Friday, November 03, 2006

Nikko Soba Matsuri

Aaaaaaaaaah. Nice to take a breather and get a day off in between the regular work week and the crazy busy Saturday.

Headed out to Imaichi this morning and after swinging by the in-laws' place, we all headed over to a lovely park for the day's festivities at the Nikko Soba Festival. (known as Imaichi Soba Festival before amalgamation) Soba, by the way, is a noodle made from buckwheat flower. It is quite nice, especially when served cold on a hot summer day. Here are some freshly cut tea-flavored noodles along with some of the tools of the trade.

While my father-in-law was parking the car (an adventure which took him about an hour) we started the day by checking out an amateur dance troop. I was a bit surprised when they started up actually. The first few seconds of the music was traditional Japanese, but it quickly jumped into some rock and other kinds of stuff, which kind of contradicted their Japanese outfits. These kids had trained quite hard, and it showed.

After grabbing some BBQ squid and finding our valiant driver\parker\father\husband, we made our way to a different area of the festival, where Soba makers from all over the place were plying their trade. Here you can see two steps of the process, though not subsequent. The guy in the back is making the dough which will eventually be manhandled into a ball, rolled out into thin strips and finally cut.

Here's a guy finishing up the process of making the ball of dough.

And here's a roller, notice the lineup at this shop's booth, a sure sign of a "famous" Soba maker.

And finally the cutting. You'll notice that after being rolled out into a large sheet, the dough is then folded over onto itself for cutting, and you're left with lovely noodles.

This is the sign of the Soba shop we ended up settling on, they're from Inawashiro, the town at the foot of Mount Bandai... a skiing destination I hope to hit a few more times this winter. Ski season is just around the corner... woohoo!

This shot is for my mother. She'd commented while she was here on the footwear of the ladies, which more often than not involve ridiculously high\pointy heels. Here's an example, pink, sparkly stiletto heels, the perfect shoe for a day walking around the countryside of Japan.

One of the favourite accompaniments to Soba is of course Tempura, and this shop was offering their own take on it... fruit tempura. We thought about trying it out, but the stuff they had laid out had been there for a while, not a good thing for deep fried foods... so we passed.

An interesting snack out here is mochi, made from sticky rice which is cooked and then pounded into a sticky paste. I'd never had freshly made mochi, and hadn't enjoyed the experience to date. When still steaming hot however, it is quite yummy! From what I understand, eating mochi leads to quite a few elderly people's death in Japan from choking on the sticky stuff. My lovely wife Yoshiko taught me an interested tidbit of information as to why older people are so fond of it. I'd never really thought of it before, but it stems from their having survived the lean years during and after WWII where the nation was pretty much starving. Pounded rice cakes were considered a treat at the time, and so people are still in the habit of eating them today.

It's unfortunate that we didn't have a clear day as the view in this direction is simply breathtaking, especially once the mountains get snow on them. All in all a fantastic day. Unfortunately, I do have to head in to work tomorrow... only 110 days until the end of my contract, including weekends and holidays... so not too bad... but who's counting?


Anonymous Frances said...

Michel, I am considering working in Japan through the AEON corp. Can I email you for some advice? Ta. Frances.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Michel Lafleur said...


I'd be glad to help, drop me a line at


11:02 AM  

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