Updated: Sep 25, 2021
Kagoshima's healthy elixir, black vinegar, has been produced in the same way for more than 200 years.
In the Fukuyama area of Kirishima, Kagoshima Prefecture, experienced artisans place black vinegar, or kurozu, in ceramic pots outdoors. Lined up in long rows, many on slopes facing Kinko Bay, these containers produce the healthy elixir in one to five years.
So, what is the secret behind production, and why is kurozu so prized?
The centuries' old recipe uses just three ingredients: rice koji mould (Aspergillus oryzae), rice and water. The combination slowly ferments and matures in the mild climate to produce Kagoshima's "black gold."
A one-year batch has a light amber colour and mild taste, while a five-year brew is darker, with more bite. All ages of black vinegar are much appreciated for the way they enhance the taste of local dishes with a well-rounded acidic tang and a hint of sweetness.
Kurozu black vinegar is popular as a cooking ingredient and condiment or diluted with water or lemonade as a refreshing drink. It's popular for its flavour as well as its health benefits: it can fight fatigue, help with detox, burn fat and reduce the risk of cancer.
Meals and experiences
If you want to see and taste some black vinegar, a good option is Sakamoto Kurozu Tsubobatake, one of Kagoshima's most famous producers. Their facility features a small museum outlining their 200-year history and production methods (in Japanese), as well as a restaurant overlooking the Fukuyama fields lined with jars of their product. Items served include lunch sets made using Sakamoto's delicious vinegar and vinegar-infused drinks.
Find out more
For details on the facility and how to get there, visit Sakamoto Kurozu Tsubobatake's webpage.