Japan from the inside out

Posts Tagged ‘Noodles’

Shogatsu: Stretching soba over to the new year in Japan

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 31, 2007

ONE THING IS CERTAIN: At some time over the course of New Year’s Eve, most Japanese will eat a dish of toshikoshi (year-crossing) soba, or buckwheat noodles. The long-established custom of eating soba on the evening of 31 December derives from the hope that it will extend a family’s health and fortune over to the coming year.


Someone has to fill the demand for all that soba, and one company up to the task is San Shokuhin of Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, which shifted to 24-hour operation on the 28th with 180 employees, nearly half again their usual number. Until early this morning they kept the conveyor belt running while everyone was busy packing boxes with the freshly made, air-cooled product.
Over those four days they produced enough noodles for an estimated 700,000 meals, 80% of which will be consumed in the prefecture.

It’s reported that when people in Okinawa began eating toshikoshi soba on New Year’s Eve, they slurped down the variety from the main islands. They started switching to the Okinawan variety circa 1974, however, and that type became the established custom around 1982.

Hokkaido Hoedown

For an idea just how much soba means to the Japanese everywhere in the country, let’s jump from the far south in Okinawa to the scene in the second photo in the far north—the Sengen district of Fukushima-cho, Hokkaido.


The photo shows a scene of junior high school girls serving as miko, or shrine maidens, as they perform the local Matsumae kagura, a Shinto dance, to the accompaniment of taiko drums and flutes before an audience of about 200 in a 2.5-hectare field of white soba. The performance was staged as an offering for peace and an abundant harvest.

The community became involved in growing soba as a way to promote the local economy, and the Matsumae Kagura Preservation Society presents six types of the Shinto dances on a temporary stage in the soba fields early every autumn. This year’s performance was the sixth.

Sorry to run off so abruptly, but I’ve got a bowl of soba waiting!

Posted in Food, Holidays, Traditions | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »