Soba noodles make you feel the regular rural life

There remains a tradition in Japan to have soba noodles just before the new year comes. There are some theories about the origin of this tradition, but the origin is still uncertain. One hypothesis says that people started eating soba noodles before the new year to wish to "cut off any troubles or accidents" since soba noodles are easier to cut than other noodles. Soba noodles were originally made from a plant called "soba", the ground seeds making soba powder, then into noodles. However, for making soba noodles today, flour is also added since soba itself is not sticky enough.

In Nakayama, traditionally famous for soba noodles, the biggest feature of the soba is adding "mountain potato", which is also famous in the area. The mountain potato is more sticky than other types of potatoes, so it is the best one to add in soba powder. Since the mountain potato is also nutritious and it is often described as “the mountain eel” which makes people energized. By using the mountain potato, soba noodles go down very smoothly when eaten.

Mrs. Ishigaki naturally started learning how to make soba noodles when she married a man from Nakayama. She has been making soba noodles for more than 40 years. Mrs. Ishigaki is currently working for a direct sale shop in Odate where she is selling vegetables and also providing local activities.

Mrs. Ishigaki: "The reason why Nakayama became famous for soba was that the soil in this area could not make any other crops. Soba was the only crop they could grow at that time, so that was very natural for local people to make soba noodles both for selling and for their own meals. We still make soba noodles for ourselves and even some people go house to house to sell their noodles at the end of the year. This tradition shows how soba culture is rooted in Nayamaya.”

Last autumn, a soba-making event for college students and international students in Akita was held. More than 20 people made soba noodles in kimono called “Akita Obako” with splashed patterns. Cold soba noodles in Nakayama are eaten in a different way from ordinary soba noodles. The noodle is put in a small amount of soup with crushed ice and that makes the soba noodles have a nice scent.

An American professor who joined the event said that “Soba noodles in Nakayama tasted like ‘the earth’ as if I was tasting the land as it was.” That was because the noodle was made from local ingredients, and it implies that the noodle is blended with the local life and tradition inherited in Nakayama.

You can have the noodles only in Nakayama. We would like many people to come to try the noodles.

We just made this soba and it taste so good. But look at my friends, like everyone’s noodle is different. The thickness is different, but it’s so fun, it’s so tiring but it’s so fun. Please come yay!