Must Taste in Hirado: Discover Your New Favorite Local Dishes

From freshly-caught seafood to wagyu beef to hearty noodle meals and historical sweet treats, the island of Hirado in Japan's northwestern prefecture of Nagasaki is well known for its many culinary delights.
Must Taste in Hirado: Discover Your New Favorite Local Dishes

The lovely island of Hirado is located in the northwestern prefecture of Japan, forming part of Nagasaki. Hirado may be a separate island, but it's connected to the main Japanese island of Kyushu by a bridge and is easily accessible from Fukuoka, Sasebo, and Nagasaki. 

Although Hirado is off-the-beaten-path today, it was once part of a successful international trade route that made it a hub of exciting activity. This little island was chosen as a trading hub because it was the closest point between Japan and mainland Asia. So, during the early Edo Period, Hirado served as a trading post for the famous historic Dutch East India Company. 

With such a wide variety of international influences throughout the centuries, it's no wonder that Hirado has such unique culinary delights. There are also many interesting attractions on the island of Hirado, such as Hirado Castle, Matsura Museum, and the Dutch Trading Post. Since Hirado is surrounded by the sea, you can expect plenty of fresh seafood and tasty sushi as well as other dishes such as "Hirado Wagyu" beef, Hirado Champon noodles, and the historical Hirado sweets. The local dishes in Hirado are a treat for visitors, which means you should definitely add this island to your Japan itinerary, especially if you're a foodie.

Most local cuisine in Hirado and the Nagasaki Prefecture, in general, was developed during the Edo Period, when the region was an international trading port. There is a wide mix of cultural influences that are all reflected in the local dishes. This guide will help you to discover the favorite local dishes that you must taste while in Hirado.

Freshly caught seafood dishes

Freshly caught seafood dishes

Hirado is well known for its many seafood dishes. Freshly caught clams and flounder ensure that there is a constant supply of delicious seafood. Hirado City is actually known as the top producer of flounder fish in Japan. Some fish are limited to specific seasons, but many of these dishes are available all year round. When visiting local restaurants, you'll be able to order the catch of the day, which will likely be one of the most popular fish species in the area. These seafood dishes are generally served with lemon wedges for extra flavor, fresh vegetables for a balanced dish, and various sauces. A great place to enjoy the local seafood is the seaside market Hirado Seto Ichiba Restaurant Seaside Cafe which offers all the dishes below and is home to gorgeous views over the Hirado bridge. Seto Ichiba is an easy 12-minute walk from Tabirahiradoguchi station.

Here are some of the top seafood dishes to try in Hirado:

Flying Fish

Flying fish, or "ago" as it is known to locals, is a Hirado specialty and a very popular meal. Usually, flying fish are soaked in water for a couple of hours before being air-dried and cooked. Flying fish tend to be served grilled as a light snack with a drink such as beer, but it is also sometimes powdered and used to make a seafood broth.

Fan/Slipper Lobster

Fan lobster is a relatively small species of lobster with a tail that looks like a fan. Although fan lobsters only have a little bit of meat to enjoy, it makes up for it with exceptional flavor. These lobsters are delicious to eat either raw or when boiled and served in miso soup.

Longtooth Grouper

Longtooth grouper, or "ara" as it is known locally, is an elusive but tasty fish that is quite expensive. Ara has firm meat as well as a high-fat content making it delicious however it's served. In Hirado, you can enjoy it as sashimi or in a hot pot to warm you up during the cold winter months.


Flounder, or "hirame" as the locals know it, is a flatfish that is plentiful along the coast of Hirado. The island actually boasts the largest catch of flounder in all of Japan. Flounder is an incredibly flavorful fish that has firm and clear meat. The best season to eat fresh flounder in Hirado is from January to April.

World-famous beef in the form of "Hirado Wagyu"

World-famous beef in the form of "Hirado Wagyu"

Nagasaki Prefecture and Hirado are just as well known for their beef, especially the famous "Hirado Wagyu." Hirado beef is unique because of its marbling look and extra soft texture. There are only 600 cattle raised at a time due to the intense care they require, and, as a result, their beef is extremely rare and sought after. Nagasaki Prefecture is still one of the leading producers of premium Wagyu in the country. The islands in this part of Japan are renowned for breeding high-quality cattle. The cattle are so desirable that they're sometimes shipped to other parts of Japan to be sold under their own branded name.

