Kumamoto is home to Aso Gogaku (the Five Mountains of Aso), underground water sources that gush forth, the rich and fertile lands of Kikuchi, the renowned clear waters of the Kawabe River, and the Ariake Sea—its climate and natural features are incredibly rich and varied. Kumamoto is full of ingredients created with love and care by producers from all these natural blessings. Recently, many newer and “surprising” foods have been produced in Kumamoto, such as Japanese-grown avocados and guinea fowl, known as the queen of poultry. Kumamoto is truly a treasure trove of ingredients.

The chefs of Kumamoto, who have fallen in love with the local ingredients, have created premium courses to bring out their absolute best. Here, we introduce new ways to enjoy food and travel in Kumamoto.

HanaKomachi opened in 2004 in Ueki-machi, Kita-ku, in Kumamoto City. Chef Hiroyuki Honda, the owner of HanaKomachi, cooks at the open counter in the restaurant, where you can feel the warmth of wood from Kumamoto Prefecture.

After graduating from high school, he trained at French restaurants in Kumamoto and Tokyo. At the age of 26, he opened his own restaurant, HanaKomachi. “In order to make the best use of Kumamoto’s ingredients, we shouldn’t use only a single technique, but instead create cooking methods to suit each ingredient and area,” he says, emphasizing the need to reflect on every element. The restaurant welcomes many guests from inside and outside the prefecture, who come to get a feel for Kumamoto.

As one of the leading chefs in Kumamoto, Chef Honda has recently been working on onboard meals for JR Kyushu’s “36+3” sightseeing train on the Hakata-Kumamoto-Kagoshima route.

Chef Honda’s main focus is on allowing guests to “feel Kumamoto.”

He uses wild ingredients such as livestock, marine products, vegetables, dairy products, and wild game, as well as sauces and seasonings made from scratch with Kumamoto ingredients. For his hand-made pasta, he even personally grows the wheat for flour.

Another aspect that Chef Honda describes as essential is his producers He believes that the thoughts and attitudes of the producers are evident in the character of their ingredients, and he is active in visiting farms and ranches. Encounters with trusted producers are the cornerstone of HanaKomachi—every day, Chef Honda seeks to create dishes that draw out the best of the ingredients grown by those producers.

The premium course offered by Chef Honda uses seasonal ingredients from Kumamoto Prefecture, which he sourced for many years by personally visiting and talking with producers. He says, “It’s not just a matter of putting premium ingredients together. We intersperse ingredients whose delicious flavor is not well known, even within Kumamoto, with typical everyday Kumamoto ingredients, to create a tailored course that makes guests feel like they’ve returned to their hometown.” By the time you finish eating, you realize that you have eaten countless ingredients from Kumamoto, and you can’t help but feel the richness of Kumamoto’s produce.

In addition, many works of art by ceramic, glass, and wood artists from Kumamoto have been custom-made for the premium course. The many serving dishes and artistic objects, created to reflect the earth, wind, sea, water, and natural surroundings of Kumamoto, are not to be missed. Guests can also experience other unique products such as bamboo chopsticks made in Town using Japanese lacquer techniques.