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Togakushi Soba Yamaguchiya

Art of Traditional Soba-Making

When you think of Japanese noodle cuisine, ramen, udon, and soba usually come to mind. Among them, Nagano Prefecture is well-known for being one of the most competitive areas for soba noodles both locally and abroad. In this interview, we spoke to the owner of Togakushi Soba Yamaguchiya, Mr Yamaguchi Toshifumi who represents Nagano Prefecture.


Toshifumi Yamaguchi

Since the establishment of Togakushi Soba Yamaguchiya 74 years ago, Mr Yamaguchi is the third-generation owner of the soba restaurant. He took over the family business 12 years ago, switching his then career as a designer to a full time master soba chef. Through his hobby of snowboarding, he interacts with people all over Japan and the world to actively introduce the charm of “Togakushi”!

Please tell us the unique characteristics of Shinshu soba and Togakushi soba!

Shinshu soba is the general term for all soba made in the Shinshu area, which is Nagano Prefecture. And in the same aspect, Togakushi soba are soba made in Togakushi area. Togakushi soba is made by pounding the buckwheat seeds harvested locally with the fresh spring water of the area. Originally created as an offering to the Gods, five bundles of Togakushi soba are delicately arranged on a serving colander as the final presentation of the dish.

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Please let us know the secret to making delicious soba!

The secret is in the water used. The water in Tokagushi is extremely soft and weak in alkaline, and believe it or not, Tokagushi area is said to have been a sea and a rising mountain in the past. If the water used for making the soba is not Tokagushi water, the taste of the soba will inherently change. At Yamaguchiya, the water is not drained before serving but rather, we leave it to the serving colander to drain any excess water. This is so that you can taste the fresh water still stays on the soba. To top it off, eating such fresh soba surrounded by beautiful nature will definitely elevate the tasting experience.

How are the soba noodles made?

It starts with milling the harvested buckwheat seeds. After milling, the buckwheat flour is mixed with wheat flour in the ratio of 8:2, followed by adding water, kneading, stretching, and cutting the dough in equal pieces. As buckwheat flour does not stretch easily, and when the milling technology was still underdeveloped, soba chefs have to hit the dough with a stick manually, which gives the name of “hitting” to the process of stretching. In recent years, to save space and eliminate dough loss, it is common to use three sticks to roll out the dough into squares, but at Yamaguchiya, we make the dough using the traditional method of rolling it out the dough in a circular form with a single stick.

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How long does it take to become a professional soba chef?

It took about three years for me to be able to go through the whole process of making soba by myself.
I would also say that it is a lifelong training and I train hard every day. I exchange information and have discussion with my family and even our neigbouring shop owners and soba chefs.

Is there a recommended way to eat soba?

One of the best ways to enjoy Togakushi Soba is through zaru soba style, which is dry cold soba with dipping sauce. You can eat the zaru soba any way you like, but I would recommend tasting the flavour and texture of soba without adding any sauce or condiments first. Finally, with zaru soba you can get to experience the culture of “Sobayu”, which the broth used to cook the soba noodles are added in the leftover sauce to create a nutritional soup.

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Are there any local Nagano ingredients that pairs up deliciously with soba?

As for local Nagano ingredients, other than wild vegetables unique to Nagano, we also garnish our soba with grated Togakushi daikon as contrast to wasabi which is widely used in other regions. Grated Togakushi daikon has a particularly strong spiciness which brings out the taste of the soba. I personally think that Togakushi soba is a dish that you can taste the original flavour of buckwheat the most, and I hope you will enjoy the rich charm of this local cuisine.

Togakushi Soba Yamaguchiya

Togakushi Village in Nagano Prefecture prides itself in having one of the highest quality soba noodles in Japan, thanks to the pristine waters of Mount Togakushi. The Yamaguchiya master chef creates the soba noodles every morning from scratch using buckwheat flour. Its unique aroma, smoothness, and taste are definitely worth the trip to Nagano.

Address: 3423 Togakushi, Nagano, Nagano 381-4101

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