The Megumikan rest stop just outside of Sakurajima is essentially the “gift shop” section of the short island view bus tour. In all honesty, the only thing worth viewing there is the growth of the large daikon radishes and tiny mikans outside. This being said, there’s certainly something worth eating there and it’s something so bizarre, that its mere existence is baffling.
The rest stop is located off the main circular road that skirts the outside of Sakurajima. And, while it’s actually very close to the ferry port, it’s not well signposted. But, you may be able to find it by looking opposite of the uniquely brown signed Family Mart, which, alongside a nearby Lawson was painted brown to blend in with the nature of Sakurajima. It also neighbors Sakurajima’s only youth hostel which is actually far better signposted than the rest stop itself.
Its rather worn exterior opens into a corridor where you’re faced with two options. To your left is the gift shop, filled with an impressive array of souvenirs (omiage), freshly grown produce and the exact same souvenirs you would have been seeing your entire trip. But, the right side of the entrance opens into a fairly large food hall. And, since Sakurajima is a little hard pressed for restaurants and eateries, it was a welcome change from convenience store (konbini) food I’d been consuming, particularly when I saw what was on the menu.
The rest stop features English menus, however, to pay for your meal, you will need to decode the Japanese coin machine. Granted, if you can’t read Japanese, this part is a little tricky, but there’s someone to ask if you’d rather not try to use a combination of the Japanese and English menus to decipher it.
Considering I could not believe my eyes when I read the Japanese menu, it’s confirmation on the English menu made me even more intrigued. Among the somewhat more traditional meal options lurked a special set, including a steaming hot bowl of orange noodles. Never in my life have I heard of a food more abstract. Apparently, the noodles are crafted using the peel, though how they do this, I may never know.
The set came with: rice, one of the most delicious tempura nests I’ve ever had in my life, some pickled vegetables and some mikan (orange) jelly that tasted like the smell of the rusty onsen I was just in. I didn’t much care for the jelly, but this was my first warm meal all day and it was really satisfying.
The noodles held the same consistency as any other noodles, but the taste was completely new and entirely strange. The sauce was smoky and delicious, and paired with the sweetness of the noodles, it all actually kind of worked. Are you as surprised as I am?
As with many places in Sakurajima, the label ‘rest stop’ is really misleading. Before I went, I had wondered why a seating area would be so popular among the tour buses, but now I can see that it’s so much more than the name suggests. Walking into this quiet, unsuspecting place, I would never have thought I would see something so unique and interesting. It was a really nice end to my Sakurajima visit and while I enjoyed the unique dining experience, I think I’ll stick to my regular noodles in the future. But I’m glad I gave it a go; it’s not something you’re likely to come across again, so why not?