Imagine it. It’s 17th century Tokyo (then called Edo). Little wooden food stalls popping up all over (called yatai) serving sushi, tempura, and a variety of Japanese noodles (soba and udon primarily).

Called nihachi back then, these noodles dishes were a staple food for many — especially single men. Much like one would visit a convenience store today — yatai offered a vital service for those who could not cook for themselves (or perhaps didn’t have time).

Ni-hachi soba: soba containing 20% wheat and 80% buckwheat;(en.wikipedia.org)

This article by Nippon.com is an interesting trek through history as it recounts the early recordings of a Japanese historian — who’s drawings and writings explain the noodle culture a few hundred years ago.

Soba noodles (buckwheat flour) — and the huge variety of ways it is used: toshi koshi soba, kitsune soba, shina soba, tsukimi soba, shinshu soba, and more. The soba yatai (aka soba ya) brought this versatile dish into Edo — setting the stage for modern soba shops of today’s Tokyo.

I absolutely recommend reading the article — the history lesson is fascinating, and it’s not a long read.

Some Prefer Noodles: Soba and Udon in the Edo PeriodIn the realm of food, and noodles in particular, author Kitagawa Morisada noted that there had been soba shops in Edo (now Tokyo) since the middle of the seventeenth century. At the same time, udon noodles were more popular in Kyoto and Osaka.” (Nippon)

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