Cuisine Culture Tohoku

Wanko Soba in Iwate | Noodles Dish

Wanko Soba is one of the most popular local specialties of Iwate prefecture especially in Morioka and Hanamaki areas. It is really funny and interesting moment while eating bowls of wanko soba until you are fully satisfied your stomach and mind. Waitress holding a tray with bowls of wanko soba is always ready to serve you. You don’t have to order for more because they know how to serve you in time before you run out of delicious soba.

If you think that having only 10 bowls of wanko soba is enough for you then you will make the hostess/waitress think of bad and you would make her disappointed. Don’t take it seriously though! She won’t do anything bad, but she might think that you did not enjoy your meal. If you can’t eat at least 40 to 50 then it is a shame for you, after all the dish is about hospitality!

Wanko soba noodles. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Here is an interesting fact – wanko soba is said to be one of the three greatest noodles of Morioka city. Here I tell you the other two noodles dishes you could certainly try along with this yummy dish, they are: Morioka Reimen, and Morioka Jajamen Noodles. You would hardly feel why they are called as the greatest noodles dishes of Morioka until you try them separately at different restaurants located in the city.

I hope you would be able to write a better review than those of the others who already did it. Probably, I am not a good reviewer though when it comes to talking about the Tohoku region, I always ready to show its popular things and that is why today you will be learning about Iwate’s famous Wanko Soba in this post.

Insights into Wanko Soba Noodles

There you go since your lid is still on the table! Photo Credit: Yukiko * Snowy at Flickr.

Wanko is a tiny bowl while soba is a kind of buckwheat noodles which comes in different varieties based on local preferences. Usually, a small portion of soba noodles is served in a small bowl.

Don’t forget that you will be served more until you are full. In fact a tray contains of 15 bowls of soba that means you get prepared to have at least 4 to 5 trays of wanko soba. I have seen many people stop the journey right after having about 50 bowls. It is normal but if you are a real foodie person then don’t try to step back just go ahead and enjoy your meal.

The origin of wanko soba is said to begin in 16th century. The lord of the Nambu domain, Nambu Toshinao (1599-1632) once visited Hanamiki around 380 years ago. That was the time when he fell in love with this unique noodle dish as his retainers served bite-sized bowl of soba noodles. I just wanted to let you know it thinking that you might be interested in it.

The hostess refilling the bowls of the customers. Photo Credit:

Yes, you will be served fresh yummy soba noodles but there are various condiments with it such as nameko, sashimi, simmered with soya sauce, daikon radish pickled in miso, various dipping sauce, crushed walnuts, harako, and mushroom. I think when it comes to a winning a Wanko soba eating contest then most of the competitors forget to have the condiments.

I am glad to inform you that, annual competitions are held in Hanamaki and Morioka cities. Therefore, if you are keen to participate in these wanko soba eating contests then get there in February or in November. There is a person who ate 218 bowls in just five minutes during the 2009 Hanamaki wanko soba championship. I am sure the champion has gone through a hard time, no doubt!

You will be given an apron, and you have to wear it just in case something goes wrong while eating it. You don’t only get an apron, a bowl to eat soba but also a waitress who will be serving you until you slide the lid on your bowl. Just do it or she will pour another bowl of soba noodle in to you bowl. Yes it gets refilled if you are not aware of this custom. And ultimately you will have to eat it fully. Don’t say “Stop” but put the lid on your bowl. This is just a hint for you, when you are finished eating just do as I said here.

A Few Eating Tips to Share

Here are the condiments! Photo Credit: Justin Doub at Flickr.

To be honest with you, if you are in a restaurant to taste it then no need to eat it quickly. Take your time please! This is an essential eating tip for you. Remember you are not going to participate in an eating contest. So always eat at a steady pace which would be both enjoying and comfy. Don’t take it as your breakfast meal, it is advised not to eat it on an empty stomach.

In the heart of Morioka city there is a number of specializing wanko soba restaurants, some of them require a reservation. And finally, you are suggested to add toppings so that you don’t get tired of the soba flavor. That’s a really good point which I believe you should obey.

Where to Eat Wanko Soba in Morioka and Hanamaki?

These are two places where wanko soba can be enjoyed most; they are certainly Morioka and Hanamaki. You may also find wanko soba restaurants in Tokyo, please search for it if you are in Tokyo now and don’t have time to travel to Iwate. But to be honest with you, if you are in Iwate to see its popular cherry blossoms spots then don’t forget to head to a restaurant that serve this delicious noodle dish. Please take a look at the following restaurants:

1) Hatsukoma Honten
10-21 Hachiman, Morioka
Tel: 019-651-7184
Hours: 11:00-14:00
(Reservation required after 14:00)
(Sundays & National Holidays: 11:00-15:00)
Holidays: Open daily
(Sundays: until 15:00)
Price range: from 2,520 yen/person

2) Azumaya Honten
1-8-3 Nakanohashi Dori, Morioka
Tel: 019-622-2252
Hours: 11:00-20:00
Holidays: Closed irregularly
Price range: from 2,625 yen/person

3) Chokurian
1-12-13 Nakanohasi Dori, Morioka
Tel: 019-624-0441
Hours: 11:00-21:00
(No orders taken after 20:00)
Holidays: Wednesdays
(Opens in case of National Holidays)
Price range: from 2,940 yen/person

4) Kajiya
2-19 Azumacho, Hanamaki
Tel: 0198-22-3322
Hours: 11:00-14:20 / 17:00-21:00
(No orders taken after 20:00)
Holidays: Wednesdays
(Opens in case of National Holidays)
Price range: from 3,200 yen/person

5) Yabuya Sohonten
7-13 Fupparicho, Hanamaki
Tel: 0198-24-1011
Hours: 11:00-21:00
(No orders taken after 20:00)
Holidays: 1st & 3rd Mondays
(Opens in case of National Holidays)
Price range: from 3,150 yen/person

You can find out more restaurants address here.

Because of its unique texture and watery broth, it is easy to slurp and swallow at the same time. If you are asked what the best noodle dish of Iwate prefecture is, then you can name it right away as it is quite appropriate. Eating local specialties while traveling around is a must thing to do. You would only have a great complete trip if you try them out in a restaurant.

As visiting Iwate is quite easy to access to from Tokyo, I guess you won’t bother getting in there and have as many as wanko soba bowls you can. I hope this article helps you understand what the dish is about and please don’t bother about learning the recipe if you have the opportunity from someone who knows it perfectly. Thanks for reading.

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