January 22, 2014
By Kenichi Hosokawa and Keisuke Togashi
What is Udon
In Japan, there are several types of noodles that people love to eat. There is ramen (Chinese noodles), soba (noodles made from buckwheat), somen (thin wheat flour noodles, and udon. Udon is a thick Japanese noodle that is made from wheat, a little salt and water. It is thicker than other noodles, yet goes down the throat smoothly. There are many restaurants in Japan that specialize only in udon dishes. And there are many local varieties of udon. If you try udon once, you may become addicted.
There are many stories about the origin of udon in Japan. One story attributes the origin of this favorite Japanese noodle to a Chinese confection called sakubei, a sweet “rope of wheat (muginawa),” which was brought to Japan during the Nara period (710~794) by envoys from Tang-period China. Another source says it developed after the introduction of wheat milling technology to Japan by the Rinzai Zen priest Enni in the 13th century. Some say the famous priest Kukai introduced it to Shikoku, where one variety has famously become the delicious and very chewy sanuki udon, named after the ancient Shikoku province of Sanuki.
All of the 45 varieties of udon found in Japan can be seen in this museum. It is also a place where you can eat various types of udon from the different regions of Japan. It is located in the Gion district of Kyoto, not far from the intersection of Kawabata Street and Shijo Street. It is open every day from 11:00 a.m ~ 22:00 p.m. You can find out everything you need to know about Udon here! They sell many varieties of dried udon in the souvenir shop.
This museum was opened in December of 2012. The founder of this museum, Tomoaki Takaya, said, “There wasn’t any udon restaurant where I could taste all the regional varieties of udon in Japan. So that is why I established this museum.”
The reason he built the museum in Kyoto was because Kyoto is the most popular destination in Japan for international tourists. So in his opinion, this city was the best place in Japan to introduce and educate foreign visitors about udon.
The Udon Museum is not only a museum—it is also a place where visitors can taste as many as 30 varieties of udon from all across Japan. For example, in Aichi Prefecture is known for miso-nikomi udon, udon noodles served in a rich miso soup with pieces of chicken, tofu, and some vegetables. Another is Osaka’s kasu udon. This udon has a lot of meat, and its soup tastes like a dish that you might experience in a French restaurant.
The museum restaurant is designed in the image of a traditional old-fashioned Kyoto house. You can view a beautiful garden from inside while eating udon. The official character of the museum is Udon-kun, which was based on an 8-year-old-girl
The top 3 Ranked Udon
The top three most popular udon dishes at the museum are:
No. 1 Mimi (Ear) Udon
This udon is from Tochigi Prefecture and the noodles are in the shape of a devil. It is a good luck charm.
No. 2 Himokawa Udon
This udon is from Gunma prefecture. These noodles are shaped like an obi, the sash that is tied around the middle of a kimono.
No. 3 Inaniwa Udon
This udon from Akita Prefecture is considered one of the three major udon dishes in Japan. The noodles are smooth and and yellow before they are cooked.
We will recommend our two favorite types of udon for you.
First: Hōtō is a type of udon that is made by stewing vegetables and udon in the miso soup. It is mostly found in Yamanashi Prefecture, but we ate a variety called nihōtō from Saitama Prefecture. It was full of vegetables such as brown mushrooms, carrots, green onions, and some root vegetables.
Second is himi-udon. This udon is thinner and resembles somen, but it’s a type of an udon. Himi is the name of city in Toyama Prefecture. Noodles are very thin, and are easier to eat than other udon noodles.
〒605-0073 Kyoto city Higashiyama-ku Gion town North 238-2 : Map
Access from Bus
・Ride on number (５、１０、１１、１２、１５、３７、５９) walk for 5 minutes from Sanjyou Keihan Mae
・(１０、１１、１２、１５、３１、３７、５９、８０、２０１、２０３、２０７) 3 minutes from Sjijyou Keihan Mae
Access from Train
・Keihan Gion Shijyou Station go North for 5 minutes
Kyoto has many things for sightseeing. Temples, gardens, Gion, Pontocho, Maiko, and many others. But Kyoto is more than just these. If you visit Kyoto, please go to the Udon Museum. Kyoto is not famous for udon, but here you can enjoy both Kyoto and Japanese traditional udon.