When I decided to visit Kyoto in the summer, I knew that I had to try nagashi somen no matter what. However, after much research, I only managed to find one restaurant in the area that serves this delicacy. If you are like me and on the lookout for nagashi somen while in Kyoto, this article is perfect for you!
Hirobun (ひろ文) is almost the only restaurant that serves nagashi somen in Kyoto. But aside from nagashi somen, they are also famous for their kaiseki (multi-course Japanese meal). Located just a couple of steps from the Kifune Shrine main entrance, the restaurant is pretty easy to find.
With the river flowing underneath and its beautiful surroundings, Hirobun is definitely a must-visit place in the summertime. However, do expect a long queue as this noodle is only served during this season. Since reservations cannot be made, it is advisable to start queuing at around 11 AM as the waiting time can take an hour or two. The later you go, the longer you have to wait. The nagashi somen is served in sessions as one session can only accommodate up to roughly 10 people.
After queuing and paying for your meal, you will be given a number in the form of an uchiwa (Japanese fan) together with a card that has instructions on how to eat the noodles. The staff will let you know roughly how long to wait and you can walk around while waiting for your turn.
Traditionally, noodles flow in a long bamboo flume with clear and cold water running through it. As the somen pass by, diners are supposed to catch them with their chopsticks and dip them in tsuyu (soy sauce broth).
At Hirobun, however, bamboos are not used. Instead, the long and narrow flumes are made of aluminum decorated to look like a real bamboo. As for hygiene, do not worry. The staff will usually assign one flume per group, which means that you will only share your flume among your friends.
The release of the noodles is timed perfectly by the staff, and noodles that are missed will not be recycled. This restaurant provides you with a small portion of matcha warabi mochi, wasabi, a pair of chopsticks, and a cup of tsuyu for you to dip your somen. The portion is big enough to keep you full for a few hours. The session ends when the pink-colored somen with a peculiar taste are released, making them the last batch of noodles to catch.
When the noodles are released, you must be ready to catch and pick them up as fast as possible with your chopsticks. It can be really exciting to pick up the noodles knowing well that you want to avoid missing it. Sometimes when noodles are missed, a shriek of excitement and laughter could be heard. Undeniably, nagashi somen is especially refreshing when enjoyed in the heat of the summer.
Do not miss out on nagashi somen at Hirobun when you visit Kyoto this summer, especially if you plan to drop by the Kifune Shrine! It is something that you must experience at least once in your lifetime. As this is a seasonal event, it is only available from May to September every year. Enjoy your summer!
Address: 87 Kibune-cho, Kurama, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan
Operating hours: 11 AM to 4 PM for nagashi somen (you can start queuing before 11 AM; it may be canceled due to rain)
Closed: New Year holidays; December 30th, 31st, January 1st; other irregular closed days
Price: 1,300 yen
To get there: Take a shuttle bus from Kibuneguchi Station on the Eizan Line