Beppu or Nagasaki for 1 Day
I have to choose between Beppu or Nagasaki for one of the ports. I've not been to Kyushu and it is a place I would like to explore more at a later time, but for now I need to decide between two ports. Which location would be better for good food?
I can only speak for Nagasaki...
The restaurants by Dejima Wharf are really only good for the view, if you sit outside. I'd skip those, and just walk by the wharf later in the evening...
There's a great shabu shabu and sukiyaki place called Rouran (楼蘭). You pick either shabu shabu or sukiyaki, and the entire set comes with rice, miso soup, dessert or coffee. Extremely filling – and reasonable: it starts at 1400 yen, and goes higher based on what grade of beef you pick. It's tucked away in an alley right by the Ohato tram stop -- see the link below for a map:
Nagasaki's oldest restaurant is in the Hamanomachi arcade, called Yosso. They're very well known for their chawanmushi (steamed egg custard), which normally seems very bland to me... but once you try it here, you'll see why they're famous for it. They also serve other famous Nagasaki-style dishes like kakuni, etc.
I'm not a huge fan of the Japanese-style Chinese food like saraudon or champon that originate from Nagasaki, but the best places to try them are at Shikairo, which is supposedly where they were originally created. This is a very famous restaurant in Nagasaki, and most locals should be able to tell you where to go -- it's near the Tsukimachi tram stop. (There's also a branch in Chinatown, but "Chinatown" is quite boring in Nagasaki, being barely longer than a street.
Keep in mind that it tastes a bit different as each place does it differently, especially champon, so people will recommend different places... I found it most flavorful here.
For whale... Kojima, by Shianbashi. There's even a platter you can order that serves all different parts of the whale. They also have other local foods. (Not to be confused with another Kojima, which only sells kakuni manju.
The easiest and tastiest way to sample all kinds of local Nagasaki food is to go to Ginnabe. Last time I was there, they had an English menu as well. Everything here is excellent. Don't miss their grilled fish (shioyaki-style) of the day, if they haven't run out, and the Nagasaki salad. The tamagoyaki is also killer here, and a huge order.
For more "junky" but uniquely Nagasaki food, check out toruko rice ("Turkish rice") at either Hustle Heart or Tsuruchan. It's a strange rice/pasta/katsu combo dish... you know, because Turkey is geographically sort of both in Europe and Asia. :P
Oh, and of course: castella, Nagasaki's famous dessert! But instead of getting it at Fukusaya like everyone does, try the "chocolatte" flavor from Shooken. They have shops throughout the city, as well as at the omiyage corners here and there. I believe Shooken castella is not available outside Nagasaki prefecture?
Wonderful recommendations, thank you. I would love to try the chanwanmushi you menioned. I normally love chawanmushi but since you normally find them bland, this particular one must be excellent. I checked out Ginnabe - wow, kabocha tofu - that's different. I've had walnut, peanut, sesame, green soy tofu, but not kabocha tofu. I would love to try the restaurant.
I did see the toruko rice - very different. I suppose much like taco rice in Okinawa. And castella......mmmm.
Haven't been to Beppu, but Kurokawa onsen is just 3hrs bus from Hakata. Ikoi Ryokan there has great food (local river fish and mountain vegetables as well as , milk and beef from the local higo cows).
Nagasaki has good pork buns in the Chinatown. For Shippoku banquets, I thought " hamakatsu" had better food but "kagetsu" had the whole experience (garden, private room, geisha, museum upstairs).
Other than that, did not particularly find much else. The memorial and champon/saraudon do not offer much to the tourist.
Beppu is more of a place for onsen. There is nothing much for tourists in Nagasaki except the Peace Park and Atomic Memorial.
We stayed at Yufuin, which is 1 hour drive from Beppu. The onsen that I will recommend is Yufuin Hanayoshi. The kaiseki there is quite decent. http://web.travel.rakuten.co.jp/portal/my/info_page_e.Eng?f_no=76377
In Nagasaki, we tried Osakaya for yakiniku. Pretty good too: http://hitosara.com/0005046187/
re: Uncle Yabai
Champon, sara udon, shippoku ryouri, other Chinese influenced stuff also come to mind... Is Dejima an attraction?
I researched both of these places a few months ago for visit in the near future and am leaning toward Beppu/ Yuifin for the onsen experience. Regarding food research- I came to a draw. Nagasaki is the larger city and probably less touristy, so there will be more options.
re: Uncle Yabai
I spent a month in Japan and didn't make it to Beppu but did get to Nagasaki and it was one of my favourite places in Japan.
Foodwise the only thing that sticks out were the octopus balls from a stall at the end of a shopping arcade just before the Chiantown area.
This probably isn't very helpful food choice wise but I wouldn't hesitate in recommending Nagaski as a place to visit.