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Exploring the World of Udon Noodle in Japan: A Foreign Traveler's Guide

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Visiting Japan and confused about navigating the world of Udon noodles? Here's a fact for you - Udon, a traditional Japanese noodle dish savored in both hot and cold forms, comes in an astonishing variety regional-specific recipes.

In this elucidative guide, we will decode different types of Udon, explain how to eat them correctly, and recommend some must-visit udon spots. Ready to become a pro in all things udon? Let's dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • Udon is a traditional Japanese noodle dish that comes in a wide variety of regional - specific recipes, and it can be enjoyed both hot and cold.

  • Understanding how to eat udon correctly is essential for foreign travelers visiting Japan, including knowing the different condiments that enhance its flavor.

  • There are many regional variations of udon across Japan, such as Sanuki Udon from Kagawa Prefecture and Kishimen from Aichi Prefecture, each offering unique flavors and textures.

  • Exploring warm, specialty, and cold udon dishes in Japan allows foreign travelers to experience the diverse range of flavors this popular noodle dish has to offer.

Understanding Udon: A Brief History and Its Significance in Japanese Cuisine

udon history

Udon, a beloved Japanese noodle dish, has its roots firmly set in the country's rich culinary history. Hailing back to centuries ago, these delicately thick flour-based noodles first graced Japan when they were introduced from China during the Edo period.

This tasty tradition quickly caught on and has since become an integral part of the nation's gastronomic identity.

The versatility of udon is perhaps one of its biggest strengths as it caters to different tastes and seasons remarkably well. It can be served hot or cold, with each style delivering a unique experience for your tastebuds.

In winter months, hot udon swims in dashi-based broth that warms you from within with its delicate umami flavor profile. During warmer days, chilled udon serves up refreshment like no other noodle dish can – all while still maintaining that distinctively slurp-able charm inherent to Japanese cuisine.

How to Eat Udon: A Guide for Foreign Travelers

eating udon

Foreign travelers visiting Japan can easily navigate the world of udon noodles by understanding how to eat it, whether hot or cold, and being familiar with the wide range of condiments that complement this popular Japanese dish.

Eating Hot Udon

Savoring hot udon in Japan is a thrilling experience every foreign traveler should indulge in. It's more than just devouring a bowl of noodles; it's about immersing yourself into the soulful culinary scene of Japan.

Usually served in scorching soup broth, these thick flour-based noodles stand out for their rich flavor and delightfully chewy texture.

Top off your piping hot udon with various ingredients like spicy chili peppers or ginger to add an extra kick, sesame seeds for a nutty touch, or fresh green onions to bring some freshness to your meal.

Diving into this staple Japanese noodle dish at local chain shops such as Hanamaru Udon and Marugame Seimen will give you a real taste of the traditional Japanese flair that resonates with both locals and visitors alike.

Enjoying Cold Udon

Exploring the world of Japanese cuisine leads you straight to the cool, refreshing delight of cold udon. This versatile noodle dish, typically served in a chilled tsuyu broth during summer months, offers a different taste dimension compared to its hot counterpart.

As you navigate through the diverse culinary landscape of Japan, tasting cold udon is an experience not to be missed. Each bite takes you on a journey: thick flour-based noodles chilled and bathed in tsuyu—a soy-based dipping sauce—delivers balance between hearty bites and light flavors.

Cold versions like Zaru Udon come topped with green onions, shredded seaweed or even sesame seeds for added crunch while Salad Udon transforms the traditional into something more familiar for Western palates by including crisp lettuce and other raw veggies into this fascinating blend of textures and tastes.

No matter where your travels take you across Japan—Hokkaido's north or Okinawa's south—you're sure to find a local variation that adds another layer to your cold-udon exploration.

Understanding Udon Condiments

Udon condiments are an important part of enjoying this delicious Japanese noodle dish. Here are the key condiments you should know:

  1. Green onions: These finely chopped onions add a fresh and aromatic flavor to your udon.

  2. Shredded seaweed: Sprinkle some shredded nori seaweed on top of your udon for a touch of umami and texture.

  3. Japanese chili flakes: If you like a bit of heat, sprinkle some Japanese chili flakes (shichimi) on your udon for an extra kick.

  4. Ginger: Finely grated ginger adds a refreshing taste and cuts through the richness of the soup broth.

  5. Sesame seeds: Toasted sesame seeds can be sprinkled on top of your udon for added nuttiness and crunch.

  6. Tenkasu: These crispy, tempura-fried crumbs add a delightful texture to your udon dish.

  7. Tsuyu: Tsuyu, a savory sauce made from soy sauce, mirin, and dashi, is commonly used as a dipping sauce or soup base for udon.