"Hirado Wagyu" beef has a great balance between lean and marbled meat. This makes it juicy and tender with an interesting texture that all meat lovers will enjoy. The beef can be served in a variety of different ways. Try it as a thinly-sliced yakiniku grill meat, as a tender top-rated piece of steak, or in the patty form as a hamburger. Most restaurants in Hirado incorporate wagyu into their menus and dishes at a very reasonable price. Stop at Yakiniku Suza, which is only a 13-minute walk from Hirado Castle, for a lovely selection of "Hirado Wagyu" dishes.

A local favorite: delightful noodle dishes

Hirado is also known for its hearty noodle dishes. There are a few different noodles variations to try while visiting Hirado. Most of these noodle meals are loved by locals and travelers alike. You can't visit Japan or Hirado, for that matter, without indulging in a noodle dish or healthy hot pot. These meals are perfect for lunch or dinner, and you'll find tasty noodle dishes at just about any restaurant in Hirado. Park at Praça de Troca do Porto Hirado for two hours for easy access to several Champon eateries.

Here are some of the top local favorite noodle dishes to eat in Hirado:

Hirado Champon

Hirado Champon

This delectable noodle dish is a favorite of locals and tourists. There are many variations to try, but most Hirado Champon meals contain noodles, vegetables, pork, or seafood, all mixed in a creamy broth made from either pork or chicken bones. Champon was created in the Meiji Period by a Chinese restaurant that wanted to provide students with an affordable but highly nutritious meal. Since then, it has become one of the most loved dishes and a gourmet meal in the Nagasaki Prefecture.

Sara Udon

Sara udon is similar to Hirado Champon, except it is made with thin noodles fried in oil to create a crispy texture. Most of the ingredients and seasonings are the same such as the vegetables and seafood mixed in a thick creamy sauce. This is poured on top of the thin crispy noodles creating a truly scrumptious and filling meal.

Ago-Dashi Ramen

Ago-Dashi Ramen

Ago-Dashi ramen combines two Hirado specialties: flying fish and noodle dishes. This meal is a healthy noodle soup that uses dried and powdered flying fish to create a thick and creamy broth. Although ramen wasn't always eaten in Japan, it is gaining popularity across the country.

Hirado's historical sweets culture

Hirado has a unique sweet culture, so you won't want to skip dessert when visiting the island. There is a long history of sweet treats in Hirado that stems all the way back to the Edo Period. During this time, Japan was isolated, and Nagasaki City was the only port open to international trade.

One of the popular commodities of the time was sugar which was rare and expensive. As a result, sweet culture flourished in Nagasaki Prefecture. For example, Tsutaya, a sweet shop in Hirado founded in 1502, was the supplier of sweets to the ruling families. Tsutaya is still open today, and their recipes haven't changed in over 400 years. You can try both of Hirado's most famous sweet treats here. You can find Tsutaya on Miyanochohon Street in Hirado City Center.

Here are some historical sweets you have to try:



Casdoce is a sweet and moist sponge cake introduced to the Japanese by the Portuguese in the mid 15th century. It has a lavishly sweet taste and goes well with either matcha or strong coffee.

Gobo Mochi

Gobo Mochi

Gobo mochi is a famous traditional sweet from Hirado. This soft sweet is made from rice, wheat, and sugar. It actually resembles a burdock root which it is named after (gobo).

Exploring Hirado

If you want to explore Hirado and feast on these delicious dishes, you can reach it by flying to Nagasaki Airport and then crossing the bridge over to the island. The flight from Tokyo to Nagasaki Airport takes about one hour 45 minutes and about one hour 50 minutes to Fukuoka Airport when flying with Japan Explorer Pass. Alternatively, the flight to both Nagasaki Airport and Fukuoka Airport takes about one hour 15 minutes when traveling from Osaka. 

From Nagasaki Airport, you can take the Matsuura Railway or Express Bus to Hirado. The journey will take about one hour 30 minutes. Similarly, Express Buses from Fukuoka Airport take about two hours to get to Hirado. Since it's relatively easy to reach, Hirado is a great addition to any Japanese travel itinerary. 

Getting There