Soba (そば) is a delicious buckwheat noodle dish that can be enjoyed either hot or cold in various sauces and broths. You can get them in most parts of Japan, and like any food, they vary in freshness and quality. Surely most people would agree that fresher is better, and what could be fresher than preparing something right before it is cooked and ready to eat?
In Gunma Prefecture (群馬県), just two hours from Tatebayashi (館林), there is a sweet little soba house in the mountains where you can make your own noodles from scratch, then eat them afterwards in a Japanese-style tatami (畳) room!
Shiki no Ie is a little out of the way, but the walk (or drive) over to this soba restaurant is just beautiful. Surrounded by mountains and rice fields, it’s around a 15-minute stroll from the Takumi no Sato (たくみの里) rest area, a collection of shops and restaurants perfect for families and groups. The walk from Takumi no Sato to Shiki no Ie is very pleasant, especially during spring, as you can enjoy a breath of nature and the sounds of birds and frogs before reaching the restaurant.
Shiki no Ie is a traditional Japanese house near a river. Take a moment to look at the mountains, rice fields, and rapeseed flowers beside it, as well as the view of the hills such as Izumiyama (泉山). In the warmer seasons, you might even spot some interesting small animals!
If you’re ready to make your own soba noodles, head to the back of the shop where you’ll be shown how to make them entirely from scratch by a professional noodle chef. If you’re in a group, you’ll all get a turn mixing, rolling, and cutting the mixture into soba-shaped pieces. It’s enormous fun and appropriate for everyone from children to the elderly. After you’ve finished, the chef will take the noodles to the kitchen to be cooked.
You don’t need to bring anything to the restaurant, but it’s important to remember that you’ll be working with your hands, so make sure they’re clean and perhaps free of jewelry and/or nail polish. It is also a good idea to wear clothes that you won’t mind getting a little flour on. A sink and soap are provided at the establishment.
Making the soba noodles takes around 20 minutes from start to finish. Be sure to make a reservation before you go so that the materials and table can be prepared on time.
After preparing the noodles, you get to sit down and enjoy them! Soba noodles can’t get any fresher than that! You can enjoy the noodles with mugicha (麦茶), or barley tea, and some fresh tempura if you choose. Soba tastes so much better when you make it yourself, and it’s the perfect reward for your hard work!
A day out to Shiki no Ie will guarantee a bit of exercise, learning how the soba-making process works, and a delicious meal for you and your group! This experience is inexpensive (making and eating the noodles cost less than 2,000 yen in total) and a fun way to work as a team and prepare your own real Japanese food. If you’re going to be in Gunma and you’re interested in trying this out, definitely give Shiki no Ie a visit!