The Many Varieties of Udon: A Regional Breakdown

udon varieties

Discover the regional flavors of udon across Japan, from Sanuki Udon in Kagawa Prefecture to Kishimen in Aichi Prefecture and more. Read on to explore the diverse world of udon noodles!

Sanuki Udon (Kagawa Prefecture)

Sanuki Udon, hailing from Kagawa Prefecture in Japan, is a must-try for udon enthusiasts. This famous type of noodle is known for its unique and satisfying chewy texture. Kagawa prefecture, formerly known as Sanuki, takes pride in its local specialty and offers an immersive experience for visitors at 'UDON HOUSE' in Mitoyo-city.

Here, you can not only savor authentic Sanuki Udon but also learn how to make it yourself through their udon-making classes. The passionate staff at 'UDON HOUSE' will guide you through the process - from mixing the dough with your hands to stepping on it with your feet! Sanuki Udon broth typically features dried sardines ('Iriko') and soy sauce from Shodoshima, adding depth of flavor to this delightful dish.

Be sure to venture into Kagawa Prefecture and indulge in a bowl of Sanuki Udon during your visit to Japan!

Inaniwa Udon (Akita Prefecture)

Akita Prefecture is famous for its regional specialty, Inaniwa Udon. These udon noodles are distinctively delicate and hand-stretched, offering a unique texture that sets them apart from other varieties.

Made using a traditional method, Inaniwa Udon noodles are thin and chewy, creating a satisfying bite in every mouthful. When exploring the world of udon noodle in Japan, don't miss the chance to try this Akita favorite and experience the rich culinary heritage that makes it such an integral part of Japanese cuisine.

Ise Udon (Mie Prefecture)

In Mie Prefecture, you'll find the delightful Ise Udon. This unique variation of udon stands out for its incredibly thick and soft noodles. These noodles are boiled until they achieve a wonderfully chewy texture that pairs perfectly with the dish's black, concentrated sauce and sliced spring onions topping.

If you're in Mie, don't miss the chance to try this local specialty and savor the rich flavors it has to offer.

Mizusawa Udon (Gunma Prefecture)

In Gunma Prefecture, a region known for its beautiful mountains and hot springs, you'll find Mizusawa Udon, a delicious variation of udon noodles that will surely tantalize your taste buds. What sets Mizusawa Udon apart is its unique flavor and texture.

This regional specialty is typically served with a piping hot soup broth, similar to the classic Kake Udon. However, what makes it truly special is the variety of toppings you can enjoy alongside it.

From green onions and shredded seaweed to chili flakes and ginger, each bite offers a burst of flavors that perfectly complement the chewy noodles. So if you find yourself in Gunma Prefecture on your Japan journey, don't miss the opportunity to savor this local treasure - Mizusawa Udon!

Kishimen (Aichi Prefecture)

Kishimen is a unique variation of udon noodles that hails from Aichi Prefecture in Japan. Known for its thick and chewy noodles, Kishimen offers a delightful culinary experience for foreign travelers exploring the world of udon.

This regional style of udon can be enjoyed with various toppings such as green onions, chili flakes, and sesame seeds. One popular way to savor Kishimen is by pairing it with a black, concentrated sauce and sliced spring onions.

So if you find yourself in Aichi Prefecture during your Japan visit, don't miss the opportunity to try this delicious local specialty!

Exploring Unique Udon Dishes

udon dishes

Discover the tantalizing world of warm, specialty, and cold udon dishes - from the classic Kake Udon and Tanuki Udon to the unique Tsukimi Udon and Zaru Udon. Ready to have your taste buds thrilled? Keep reading!

Warm Udon: Kake Udon, Tempura Udon, Kamaage Udon

Have you ever tried warm udon noodles in Japan? Here are some delicious options to savor during your visit:

  • Kake Udon: This is the most basic and traditional way to enjoy warm udon. The freshly boiled noodles are served in a hot soup broth, often topped with green onions, shredded seaweed, and sometimes chili flakes or ginger for an added kick.

  • Tempura Udon: If you're a fan of crispy tempura, then this is the perfect dish for you. It combines the delightful crunch of tempura with the comforting warmth of udon noodles. The tempura can include shrimp, vegetables, or even seafood, giving you a variety of options to choose from.

  • Kamaage Udon: For a truly unique experience, try kamaage udon. In this dish, the noodles are served in the water they were boiled in, along with a side of soy sauce or tsuyu for dipping. The simplicity of this preparation allows you to fully appreciate the flavor and texture of the noodles themselves.

