Keiryu Villa ITSUKI, Kiyoshi Shiiba Select Itsuki Kunebu
Are you familiar with the citrus fruit called kunebu?
It is said to have been brought to Japan in the late 16th century from Indonesia, passing through China and then Okinawa. There is documentation indicating that this citrus fruit was presented to the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. However, it is suggested that the fruit gradually disappeared from Japan after the Satsuma mandarin orange gained popularity during the Edo period.
The rare citrus fruit is gaining attention as a phantom citrus, as residents of Itsuki Village in the Tamana District have been cultivating it in their gardens for generations.
To the villagers, it is a regular citrus from the garden. However, the taste of the flesh exhibits a well-balanced blend of acidity and sweetness, making it a popular choice for cooking and as a mixer for shochu. Mr. Okamoto, a resident of Itsuki recognized its appeal, successfully branded the fruit by gradually increasing shares and the harvest.
Currently, the harvest season spans from late October through mid-November when the fruit is in its prime. Interested buyers can purchase the fruit directly from the Komorinouta no Sato Itsuki roadside stand.
“I discovered kunebu when I returned home.”
Chef Shiiba recalls that despite its status as an heirloom citrus fruit, he was impressed by its approachable flavor, including its fresh-tasting juice, clean acidity, and a rind that is not bitter.
The fresh fruit is available for purchase from late October through mid-November, making the season quite short. “We preserve the juice and incorporate it into desserts and the like.” The yellow fruit fills Itsuki’s deep forests. There is a yearning to savor the flavor of this phantom citrus, heritage passed down by villagers, intertwined with the captivating scenery.
Komorinouta no Sato Itsuki roadside stand
Address: 2672-54, Ko, Itsuki Village, Tamana District, Kumamoto Prefecture
Business hours: 8:30–17:30