Kiryu City in Gunma Prefecture, centered on the Kiryu River, thrives as a “textile town” with flourishing textile industries such as weaving and sewing. This town, known for making many obi for kimonos, also boasts a flat udon noodle that resembles an obi. Some believe the name “Himokawa udon” originates from the method of washing the obi in the river, while others suggest it came from the flat udon “Imokawa udon”, a specialty of Kariya City in Aichi Prefecture. The truth remains a mystery, but in recent years, its fame has spread beyond the prefecture, leading to queues at popular restaurants even on weekdays. Today, we will delve into the world of “Himokawa Udon”!
Origin of Himokawa Udon
Himokawa udon, a noodle with a unique shape, hails traditionally from the Kiryu area in Gunma prefecture. This region, a leading wheat producer, commonly serves this dish. While many theories and stories attempt to explain the origin of Himokawa udon, none have definitive proof. However, claims suggest its origin dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868) in Aichi prefecture.
How Himokawa Udon’s Made
You can make Himokawa udon with fresh homemade dough or buy it from shops, leaving the choice to the individual. You should use all-purpose flour for the dough to avoid stickiness. Add unrefined salt and mineral water to it. After mixing everything together and spreading the dough, cut it into thin sheets. The dough should measure about 1-3mm in thickness. Then, roll it, cut it, and place it into boiling water. However, keep in mind that if the sheets are too wide, they may stick to each other, so caution is necessary. Once you finish cooking the noodles, prepare the broth. You can adjust the type of broth to suit your taste.
What’s so unique about Himokawa Udon?
The special feature of Himokawa udon is its width. Can you imagine a noodle that’s 15cm wide when regular udon is about 4cm wide? The width usually varies by restaurant. Instead of cutting it into slices, they typically serve it in sheets, dunked in a hot broth. The secret to its popularity lies in its thinness and very smooth texture. Despite its width, it’s almost 1mm thin. You can also serve it cold before dipping it into a broth. When you eat it, delight fills your mouth as it takes up almost the entire space. Okkirokomi is the special noodle dish of Gunma prefecture.
Where and when should you try Himokawa Udon?
If you are fond of pastry, then try this dish with no hesitation. As I have already mentioned before, It won’t be a problem to find a suitable place for trying it. The popularity of Himokawa udon on social media has led to an abundance of information about restaurants serving it all around Japan. Earlier, it was the perfect dish for cold winter days, but nowadays people usually eat it in summer, so I recommend you to try it in summer if you are able to do so.
This restaurant is recommended by the inhabitants of the Gunma prefecture itself, as a 14th best restaurant in Kusatsu town. It’s very inviting and cozy, and the prices are fairly reasonable. Here you can eat a delicious Himokawa udon dunked in hot rich pork broth, and if you are a vegetarian, this place would be your perfect choice, since here you can order a mushroom or vegetable udon.
The address is 486-5 Kusatsu, Kusatsu-machi, Agatsuma-gun 377-1711 Gunma Prefecture, and the telephone number is +81 279-88-2678. Usually, it’s not so crowded, but I advise you to make a call and check if reservations are necessary.
Unlike many ones in Japan, this restaurant is quite spacious and very comfortable. The atmosphere is calming and if you want a place where you really can relish your meal in peace, then this restaurant would be the best. Not only is it moderately priced, but also it is vegetarian-friendly, and it’s recommended both by locals and foreigners. It’s located 50 meters before the stairs that lead to the Mizusawa temple. You can enter without the reservation, but during certain festivities, I advise you to call and book a table. If you are a foreigner, ordering food should not worry you at all, because there are pictures of dishes they serve on the menu. The regular price of udon here is around 1500 JPY.
If you choose to eat here, there is no chance that you won’t be satisfied with food and service. The broth has a unique flavor, and udon is voluminous and whippy. The address is 206-1 Ikahomachi Mizusawa, Shibukawa 377-0103, Gunma Prefecture, and the phone number is +81 279-72-3019.
This place has a long history, and its warm and very cozy. Here you can try fresh homemade udon, and you can even order it with curry. It takes approximately about 6-8 minutes for it to be made. Just make sure you don’t drop by on Monday since it is its fixed day off, but if national holidays are in question, it’s open only from 11:30 AM until 14:30 PM. It’s their usual working time. If you are really fond of eating in later hours, then visit this restaurant on Friday or at the weekend, because it’s open from 17:30 PM until 20:30 PM as well. You should also know that it’s closed every fourth Tuesday. Udon here can be bought for the price of around 850 JPY, which is highly affordable.
Gunma is not the only place where himokawa udon can be found, so it should not worry you if you are unable to travel to it. There are many restaurants throughout Japan, and one of them is this one, which is located in Hokkaido, the northernmost and the biggest island of Japan. This place is recommended by foreign travelers as well. The interior is very simple and tidy. It’s not so capacious, but on the other hand, here you can enjoy a flavorsome and delicious hand-pulled Himokawa udon. One of the greatest things about this restaurant is that the prices are convenient, ranging from 650 JPY to 950 JPY.
There are many type of udon in Japan. Check here to see other udon in Japan!