Japan |Multiple regions
It’s a Japanese tradition to eat soba (buckwheat noodles) in the evening of New Year’s Eve, to wish for good luck or to get rid of any bad luck before the start of the next year. Soba noodles are loaded with symbolism: “the thinner; the longer” in shape, they represent a wish for longevity, and because they are “easy to bite through in the mouth”, they also represent “breaking away from hardship or calamity” before the New Year begins, so they provide a quintessential “taste of Japan”!
Let’s start by introducing a long-established restaurant in Tokyo, highly recommended for eating soba for the first time.
Originally established in 1884, during the Meiji era. You can appreciate, through soba, the passing of history, through the Showa era and up to the present. The restaurant interior is decorated with pots for kneading noodles, that were used during the Showa era, together with a grandfather clock that still continues to tick. When you savor your noodles with the “slightly strong dipping sauce” beloved in the old low-lying part of Tokyo, Shitamachi, you will feel in your core the flavor enjoyed by ordinary Japanese people. Incidentally, the shrimp that is served with soba, with its curved back, is also a symbol of longevity, and considered a good omen.
A restaurant with 230 years of history, a 5-minute walk from Azabu-juban station. Normal “soba” has color. However, at this restaurant, you can experience pure white “Sarashina Soba” noodles, prepared using just the inner core of the buckwheat kernels. Another recommendation is “Kawari Soba”, which includes seasonal ingredients pounded into the noodles, so you can enjoy the aromas and flavors of the changing seasons!
Now let’s move on to the other regions of Japan, where you mustn’t miss the chance to try some different styles of soba.
Have you heard of “Wanko Soba”? “Wan” means “bowl”, but here, when you empty the bowl of food in your hand, the staff immediately replenish it, so you can continue eating at a good tempo. You can experience “Wanko Soba” at Azumaya. Go for it! If you can manage to eat 100 bowls, you will get a special certificate! Don’t miss out on this wonderful memory of Japan.
In the Edo period, to facilitate movement and the communication of information to the various regions of Japan, staging posts to rest and re-equip were established. At Kokoro-Ne, you can enjoy a specialty of Nagano prefecture, “Touji Soba”. A local dish, where soba noodles are taken straight from the boiling water and placed in a special “Touji” basket to dip in a hot-pot of dashi broth with boiled mushrooms and mountain vegetables, before eating. It really warms you up! You can spend some time here and imagine how good it was for samurai and weary travelers to recover from the hardships of their travels.
“Kawara” are fired roof-tiles traditionally used to cover roofs of Japanese homes, which have been repurposed in a technique pioneered by “Kawara Soba Takase” at this restaurant! Keeping the Kyoto tradition of highest quality, the “Cha Soba” presents a world of abundant flavor. Top quality Uji matcha is kneaded into the noodles, which are topped with beef, finely sliced omelette, nori, shredded daikon with chili, lemon, and more. Hiding behind the soba, there is also a popular menu of “Una-meshi”; grilled Japanese eel on rice.
Last but not least, a restaurant for “Okinawa Soba”. First to meet your eyes is the southern island look of the exterior, resplendent in green! When you venture in to explore the interior, you’ll find a relaxed atmosphere with a laid-back, jazz vibe. Top billing on the menu goes to “San-Mai Niku Soba”, with meat that has been slow-cooked for a long time to an amazing level of tenderness! The meat melts the instant you put it in your mouth, an outstanding accompaniment to the noodles. If you take a trip to Okinawa, make sure you pay a visit here.
Information is current as of March 2019 but is subject to change without notice. For further details and the latest information, please inquire directly to the relevant establishments.
Photos courtesy of: Kanda-Matsuya; Flagship Restaurant, Sarashina-Horii; Azumaya Soba Restaurant; Restaurant and Cafe Kokoro-Ne; Original Kawara Soba Takase Main Restaurant; Okinawa Soba Ajazz