address: 2693-4 Takamori Takakori-machi Aso-county Kumamoto prefecture
Time: 11:00 ~ 20:00
Close: the 1st & 3rd Wednesdays (If it falls on Sunday or a national holiday, we are open) *open throughout January & from March to November
Access: a 7-minute-ride in a car from the Takamori station
Map: map to Rakuda-yama
8. You can taste very rich sweets, made using the fresh milk![Milk-no-sato]
The cows on the Yamada Farm have been reared, giving them carefully selected home-grown corns, hay and the natural water from the foot of Mt. Tawara. Those cows eat the harvest hay from the field which has been appointed as the Aso Grass-land Globally Important Agricultural Heritage and they move around freely. The soft-cream made from the milk from those cows is delicious and no wonder!
The rich soft-cream made from 100% fresh milk at the Milk-no-sato run by the Yamada Farm is one of the foods you shouldn’t miss in Aso. The gelato with 14 different flavours, such as the apple, chocolate and raspberry are also popular. You can’t ignore the soft-cream with the best seasonal fruits! You can buy items, using plenty of dairy foods as souvenirs.
In addition to those, they have the mountain cakes, made using plenty of butter made from the good quality milk, milk, yoghurt, doughnuts and the unique somen (vermicellifine noodles) made using the milk. As you can come into contact with the sheep, goat, pony and pig, they could please children. Please enjoy the lovely sweets in Aso to the full!
Name: Yamada-san-chi-n bokujo Milk-no-sato
Address: 1801-3 Komori Oaza Nishihara-mura Aso-county Kumamoto prefecture
Time: 10:00 ~ 18:30 *~17:30 in winter
Close: open throughout the year
Access: a 17-minute-ride in a car from the Seta station
Map: map to Yamada-san-chi-no bokujo Milk-no-sato
9. Soba (buckwheat noodles) shop, run in Aso surrounded by nature[Kagoan]
The old Japanese-styled house standing quietly among the forest at the back along the Soba-road in Minamiogunimachi is the renovated 120-year-old farm house, noodle shop. The noodles from this shop, [Kagoan] are highly recommended. You can enjoy the fresh greenery in summer and the changing colours in autumn, as it is surrounded by many trees apart from enjoying the noodles. Inside the shop, the old features, such as the ceiling joist, the pillars and the spacious tatami-matted room with the warmth of the wood are very impressive. It has got a charming atmosphere.
The [Kagoan] makes a good quality buckwheat flour, using the spring water in Aso. The amount of water and the boiling temperature are precisely adjusted depending on the air temperature and the humidity. The flavour and the texture of the noodles are exquisite. Because you are visiting there from far away, you want to try both warm and cold noodles, don’t you?/p>
[Sobazukushi] is just right for those people. It has either oroshi-sobe (grated radishes on noodles in warm soup) or the warm yamakake-soba (grated yam on noodles in soup) with the cold zaru-soba (served on a woven bamboo tray). In addition to those noodles, it has the tempura of the maitake (mushroom) and the edible wild plants as well as the dish in a small bowl together with the ice-cream made from the buckwheat flour! I’d like you to pop in on the way of your trip in a car.
Address: Tonashi Akababa Minamiogumachi Aso-county Kumamoto prefecture
Time: 10:00 ~ 17:00
Close: Wednesdays *When it falls on Sunday or a national holiday, we are open.
Access: a 45-minute-ride in a car from the Aso station
Map: map to Kagoan
10. The ramen with plenty of the natural blessings from Aso [Aso-no-aji Ajisai]
When you look for a place where you can have a casual meal in Aso, Ajisai is recommended. In Kyushu, speaking of ramen, it is tonkotsu taste (pork bone flavour), but you can have the plain tonkotsu taste, which is called Kumamoto ramen at Ajisai. It is the ramen being particular about the soup made using the pure water in Minami-aso. Even females who don’t like tonkotsu ramen can eat up this plain tasting one.
If you are a big eater, the set menu which consists of Ajisai-ramen, white rice, gyoza, salad and pickles is good value. The home-produced rice, koshihikari is refilled free! If you want to eat something very Aso, the set menu with the takana (leaf mustard)-meshi (rice) is recommended.
In addition to ramen, their menu has variety, such as dango-soup, grilled Higo-red-beef, grilled beef or port offal, udon-noodles and curry & rice. Many people drop in at this shop during their drive or when they are touring. The casual atmosphere to drop in and eat without any sense of hesitation is also popular.
Name: Aso-no-aji Ajisai
Address: 1960-3 Ichiseki Minamiasomura Aso-county Kumamoto prefecture
Time: (July ~ September) 11:00 ~ 22:00
(October ~ June) 11:00 ~ 21:00
*Mondays 11:00 ~ 16:00 except Sundays and national holidays
Close: open throughout the year
Access: a 20-minute-walk from the Nakamatsu station
Map: map to Aso-no-aji Ajisai
Let’s eat the delicious local cuisine in Aso!
I’ve introduced food from nationwide to the local dishes in the local area handed down from generation to generation. Nowadays, you can taste the local delicious foods at any place. But, when you visit Aso on holiday, I’d like you to enjoy the atmosphere of the shops as well as the communication with the locals together with the meals. As Aso is the place to experience all those things, please visit Aso!