We are the Miniscule family, a family of six from Switzerland, and last summer we decided to travel through Setouchi by camping-car. As we made our way through the area on our motor-home adventure, we found ourselves in the Iya Valley, located deep within the mountains of central Shikoku. It is here where we had our chance to try our collective hand at making one of Japan’s most iconic noodles, soba. Before we get into our soba making experience, let us give a quick introduction of the region!
One of Japan’s most Famous Get-Aways!
Considered to be one of Japan’s three major “hidden valleys”, Iya Valley was used as a hide-away by the Heike samurai after they were defeated in battle by the Genji clan in Kyoto in the 12th Century. In order to navigate the valley, the Heike samurai weaved bridges from vines, such the one in the picture above, with the intention of burning them if chased by the Genji clan. Iya Valley is located in the center of Shikoku in Tokushima and is well known throughout Japan for a large scale renovation project to bring back the valley’s shuraku village (a type of Japanese village embedded in a mountainside). This project was set forward by famous American author and Japanologist, Alexander Kerr, after he fell in love with the area in his youth. He decided to refurbish kominka (old-style Japanese houses) into lavish vacation homes, while maintaining their traditional features. Visitors can enjoy the peace and tranquility of life in the Japanese mountainside by staying at either one of the kominka, or at one of the many high-quality Japanese ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) scattered throughout the mountain range as well.
The Tradition Japanese Mountain Village of Iya Valley
We found ourselves in Iya Valley with the mission of making an old type of soba noodle native to the Iya region. Soba is a buckwheat flour noodle found throughout Japan that can be served either hot or cold. Depending on which part of Japan you are in, the local soba noodle can vary in size, texture, and length. A large part of this is determined by the percentage of buckwheat used in the mix, which can range from 40% to 100%. The Iya region’s soba noodles are characteristically thicker and use a higher percentage of buckwheat, with little to no flour used as filler. This makes for a firmer noodle, which is typically served with a light soy-based broth in order to bring out the flavor of the pure-soba.
Family Fun Making Soba in Iya!
We had the opportunity to make Soba at the “Tsuzuki –Iyajiman”, a soba shop where the art of making Iya-style soba noodles has been passed down for generations. We found ourselves making our soba under the careful instruction of a teacher who sang us Japanese folksongs as we kneaded away. Even the littlest Miniscule was able to make his own batch of soba. When we finished, our soba was topped off with fresh home-grown spring onions and served with a side of tempura (deep-fried seafood and vegetables), making for a delicious and healthy meal. Making noodles in Iya was a fun and easy way for our family to learn about Japanese culture directly from a local, and will forever be one of our fondest memories of our trip through Setouchi. You can catch a glimpse of our entire experience in the video below!
Soba Shop – Tsuzuki -Iyajiman (古式そば打ち体験塾 都築)
Address – Tokushima-Ken, Miyoshi, Higashi-Iya, Wakabayashi 84-1
Phone – 0883-88-5625
Lessons – \3,000 per person
※Comes with vegetable-set and 5 servings of Soba to take home.)
Website – http://www.iyajiman.com/
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We are the Miniscule family and we love traveling Japan! Back in 2016, we fell in love with Setouchi area while taking a trip accross Japan in a camping car and decided to document our journey in six different short videos. Check out o articles featuring the area and enjoy the videos!
> Speaking of Setouchi, the must-eat item is seafood! – A selection of 7 spots where you can try fresh seafood.
> A selection of 7 cafes and restaurants in Setouchi with superb scenery and views of the sea.
