Renowned for its rich cuisine, Japan’s smallest prefecture, Kagawa, is the land of “udon” wheat flour noodles, producing more udon than anywhere else in the country. Boasting unparalleled elasticity and luster, the local noodles are a delicacy not to be missed! So, come with me on this journey as I spend the next 24 hours in an around 100-year-old traditional Japanese homeーrenovated into a workshop and guesthouseーimmersing myself in the culture of udon, learning more about the different styles of udon, and even making my own from scratch!

Kagawa: The Birthplace of Udon


On a sunny October afternoon, the train crosses over the Seto Ohashi Bridge from Japan’s main island to the island of Shikoku, which contains four prefectures: Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, and Kochi. The one I’m heading to is Kagawa Prefecture which, for Japanese people, is synonymous with udon; more specifically “Sanuki Udon.” Sanuki is the old name for Kagawa, which boasts the perfect soil and climate for growing wheat. The history of udon in Kagawa dates back over 1,000 years, when it was introduced from China, and became a beloved dish over time!

Udon House: Timeless Food Travel!


I stepped off the train at Motoyama Station, located in western Kagawa Prefecture, and walked one minute to Udon House, where my udon-making journey began. Udon House is both a workshop space and guesthouse, operating out of an around 100-year old “kominka” traditional Japanese home.

The facility opened recently in 2018, soon after the owner and founder traveled to Europe and tried pasta making in Italy, which inspired her to introduce a similar experience back home. Because many people have eaten udon but not made it from scratch, this is a truly unique program that even locals can enjoy. They offer a two-day program which immerses guests in all things udon, though it is also possible to participate in an udon-making workshop without spending the night.

Udon Master Class: Make Your Own Udon From Scratch!


I was very excited to begin the class! Though I eat udon quite often, I had never made it before. To start, we each received our own ball of dough made from wheat flour, water, and salt. The teacher then guided us through the process of kneading and rolling, showing us how to shape the dough into a rectangle to make it easier to cut later. After a few rounds of the rolling pin and checking that there were no air pockets, it was time to fold it up and bring it to the cutting station.


The teacher first demonstrated how to use the cutting machine, so I felt very comfortable and eager to give it a try when it was my turn. The cutting machine has a spring so that the blade moves slightly to the right with each cut, allowing for consistency in the size of the noodles. The device was very easy to use, and I found it to be a lot safer than holding a regular knife. The instructor also suggested I put my left hand behind my back to decrease the risk of cutting my fingers accidentally while slicing the noodles.


After we finished cutting the udon strips and shaking off any excess flour, our noodles were split into three batches: one for dinner, a snack, and the following morning’s breakfast. We placed labels with our names on the tupperware and each strainer, after which the staff began to cook the noodles and prepare the “dashi” soup stock for us. For guests doing the full two-day program, during this down time, they will visit a local farm to harvest seasonal vegetables.


After about 15 minutes, our homemade bowl of udon topped with eggplant and fish cake “tempura” (lightly battered and fried vegetables and fish) were ready to be served! The dish was lovely— freshly made udon is incomparable! The noodles were chewy but not sticky, and the broth was simple but flavorful. Extra garnishes were placed on the table like green onion, seaweed, ginger, sesame seeds, and ground chili pepper, which add an extra kick to each bite. My personal favorite is freshly-ground sesame seeds.

For guests with dietary restrictions or allergies, please let Udon House know at the time of booking. There are also English-speaking staff available.

Udon House’s Guest House: Putting the “House” in Udon House!


There are three guest rooms available on the second floor at Udon House, with each able to accommodate 1-4 people, and cleverly named after different types of udon. Mine was called “Zaru,” which is when cold noodles are served on a flat bamboo straining tray that allows excess water to escape. My friends stayed in “Kamatama,” an udon dish served with soy sauce and raw egg. The last room is called “Tempura,” which is often paired with udon, just as we had seen with our dinner!


My room, warm and simple yet elegant, had a futon on the traditional “tatami” straw mat flooring. The room had the perfect atmosphere of Japan – wooden features, sliding doors, and a foldable futon that can be moved during the day. When I travel, my favorite way to sleep is on the floor in this type of room. It’s comfortable, cozy, and stylish. The guesthouse is located in a quiet residential area, and I was able to sleep peacefully almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I woke up calm and refreshed.

The room my friends stayed in had bunk bed-style futons, reminiscent of a capsule hotel, giving it a mix of both the traditional Japanese and modern western feeling. Each pod was small, perfect for a single person, and very comfortable!


The first floor of Udon House hosts several common spaces, like the kitchen, living room with a small table and bean bag chairs, washing up area, toilets, and showers. Basic amenities like a toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, body soap, bath towel, and face towel are provided, but guests should bring their own pajamas. There is free coffee, tea, and other beverages available in the shared kitchen as well.


After a restful night’s sleep, it was time for morning udon! In the fridge awaited another batch of the noodles we cut the day before. Our first bowl was served in dashi soup, so we wanted to try something different, and ended up settling on “bukkake” udon.


We boiled the noodles, drained the water, then splashed bukkake sauce (a thick sauce made with dashi, soy sauce, “mirin” rice wine, and sugar) on the udon. It was the perfect comfort food that gave me the motivation to work hard the rest of the day.

Udon Hopping: One Bowl Is Never Enough!


The perfect way to experience the best of Kagawa’s rich udon world is to jump on a bus or taxi and “udon hop” around a few of Kagawa’s 600+ udon restaurants, which each have their own unique recipes. Though you probably can’t eat 600 bowls in one day, you can certainly get a taste of most types. Some of the best include “kijoyu,” which has a soy sauce base, along with “kamatama,” which has soy sauce with a raw egg, and the aforementioned bukkake.

There Is a Lot to Explore in Kagawa!


PIXTA

Once the program at Udon House is finished, you’re free to travel the coast of the Seto Inland Sea. About a 15-minute drive from Udon House is a beach called Chichibugahama, which gained popularity on Instagram in recent years because of its resemblance to the Uyuni Salt Flat in Bolivia. When the tide is low and there is little wind, an incredibly breathtaking reflection of the sky can be seen in the water.

An Experience I Will Remember Forever


Through Udon House, I had the unique experience of eating udon for breakfast at 7:00 am, and the fresh udon topped with soy sauce, sesame seeds, and lemon juice was the best I’d ever had in my life. It was fascinating to learn the techniques to make the perfect-sized noodles, and to see how with only simple ingredients, it’s possible to create such distinctive and delicious dishes. This was such a memorable experience, and I will look back fondly on it whenever I eat udon in the future. I highly recommend visiting Kagawa, and Udon House specifically, for anyone who loves traditional Japanese food and wants to know how it’s made!