Mataichi Salt in Itoshima

A major draw for foodies to a Fukuoka beach resort

By Shinobu Ishikawa    - 4 min read

When the fish-shaped chunk of salt is served at my table, I can smell the tang of the sea air. With some excitement, I insert my chopsticks into the crack in the salt-made container to remove the 'lid'. A fleshy grilled sea bream appears, and a casual lick of salt attached to my forefinger makes my eyes grow round. “Wow," I think to myself, "this is great.”

The restaurant Itaru stands in the middle of paddy fields on the Itoshima Peninsula – a 40-minute drive from the city of Fukuoka. The area, originally known for its beautiful beaches, is popular among summer holiday-goers. Recently, though, the local salt brand Mataichi has become a major reason for foodies and tourists to visit.

The restaurant Itaru is a renovated farm house.
The restaurant Itaru is a renovated farm house.

Itaru is operated by the producer of such quality salt and when I enter its feudal-style gate, it makes me feel as if I were visiting a samurai house. Inside, I find people already waiting. Lunch time has only just started. The first floor of the restaurant is tatami-matted and on each table is a set of test tube-like containers featuring three different kinds of salt.

These three different kinds of salt really change the taste of the dish.
These three different kinds of salt really change the taste of the dish.

I first sprinkle the brown salt on my appetizer salad with some olive oil. Crystalized and smoked, it goes well with the crispy lettuce. Another contains herbs and makes the vegetables feel even sweeter. The onigiri rice balls that come with tempura, the grilled fish, and a few of other small dishes do not betray my expectations. Itaru proves that salt completely changes the taste of rice balls. This JPY1900 lunch-set, however, is not the end of my experience with Mataichi salt.

The lunch offers an exciting moment to open the salt-made container.
The lunch offers an exciting moment to open the salt-made container.

A 30-minute refreshing drive along the coastline takes me a wooden factory situated at the western tip of the peninsula. Here, a cook, Shuichi Hirakawa, has been making mineral-rich salt here since 2000. Hirakawa went abroad to study cooking in his twenties. After returning to Japan, he found that the salt in Japan was all pretty much the same in taste and quality. Wanting something better, he then decided to make his own original high-quality salt.

The factory Tottan usually offers salt-making experiences for visitors.
The factory Tottan usually offers salt-making experiences for visitors.

While it was a slight let down to discover that the factory was closed to visitors the first Sunday after the government lifted its pandemic-related travel restrictions between regional boundaries, people were still coming all the way to visit. Their purpose? To sample Hirakawa's 'salt pudding'. This pudding with its sprinkle of salt, is becoming so popular that more than 1,000 servings of it are sold each day. Thick and creamy, the combination of sweet pudding and salt creates a flavour that I have never tasted before.

Mataichi pudding: Amazing mix of salt and sweet
Mataichi pudding: Amazing mix of salt and sweet

The area around the factory is like a café in nature with hammocks, a wooden deck as well as tables and chairs made of driftwood. However, it is the taste that remains in my memory, thanks to some incredible ingredients and a scenic view of the blue ocean making every scoop of the pudding a special one.

It's a great tea time with Mataichi pudding and a scenic ocean view.
It's a great tea time with Mataichi pudding and a scenic ocean view.

I receive a bonus on my way back to central Fukuoka - a mystical view of the sun setting between two rocks worshiped in Shinto. Satisfied with the good meal and pleasant coastal drives, I now know why people return to Itoshima time after time.

The sun setting between the rocks on the summer solstice in June.
The sun setting between the rocks on the summer solstice in June.

Getting there

To the restaurant Itaru: A 40-minute drive from downtown Fukuoka or a 10-minute taxi ride from JR Chikuzen-Maebaru Station.

To the factory Tottan: A 50-minute drive from downtown Fukuoka or a 25-minute taxi ride from JR Chikuzen-Maebaru Station.

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Shinobu Ishikawa

Shinobu Ishikawa @shinobu.ishikawa

Tokyo-based news translator, writer and media coordinator. Works on a freelance basis for NHK World. Loves coffee and cats.

Join the discussion

Kim 4 weeks ago
This is so cool! What a unique find. Your photos are amazing, too!
Kim 3 weeks ago
It definitely looks that way, between the food presentation and the amazing views!
Elena Lisina 4 weeks ago
Great place to visit and dine!
Shinobu Ishikawa Author 3 weeks ago
It really is! We have to be careful not to take too much salt, though:)
Lynda Hogan 4 weeks ago
It looks so beautiful and the food so delicious. I'd love to try this salt, what a great initiative.
Shinobu Ishikawa Author 3 weeks ago
Yes! I recommend visiting this place, when you have a chance to go to Fukuoka:)
Sleiman Azizi 4 weeks ago
What a great destination!