I think Ramen, Udon, Soba are famous but Somen is not famous in overseas.
It is also one of the famous noodles in Japan but even in Japan not popular like other noodles although everyone knows it.
Somen is one of the Japanese summer features and I also eat it often when summer approaches.
In this article I introduce somen and the place where you can enjoy it in Tokyo.
What is Somen?
As long as I know, somen is the thinnest noodle in Japan.
The thickness of somen is less than 1.3 mm while Udon is more than 1.7 mm.
You can eat it like when you eat Soba.
That is, dip somen noodles into the dipping sauce and eat it.
It is OK to make a slurping sound while eating it like Ramen as it is Japanese style.
The dipping sauce is usually made with shiitake mushroom, kelp, bonito.
It comes with chopped Japanese leek, grated ginger, thinly shredded Japanese ginger, shiso leaf, etc.
It is sometimes served with ice cubes on the top of noodles and that makes us feel cooler in summer.
Origin of Somen
Source : Miwa Somen Konishi
Its original root is China.
Not only somen but most of the noodles you can enjoy here in Japan such as Ramen, Udon, etc have its original root in China.
But all of them developed independently from the original root after introduction and became unique noodles only in Japan.
For somen, there was a sweet called Sakupei in China and it had been introduced to Japan in Nara period (710-794).
It is said that that’s the very origin of somen but it is completely different thing for the look or taste as it was a fried sweet.
And original somen was first made in Kamakura period (1192-1333) by the introduction of Zen monk that’s the start of somen we imagine today.
This somen was made with new technique using only wheat that had been ground by a stone mill.
And the dough was spread using a vegetable oil.
In Edo period or around 1750, it spread among locals
It is said that Sakurai city in Nara Prefecture is the home of somen in Japan.
Now I remember Nyu-men in Nara which I enjoyed there.
It was a local specialty of Nara and it was not cold but hot style somen.
Now I could link somen with Nara.
Nagashi Somen in Tokyo
If you come visit Japan in summer but want to enjoy unique traditional food different from famous ones such as ramen, udon, soba, etc. I really recommend you this Nagashi somen.
As it is rare experience even to Japanese people for this style of somen.
Nagashi means float, that is, this somen is served in floating style.
We eat somen in summer but to enjoy this traditional Nagashi style is difficult as it uses a long bamboo tree.
Most people do not have enough space for that or difficult to prepare a long bamboo tree.
Bamboo tree is cut in half vertically and water flows on it.
And slide some somen noodles down from the top then people catch it using chopsticks.
This is certainly unique experience and people usually enjoy this Nagashi Somen outside with friends or family.
I myself have never experienced it and thought it must be local place surrounded by much nature even if I could but there was in Tokyo and close to Tokyo.
Here are the places.
Address : 2-4-2 Kikunodai, Chofu-shi, Tokyo
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/ZXD98rrLy6u
Station : Shibasaki Station (Keio Line)
TEL : 042-483-3053
Opening Hours : 11:00-16:30 (Last Order : 16:00)
Business Days : Saturday, Monday, Holidays
Price : 1600 yen for adult (about $15), 900 yen for child (about $8)
Website (Japanese) : http://www.maingreen.jp/funayado/index.htm
Source : sehunnnnnnny(Instagram)
Address :449 Nagatro, Nagatoro-machi, Chichibu-gun, Saitama
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/1v9NUFj5hf12
Station : Nagatoro Station (Chichibu railway Line)
TEL : 0494-66-1113 (+81-4-9466-1113)
Opening Hours : 11:00-15:00 (19:00 for July and August)
Business Days : 29 April to 7th May (Everyday), 13th May to 25th June (Saturday and Sunday), 1st July to 18th September (Everyday), 23th September to 9th October (Saturday, Sunday, Holiday)
Price : 1000 yen for elementary-school students or above (about $9), 500 yen for infant (about $4.5), free for 2-years-old or less
Website (Japanese) : http://choseikan.com/dininginfo/nagashisoumen/
Source : Choseikan
Big Stream Somen Slider Extra Jumbo and Video
I see, yes, still it might be difficult to enjoy somen for some people.
Then as a special option, how about buying the machine of Somen itself and enjoy it inside house?
Takara Tomy Arts released interesting machine of Somen in 2016.
And it came back with great improvements this 2017.
Compared to previous one of simple slider which makes somen simply goes around, this Big Stream Somen Slider Extra Jumbo has another gimmick of separating the way somen goes.
It looks like real water slider!!
Yes, that’s because this somen machine was made under the supervision of Summerland which is famous as a themed park of water adventure in Tokyo.
Full length of this machine is 5 meters and the difference in height is 73 cm.
It comes with an ice tray that can make cute dolphin, swim ring, etc.
Checking the video, it looked a bit difficult job to catch the somen floating down.
In that case, to catch it just after somen goes through Kujira (whale) gate is recommended as it slow the speed of slomen down a bit.
It must be so much fun to try it with friends and family!!
You might be able to buy it at a good price here in eBay.
TAKARA TOMY ARTS
Official Website (Japanese)
I often lose appetite in summer by heat of summer.
That’s the time I eat somen!!
No appetite but it stimulates appetite.
And it is easy to make as you just boil it and cool it in a cold water.
Prepare a dipping sauce and some condiments such as chopped Japanese leek, grated ginger, etc. with it.
There are special shops for ramen, udon, soba but no such shop like somen shop or it is rare to see somen on the menu in restaurant.
But now I found there are places where I can enjoy traditional floating style of somen in Tokyo and Saitama.
Both of them are recommended place if you come visit Japan in Summer.