Japanese Food Culture 1- Soba

History of Soba

It is said that soba was probably introduced to Japan before the Nara period (various theories exist).

At that time, buckwheat seeds were not ground into flour but were used to make porridge, or buckwheat flour was eaten as sobagaki (sobaneri) or sobayaki (buckwheat flour mixed with water and baked, with the flour of fuyaki replaced by buckwheat).

Later, kirisoba (buckwheat noodles) in its present form was born.

This was in 1574, and some say that the earliest document confirming this kirisoba is a record of a donation from Jyosho-ji Temple in Suhara, Okuwa-mura, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture.

There are two theories as to the origin of eating soba as noodles in Japan: the Shinshu theory and the Koshu theory.


Then, during the Edo period (1600-1867), soba became popular in the city of Edo (Tokyo) as a fast food of the time. For Edo people,  it seems that being able to eat quickly has led to the popularity of soba.


There are documents that show that "nihachi soba" (buckwheat noodles made of 80% buckwheat flour and 20% wheat flour) was the main type of buckwheat noodles at that time.


This is the mainstream soba noodles in modern times.

 After boiling SOBA, it is washed well with water.


It is eaten with cold "soba-tsuyu" (buckwheat sauce) or warm soup.


Photo: Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture

San-Tate Soba Nagahata-An" website

 External website https://nagahata-an.jp/





Cold mori soba and tempura. 



Zaru soba (buckwheat noodle) with wasabi and green onion as condiments. 




Ibuki, Maibara City, Shiga Prefecture, is the birthplace of Japanese soba.


Soba cultivation, which began on Mt. Ibuki, was introduced to the rest of the country (various theories exist).

 Ibukino, Maibara City, Shiga Prefecture

Oroshi soba

Shiga Biwako Tourist Information

A public interest incorporated association Biwako Visitors Bureau

External Sites




Cold soba noodles with meat

The noodles are thick and long and specially made, with a sweet and salty soup.

The owner from Yamagata produced "Yamagata Soba Cold Meat Soba" in Sendai.


“Toshichi”, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture

External website: Toshichi website










Hegisoba, a local dish of Niigata Prefecture


Hegi soba is served in a wooden rectangular bowl called "hegi."

 Seaweed "funori" is added as a binder for buckwheat noodles.

The pleasant smooth texture of this buckwheat noodle is enjoyable.


You can also enjoy "hegisoba" in Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo.

External site: Tabelog

Echigo Kagurazaka



Hands-on Soba Making Class

“Soba Making Lecture”held in Tokyo, Japan.

On this day, "Making soba at home after returning to your own country! Making soba at home" was the theme.


The instructor used a variety of professional soba making tools for the demonstration, but the participants were able to make soba using tools they have at home, since it is difficult to obtain such tools.



[Planning and management] Nanami Japanese Culture

 The photo shows a scene from a "hands-on soba making class”.

A scene where visitors from around the world touring a Japanese company.

This is a scene of soba noodles being carefully cut after they have been made by themselves.


Many of the participants commented that the most nerve-wracking part was cutting the soba noodles.




It is SOBA that was kneaded, cut and boiled by themselves.

At this time, we took the stance of not forcing "chopsticks" (hashi).

It was impressive that they used their forks skillfully to eat soba noodles.


The culture of "slurping" soba is probably unique to Japanese food culture.






Deep relationship between soba and "wasabi”


“Wasabi" is an indispensable ingredient for soba.

You can see "Wasabi" in the most pictures of Soba above. Wasabi and Soba have a deep relationship.





Soba-tsuyu is made from fish (bonito flakes, etc.) to make "dashi" (soup stock). Nowadays, all soba-tsuyu is deliciously made and prepared, but there is a theory that wasabi (Japanese horseradish) was used to remove the fishy smell in the old days.


At soba restaurants, "raw wasabi" is served. At home, however, most people use wasabi in a tube. The flavor of raw wasabi is completely different from that of tube wasabi.

If you find "raw wasabi" at a soba restaurant, try eating it on top of soba without dipping it in soba sauce. According to people who like Soba, this is “the way of eating Soba”. You can enjoy the flavor of raw wasabi more.


But it tastes best when you eat it the way you like it.

About Shinjuku Naito Togarashi

Another essential seasoning for soba is chili pepper (shichimi).

