During my recent visit to Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, I visited the Fukuyama black vinegar company located in Kirishima city, Kagoshima prefecture.
They produce the famous brand Kakuida (secret land) Vinegar here at the facility which was founded in 2003.
The reason they chose Kirishima city to produce black vinegar is due to the unlimited spring water with an annual average temperature of around 18℃, perfect for vinegar making. The vinegar is not only used as a seasoning vinegar, but can also be used as a healthy beverage.
We sampled some of the vinegars at lunch in the excellent restaurant here. Elegant fine dining coupled with perfect service.
The meal commenced with an apple vinegar beverage (diluted with 4 parts water) it was an unusual but pleasant aperitif.
The backdrop to the restaurant is spectacular, a panoramic view of the Sakurajima volcano, Kinko bay and the vinegar jar field with 20,000 ceramic jars containing the black vinegar which is slowly matured for 3-10 years.
Sakurajima Volcano in the distance across the bay is an active volcano. It has regular minor eruptions with smoke and ash but no lava these days. 100 years ago there was a major eruption which changed Sakurajima forever. The name means cherry blossom island but after the major eruption it became connected to the mainland and could no longer be called an island.
So what exactly is black vinegar? It’s a traditional method of natural, long term fermentation which was imported to Japan from China 200 years ago. The traditional production method is entirely organic with no additives, using brown rice, spring water, yeast and placed into special black ceramic jars to ferment for 3-10 years until all the alcohol created from the fermentation process oxidises, it becomes mellow and develops essential amino acids, which are beneficial for good health.
While distilled vinegar has no colour, with naturally fermented brown rice this gives the vinegar a clear, dark brown hue hence the name “Black Vinegar”. With the long ageing period, the more it matures, the richer it grows in amino acids. No traces of alcohol are left, it is alcohol free, all having been completely converted to amino acids.
Black Vinegar is named “the King of Vinegars” with the nutrients in brown rice remaining intact, it contains exceptional amounts of healthy ingredients such as the essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, which are said to slow the ageing process, relieve fatigue and rejuvenate skin.
In the main retail area there is much to see and buy and you can happily browse and taste the various offerings.
Written by Andrew J. Wood
About the author: Andrew J. Wood is a travel writer and a regular university guest lecturer. A long-time resident of Thailand, Andrew is a former hotelier and a Director of Worldwide Destinations Asia Co. Ltd., as well as the Immediate Past President of Skal International Thailand.