Get your chopsticks ready! Nagashi Somen, also known as flowing somen, is the perfect fun and cooling way to enjoy a meal on a hot day. But first, what exactly is somen?
Somen are Japanese noodles made of wheat flour. The thin, white noodles are very popular in summer as the dish is traditionally eaten cold, as the noodles are dipped in a cold broth. Nagashi Somen adds an extra layer of fun to this by allowing you to (literally) catch your noodles using your chopsticks as they flow past you on a bamboo slide.
Sounds a bit unbelievable, doesn’t it? Nagashi Somen has become a bit of a summer tradition, with some families constructing the bamboo pipe themselves, or getting machines which imitate the experience. If you’ve watched the anime Nichojou, you probably remember the character Annaka struggling with this entertaining dish.
The concept is simple, yet very endearing- catch the noodles flowing along the bamboo pipe with your chopsticks, dip them in your cold soy sauce based broth and slurp them up! This is also a great way to test your chopsticks skills, as the noodles slide past pretty quickly. The noodles that are not caught by anyone are not recycled, so people try to catch as much as they can to avoid waste.
The best place to try these flowing noodles is Kibune, which is located in Northern Kyoto. Kibune is an absolutely gorgeous mountainous town roughly an hour away from Kyoto consisting of a row of ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) and restaurants along a single street, next to a beautiful flowing river, making it a popular retreat during the summer. This town is most famous for the beautiful Kifune shrine, which is fittingly dedicated to the deity of water and rain.
During the summer months, the restaurants in Kibune build covered platforms on the river, allowing guests to eat directly above the water! These are known as Kawadoko style restaurants and are a fantastic way to beat the heat. Kawadoko style restaurants serve traditional Japanese food and offer a truly unique dining experience, with the breeze from the river just beneath you keeping you cool as you take in the lovely mountain landscape.
Couple Nagashi Somen with these picturesque Kawadoko style restaurants and you get a match made in summer-relief heaven. Although it can get crowded at times (I would recommend avoiding weekends altogether, or booking reservations), it’s definitely worth the wait as you get a wonderful ‘only in Japan’ experience.
For those travelling to Tokyo, the restaurant Kisetsu Ryori Funayado in Chofu city, Tokyo, also offers the nagashi somen experience in summer. Kisetsu Ryori Funayado is located a 5 minute walk away from Shibasaki Station (Keio Line), making it very accessible. They also serve other traditional Japanese food.
This is one of the best seasonal experiences you can have during your summer trip, as restaurants usually exclusively serve nagashi somen during the summer. Entertaining and refreshing, Nagashi Somen truly make for a unique cultural experience.
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