Soul Food of Fukui
Echizen Soba
February 24th, 2017
by Takeshi Takashima

If you love to have an adventure, why don’t you jump on a train to Fukui?  At first glance, Fukui City might appear to have little to offer tourists, however, you will soon discover why Fukui has been designated “Japan’s happiest prefecture.”  All you need is to bring just one Japanese word with you: “soba.”  Once you arrive at Fukui Station, we recommend you to ask some locals where to find the best soba. You will be surprised to learn that anyone who lives in Fukui will have one or two favorite soba restaurants and even soba schools.  You may be wondering at this point, “What is soba?”

Soba is a traditional Japanese noodle made from buckwheat.  The origin of Fukui soba can be traced back to about 400 years ago.  The Samurai ruler of the area at that time chose buckwheat as the main crop for his farmers to grow since buckwheat grew well even in the rough ground. Around September every year, beautiful white buckwheat flowers bloom in large fields all over Fukui. As the seeds ripen and flowers wither, these fields take on a dark red color, showing that they are ready for harvest.

  When the harvest is ready there are many soba festivals.  It’s clear – Fukui locals love their soba!

A good place to start is at Fukui Station; there is a soba place just around the corner of the west exit of the station.   It is a stand-up soba shop.  Noodles are served in a minute after ordering at this type of “fast food” noodle shops – perfect for the hungry travelers waiting to board their train.  However, this shop doesn’t just serve those passing through Fukui Station; many local company workers, taxi drivers and students spend 10 minutes or so enjoying delicious soba noodles.  If you are a Fukui local, it will be quite hard to pass by this shop without stopping for a bite.

Noodles are usually served hot like the ones at the stand-up soba shop.  However, it might be surprising to see that in Fukui the locals are crazy about their cold noodles, which you won’t have trouble finding at all!  What makes Fukui soba special is the grated daikon (Japanese radish) on top.  Fukui soba fans put it on top of soba noodles, and then pour the sauce on top of it.  Soba tastes really nice with this grated radish, but what makes it even better are dried bonito flakes and chopped green onions.  It is this way of enjoying soba that makes Fukui soba something unique.  However, each soba restaurant serves soba slightly differently, so be adventurous and explore as many of them as you can.  If in doubt, just ask a local for a recommendation.

Many Fukui locals also enjoy making soba at home.  Soba ingredients are very simple; all you need is soba powder, a small amount of wheat flour, and water.  It is worth learning this skill, and you’ll be happy to know about Fukui’s “soba dojo.”  There are many soba dojo, or soba cookery schools where you can actually learn how to make soba under the guidance of soba masters.  One such place is located at the foot of Asuwa Mountain, just a few minutes’ taxi ride from Fukui Station.  This soba dojo was founded in the 1985 by Nakayama Shigenari as the first soba dojo in Japan.  Since then, it has attracted those who want to seek out a unique cultural experience.  It doesn’t matter whether you like your noodles cold or hot, you will surely enjoy the process of making soba noodles. If you want to gain a higher level of soba making skills, you can even participate in soba making competitions.  The most famous of which is held in autumn every year.  The top soba artisans from all over the country gather to compete, showing off their special soba skills.  Fukui really is the heart of soba making in Japan!Why don’t you come to Fukui with “soba” the magical word to open up conversations with Fukui locals?  You will share the enjoyment of their soul food.  Then you will be ready to start your adventure in discovering the real traditional Japanese life that Fukui locals are blessed with.









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