> A tranquil garden full of Japanese beauty and a huge carpet of green moss. / Gallery Teahouse Kokemushiro (Seiyo-shi, Ehime)
> 3 places for barhopping in Yokogawawhich carefully selected by a “hard-drinking” writer / Nice Yukari, Gohan-ya Haru-chan, and Trois Copain
> Please fully enjoy local sake brewed in Tokushima at the shop where you can “buy and drink.” / Taro Saketen (Tokushima-shi, Tokushima)
> A century-old Japanese house which an Onomichi merchant used as a villa has been renovated for accommodation. / The house rental “Kujira Bekkan” (Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima)
> An inn where you can find “ordinary Kobe” / Guesthouse MAYA (Kobe-shi, Hyogo)
> This could be the best choice for your stay in Awajishima! How about having a family trip while staying at a hot spring resort where you can get a great ocean view? / Hotel New Awaji Group (Sumoto-shi, Hyogo)
> Come and see, rail fans! A new base for a circular sightseeing tour in Shikoku, which is produced by JR SHIKOKU./ 4S STAY Awaikeda Sta.(Miyoshi-shi, Tokushima)
> Books, a bar, and international exchange!? 3 selections of hotel and guesthouses which have attractive little perks in the center of Hiroshima / (KIRO Hiroshima -THE SHARE HOTELS-, EN HIROSHIMA, and 36HOSTEL)
> Visit historic spots in the city center of Hiroshima on foot and learn about the history of peace (Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima)
> This is the ultimate soothing trip – feel the sense and the heart of Japan in Uchiko Town and Ozu City in Ehime.
> Beauty exists in every detailed corner of your eyesight! 8 spots where you can see wonderful views of Setouchi and its beautiful islands.
> Visiting the well-known “power spots” where mystical energy flows! This northern drive route visits temples, shrines, and cultural heritage sites in Tottori, Shimane, and Yamaguchi
> A continual stream of natural beauty which will make your heart tremble! The eastern drive route covers the best viewing spots in Okayama, Hyogo, and Tokushima
> Let’s enjoy a liberating new Setouchi voyage by “SEA SPICA”!
> The last report on the shipbuilding of “SEA SPICA,” the high-speed sightseeing cruiser for island hopping in Setouchi -Vol.5. STU48 members attended the launching ceremony. / West Japan Railway Company 【PR】
> A report on the shipbuilding of “SEA SPICA,” the high-speed sightseeing cruiser for island hopping in Setouchi -Vol.4. STU48 members paint the ship’s logo! / West Japan Railway Company 【PR】
> A report on the merging of the superstructure and the base of “SEA SPICA,” the high-speed sightseeing cruiser for island hopping in Setouchi Vol.3 by members of STU48 / West Japan Railway Company 【PR】
> A report on the shipbuilding of “SEA SPICA,” the high-speed sightseeing cruiser for island hopping in Setouchi. Vol.2 shows you the “Reversal Procedure” where the ship is turned over. / West Japan Railway Company 【PR】
> Shimanami Kaido - Cyclist's Paradise
> Onomichi U2 and the Giant Store – the perfect partners for enjoying the Shimanami Kaidō
> Eating, Cycling & Getting Warm : Akiyoshidai Karst Road (Mine City, Yamaguchi Prefecture)
> Kasaoka Island Hopping by Bike : A perfect 2-day trip! (Okayama)
> A Rare Lighthouse & Spelunking!? Traversing Ogijima by Bicycle! (Ogi, Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture)
> “ONOMARU SHOUTEN” is the shop which has all of Onomichi’s fascinations. / JR Onomichi Ekisha (Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima)
> Kobe Shopping: 3 Distinct Local Brands to Bring Home（Kobe, Hyogo）【PR】
> Experience the ancient way of salt making on Kamikamagari-jima Island on the Tobishima Kaido in Aki-nada! / Kamagari Ancient Salt Making Remains Restoration Pavilion & “Amabito-no-Moshio” (Kure-shi, Hiroshima)
> “Meika Shitatsuzumi, ”a Japanese sweet from Yamaguchi which is soft, pleasant and melty on your tongue / San-in-do (Yamaguchi-shi, Yamaguchi)
> Let’s enjoy taking a walk down the shopping street near Matsuyama Castle./Matsuyama Ropeway Shopping Street (Matsuyama-shi, Ehime Prefecture)
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