Living in modern times, it’s pretty rare to be able to tap into our primitive instincts and catch our own food – doubly so if you’re a vegetarian like I am. That’s why I’ve been so fascinated by somen-nagashi, a Japanese dining concept that takes bundles of somen (a type of thin white wheat flour noodle) and flushes them down tubes that look like mini waterslides to eager diners waiting to scoop them up with their chopsticks. Last week, I finally had the chance to give somen-nagashi, which translates roughly to “flushing somen” a try in the mountain town of Kibune, outside of Kyoto. Read on for the deets!
Kibune is just a short 30 minute ride away from Demachi-Yanagi station in central Kyoto, and I definitely recommend taking a little trip out there if you have the time. For more info about other things to do in Kibune and how to get there, check out my full post on Decoist.
Most of Kibune’s restaurants offer kaiseki meals, which consist of painstakingly prepared morsels of seasonal delicacies, but only some of them also have somen-nagashi. We headed over to Hirobun since it offers both for 3,800 JPY per person, which works out to about $31 USD. I’d say that’s a pretty good deal for a gorgeous meal atop a waterfall followed by a dessert of self-caught noodles!
Note: Most restaurants in Kibune only offer these water-related dining options during the warmer months starting in June, so check their webpages or phone them to confirm before heading over.
The tranquil view from Hirobun’s main dining room.
As you can see, the portions aren’t large but it works out so that you can save room for savory and refreshing somen.
Once you’re done with your kaiseki meal, head downstairs to the somen-nagashi area to be seated. If you’re worried about germs, don’t fret because each group gets their own “lane” to avoid crossing chopsticks with strangers.
You’ll be given a bowl of syrup-colored mentsuyu for dipping your noodles into as well as some garnishes. Add the garnishes to the mentsuyu to taste and then get ready for the games to begin!
The somen will start flowing out of these tubes. It will come out in batches, so you and your mates can form a gameplan as to who will catch what. It’s most common (and most logical) for the person on the far right to grab the first bundle and the person to the left of that person to catch the next and so on and so forth.
You’ll know your somen session is over when the pink batch appears.
I hope you enjoyed learning about somen-nagashi and that you’ll travel to Japan to give it a go yourself some day soon!