Ugo town is located in a basin sandwiched between Ou Mountain Range and Dewa Mountains. On this land known for the Nishimonai Bon Odori, one of “Japan’s Three Big Bon Odori”, there is a taste that has been inherited for over 200 years, “Yasuke soba”, founded in 1818 during the Edo period.
The characteristics of the soba noodle here are: always being served with a cold soup, and to use seaweed within the noodles. The handmade soba noodles contain a high rate of buckwheat, therefore they must be eaten quickly once served. Then, you can taste the goodness over the throat and the rich flavor of buckwheat and seaweed.
The secret of the taste that continues from the Edo period is besides its excellence in choosing the right ingredients. “Because the groundwater here is the essence of the soba noodle, the shop will not move to other places,” said Mr. Shoichiro Kin, the sixth generation shop owner. In Ugo town there are many spring water famous among the locals. That water quality is indispensable for the taste of the soba.
Traditional skills, but self-taught
“I am the sixth generation without a teacher,” says the chef because he was 29 years old when he lost his father and he had to take over the shop while being young. Prior to that, he was sent to the world of Japanese style cooking. Although the taste of soba itself was familiar from childhood, he had to struggle to self-teach the soba cooking skills. 40 years later, today he is presenting many disciples as the original ancestor of “Nishimonai soba”. He is also keen on evangelism of soba making and is spreading his skills regardless of pro-am as an advisor to the “Nishimonai soba association” that was established in 2017.
The Osaka style taste that traveled on the sea
The original master, Yasuke, who is also the origin of the shop name, went for a wandering trip when he was around 10. It is told that he was carrying a technique of soba noodle from Osaka on the Kitamae ship. The unique white soba noodle became popular among the Nishimonai region, which prospered as a post town for traveling to the capital of Edo.
Although being scared by the weight of the tradition, once I started tasting the rich flavor of the noodle I finished it up in a second. The tempura and the pickles are made by carefully chosen vegetables from the region. While talking with the friendly master in his strong Akita dialect, I did not feel the weight of 200 years but a warm heart that has been inherited since then until today.