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‘Spiciest town in Japan’ makes most of reputation

Hirata, known for its chile production, touts itself as being the spiciest town in Japan.
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Hirata, known for its chile production, touts itself as being the spiciest town in Japan.

HIRATA, Japan >> Lively versions of beer and karinto, a deep-fried flour and brown sugar snack, both made using habanero and other extremely spicy chiles, hit the shelves at Michi-no-Eki Hirata, a roadside rest area in Hirata, Fukushima prefecture, in January.

Hirata, known for its chile production, touts itself as being the spiciest town in Japan, and its roadside site sells more than 30 items featuring the hottest of peppers.

Its habanero beer is flying off the shelves despite being pricier than other beers. An 11-ounce bottle of Habanero IPA, jointly developed with a brewery in Hiratsuka in Kanagawa prefecture, costs about $6.50. In addition to habaneros, the beer also features ghost peppers and Carolina Reapers, all harvested in Hirata. The peppers are soaked in brewing tanks during the production process, giving the beer a little kick.

According to Tetsuya Kono, 63, the head of Michi-no-Eki Hirata, the company originally thought that only beer enthusiasts would buy Habanero IPA, but it has sold far better than expected and has had to be restocked.

The other new item, habanero karinto, which costs about $2.80 for a 2.5-ounce bag, was jointly developed with Nukamo, a confectionery shop in Motomiya in Fukushima prefecture. The snack comes in two flavors — mild and very hot — and is characterized by its perfect balance of the karinto’s sweetness and the habanero’s spiciness.

Over the past decade, the number of chile products sold at the rest area has grown to more than 30, including soft-serve ice cream, curry and potato chips.

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