Wednesday, September 30, 2015

In sanuki udon country

Can you imagine an area's welcome sign 
looking like this anywhere other than Japan? ;D

The very first photo I took in Kagawa prefecture, Shikoku,
and on my most recent visit to The Land of the Rising Sun ;b

To those of you who noticed the recent lack of blog updates and figured that I was off travelling again: you guessed right!  And you do indeed know me very well if you had reckoned that I was paying yet another visit to Japan!

This time around, I spent the majority of my trip in Shikoku, the smallest of the country's four main islands -- and the one I had previously never set foot on, unlike the case with Honshu (whose Kanto, Kansai and Chugoku regions I've been to), Hokkaido and Kyushu, and even Okinawa.  Considered remote and (relatively) undiscovered by foreigners, it -- like with the San-in Coast-- does take some effort to get to.  More precisely, I needed to take three trains to get from Kansai International Airport to Takamatsu, considered the gateway to Shikoku and the first of two cities I used as a travel base on this recent trip.

Pretty much the first thing I did after I checked into the Dormy Inn Takamatsu (which I chose to stay at after the great experience I had at the chain's hotel in Matsue) was to go eat a bowl of sanuki udon, the famously firm and chewy version of the thick wheat flour noodles that bears Kagawa's old prefectural name. 

A few years back, I watched a film called Udon (yes, really!) that got me appreciating the Japanese noodles that I had previously considered a far second best to soba.  Since then, I've eaten my share of udon, in Japan -- and also in Hong Kong, where I'm able to satisfy my cravings for them at dedicated udon specialists like Marugame Seimen.  

But at the risk of sounding like a food snob, there's really something special to eating udon in the spiritual home of sanuki udon!  Actually, when you think about it, there's a rational reason how come udon is so good in Kagawa prefecture.  

Consider this: in Takamatsu, I passed by scores of udon-ya but only saw one restaurant that specialized in soba and just a handful of ramen eateries.  (In fact, there appear to be way more ramen-ya in Hong Kong -- where the Japanese version of the Chinese lamian is super popular these days -- than there was in all of the parts of Shikoku I visited combined!)  With so many udon restaurants competing against one another, surely competition is super tough and only those deemed good by the area's discerning customers will be able to survive for long?

And for the record: yes, I had udon every day that I was in Shikoku. One reason is that the Dormy Inn Takamatsu offered a free breakfast that included a bowl of sanuki udon every morning that I stayed there (the way its Matsue branch had done with soba).  But on two occasions, I found myself happily lunching on udon too -- and didn't feel sick and tired of it the way I have to admit to feeling about soba after my time on the San-in coast where that particular type of noodle is king! ;b


sarah bailey knight said...

hi ytsl,

The udon looks yummy and I love the bowl it's served in. So did you and puppet Ponyo take/have taken a photo of yourselves eating udon like the blue horned "mascot" in your first photo? Does the "mascot" have a name you know of and did you see the horned blue udon guy other places?

YTSL said...

Hi sarah sbk --

Sorry, didn't take any photos of Puppet Ponyo and/or myself eating udon -- but can tell you that the blue horned mascot for Kagawa prefecture is known as Ao Oni-kun. Saw him at Kotohira too but from what I've read, he's been largely supplanted as the (main) Kagawa prefecture mascot by Udon No (who has udon for brains...)! ;b