Do you like udon? Typically thicker than ramen or soba, udon has a distinct taste of its own. Not all udon is thick, though. There is one very popular type that hails from the tiny village of Inaniwa in Yuzawa city, Akita prefecture. Sato Yosuke Udon, also known as Inaniwa Udon, is one of the top three udon types in Japan.
Inaniwa udon is thinner and smoother than other ramen. It is hand-made every step of the way using techniques and ingredients passed down the Sato Yosuke family line for hundreds of years. In fact, the recipe was developed in 1665 and was only served to the Imperial family. In 1860 Inaniwa udon made its public appearance. Since then, it has remained firmly established as one of the best udon noodles in Japan.
The making of Inaniwa udon is what makes it special. The dough is kneaded, formed into noodles, stretched, cut by hand (taking into account subtle things, such as temperature and humidity). To top it off, workers then inspect every single noodle, removing any imperfect ones. From start to finish, it takes about four days to make the noodles. This attention to detail, and the resulting improved taste, is what makes Inaniwa udon a bit more expensive than other noodles.
If you visit Inaniwa, you can tour the factory and see the noodles being made. The tour is free and lasts about 15 minutes. It should be noted that the tour is in Japanese, so you might want to bring a translator with you. If you call in advance, you may also be able to try making the noodles as well! After you tour the factory, you can walk down the street and eat Inaniwa udon at their restaurant. Although most people’s opinion is that it tastes best when served cold, hot Inaniwa udon is great tasting as well.
Unfortunately, Inaniwa is about a twenty minute drive from Yuzawa station. However, there are buses and taxis that make getting there easy. While you are in Inaniwa you can visit Inaniwa castle, located on a nearby mountain side.
If you are unable to come to the birthplace of Inaniwa udon, there are three Sato Yosuke restaurants located in Tokyo (Ginza, Hibiya, and Akasaka), one restaurant in Fukuoka, and even one each in Taipei and Hong Kong. You will be pleased with the smoothness and deliciousness of Inaniwa udon. Enjoy!