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/
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!
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