Hot soba noodles are usually served with hot chili peppers. However, in some regions, cold soba noodles are served with hot chili peppers.

Soba (buckwheat noodles) spread throughout the city of Edo (Tokyo) as a fast food during the Edo period (1603-1868), and an essential ingredient for soba was togarashi (red pepper).


At that time, "Naito Togarashi" was cultivated in what is now "Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo" and spread to the city of Edo (Tokyo) along with the popularity of soba (buckwheat noodles).

The Naito Togarashi disappeared temporarily with the rapid development of Shinjuku, but after several hundred years, the "seeds" of the peppers of that time were unearthed and successfully cultivated in other prefectures, reviving the Naito Togarashi.

It is currently marketed by an NPO under the trade name “Naito Togarashi”.


Naito Togarashi peppers are produced in small quantities and are rare, so there are times when you can buy it and times when you can't. 










Soba in other countries

[SOBA in France]

French soba are different from Japanese soba.

A dish made with buckwheat flour called "galette" is a local dish from Brittany, France, and is a thin crepe-like dish made with buckwheat flour.

The difference between a crepe and a galette is the ingredients: wheat flour is used for the crepe batter and buckwheat flour for the galette batter.


There are also restaurants specializing in galette in various parts of Japan.

There is a popular galette restaurant called Le Bretagne in Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. The restaurant offers galette with cheese, bacon, eggs, and other ingredients for a meal, as well as dessert-like galette with caramel, ice cream, and other ingredients for those with a sweet tooth.


External site Le Bretagne



[SOBA in Taiwan]

Many Japanese soba restaurants have established themselves in Taiwan. There are also cases of Taiwanese people learning soba in Japan and returning to their home countries to open soba restaurants.

Raw buckwheat noodles are lined up in front of soba noodle restaurants before they are boiled. Fresh soba noodles can also be found in fresh food markets.


The photo shows fresh buckwheat noodles at the market.

 5 Taiwanese dollars (Taiwanese yuan) per bag = approximately 200 yen .(2022.3)





There is a line of soba noodles along with many varieties of Chinese noodles.


If there were only a few Japanese Soba noodles left, was it because the quantity made that day was too small?

 Or was Japanese SOBA so popular that it was almost sold out?


[Soba in Myanmar]


 Soba is grown in the Shan State of Myanmar. The climate seems to be suitable for growing SOBA.

The outline of this project was based on the premise that buckwheat harvested in Myanmar would be exported to Japan, but JICA's project was terminated due to difficulties in establishing sales channels.

However, farmers in Shan State continued to grow buckwheat.

Therefore, the Asian Association for the Eradication of Drugs and Poverty, a non-profit organization, was established to continue the project to eradicate poppy cultivation and alleviate poverty, which has continued to the present day.


This is an actual buckwheat field in Shan State. It is a vast SOBA field. Buckwheat flowers are also blooming.

The photo was borrowed from the member.

[Myanmar Soba Project since 1996]

In 1996, the Myanmar government requested the Japanese government to develop a plan for Japanese overseas aid to Myanmar to “convert buckwheat into a poppy crop, and Japanese government will purchase the buckwheat produced”. This was the beginning of the poppy eradication project in Myanmar.


In 1999, the government began providing full-scale guidance on cultivation techniques to local farmers and expanded its cultivation area to 800 hectares.

They exported poppy crop of 19 tons to Japan for the first time.


After that, they steadily increased the area under cultivation and the yield.


In 2005, the Myanmar government continued the soba project, purchasing a total of 54 tons, 36 tons of which were exported to Japan.

In July of the same year, “the NPO Asian Association for Drugs and Poverty Eradication” was established in Japan.


● What are the varieties of soba?

Soba grown in Myanmar is the "Kitawase" variety introduced from Hokkaido, Japan. Good quality buckwheat is harvested in Shan State, Myanmar, which is close to Yunnan Province, China, where buckwheat is said to originate.


●Where is soba processed?

 Buckwheat flour is sent to Japan. It is processed into soba in Shinshu, Japan.


●Who cultivates soba?

 Soba is cultivated by ethnic minority women. They are promoting a project to empower women in the future. It is an activity of the SDGs.


For more information.

External Sites

Asian Association for Drugs and Poverty Eradication “adpea”



Fair trade products of coffee, dried noodles, brown buckwheat, buckwheat flour, galette flour



The information above and on this page is subject to change.

Please check before you go.