Specialty Udon: Tanuki Udon, Kitsune Udon, Tsukimi Udon, Curry Udon

Specialty Udon dishes in Japan offer foreign travelers a taste of unique flavors and cultural experiences. Here are some must-try options:

  1. Tanuki Udon: This delicious udon dish is topped with tenkasu, crispy fried bits of tempura batter. It adds a delightful crunch and flavor to the noodles.

  2. Kitsune Udon: Soft and silky udon noodles are topped with aburaage, a sheet of fried tofu boiled in sweet sauce. The combination of savory and sweet flavors makes this dish a favorite among locals.

  3. Tsukimi Udon: This udon dish represents the beauty of the moon with its topping of a raw egg. When mixed into the hot broth, it creates a rich and creamy texture.

  4. Curry Udon: For those craving a fusion of Japanese and Indian flavors, Curry Udon is the perfect choice. The thick udon noodles are served in a hot curry-flavored broth, creating a comforting and spicy bowl of goodness.

Cold Udon: Zaru Udon, Oroshi Shoyu Udon, Salad Udon

Cold Udon in Japan offers a refreshing twist on this popular noodle dish. Here are three delicious variations to try:

  • Zaru Udon: This cold udon dish is perfect for hot summer days. The noodles are served on a bamboo mat and paired with a soy-based dipping sauce. Enjoy the cool, chewy noodles as you dip them into the flavorful sauce.

  • Oroshi Shoyu Udon: If you're looking for something with a bit of zing, try Oroshi Shoyu Udon. This variation features grated daikon radish and a soy-based sauce. The combination of the radish's refreshing taste and the savory sauce creates a delightful balance of flavors.

  • Salad Udon: For those seeking a lighter option, Salad Udon is the way to go. This cold udon dish is topped with fresh vegetables and dressed in a light dressing. The crispness of the vegetables adds a satisfying crunch to every bite.

Where to Eat Udon in Japan: Recommendations for Travelers

For travelers looking to enjoy authentic udon in Japan, we recommend visiting renowned udon chain shops such as Marugame Seimen and Hanamaru Udon for a wide variety of flavorful udon dishes.

Additionally, specialty stores like Udon Shin, Teuchi Udon Kanouya, and Tsurutontan offer unique and delicious udon experiences that should not be missed during your visit.

Udon Chain Shops: Marugame Seimen, Hanamaru Udon

udon restaurant

Looking for a delicious and authentic udon experience during your trip to Japan? Look no further than these popular udon chain shops:

  • Marugame Seimen: With multiple locations throughout the country, Marugame Seimen offers a wide variety of udon dishes made with fresh ingredients. Their self-service style allows you to customize your udon by adding your choice of toppings and condiments.

  • Hanamaru Udon: Known for their fast and efficient service, Hanamaru Udon is a great option if you're looking for a quick and tasty udon meal. They have an extensive menu featuring both hot and cold udon dishes, including specialty options like tempura udon and curry udon.

Udon Specialty Stores: Udon Shin, Teuchi Udon Kanouya, Tsurutontan

If you're a foreign traveler in Japan looking to indulge in the world of udon, you won't want to miss out on these amazing udon specialty stores: Udon Shin, Teuchi Udon Kanouya, and Tsurutontan. Here's what you need to know about each of them:

  • Udon Shin: Located in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Udon Shin is a must-visit for udon enthusiasts seeking authentic flavors and handmade udon noodles. With its convenient location just a five-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station, it's the perfect spot to satisfy your udon cravings. At Udon Shin, the noodles are kneaded, cut, and cooked on the spot for ultimate freshness. The cozy atmosphere and friendly staff make waiting for your freshly made udon noodles an enjoyable experience.

  • Teuchi Udon Kanouya: Situated in Asakusa, Teuchi Udon Kanouya is a renowned handmade udon specialty store that has gained fame for its various udon variations like bukkake and kamaage. Opened in November 2005, this charming establishment provides a calming atmosphere where you can savor your udon dishes. Don't miss the chance to experience the different flavors and textures offered at Teuchi Udon Kanouya.

  • Tsurutontan: If you're looking for addictive textures and unique flavors, Tsurutontan is the place to go. This popular udon shop has multiple locations in Tokyo including Ginza, Haneda Airport, Roppongi, and Shinjuku. Tsurutontan is famous for its special blend of flour used to make their udon noodles; it's what sets them apart from other establishments. Indulge yourself with their delectable selection of udon dishes.

Conclusion: Savor the World of Udon During Your Japan Visit

In conclusion, exploring the world of udon noodle in Japan is a must for any foreign traveler. From understanding its rich history and significance in Japanese cuisine to enjoying the diverse regional varieties and unique dishes, udon offers an endless culinary adventure.

So, make sure to savor this delicious and nourishing meal during your visit to Japan – it's an experience you won't want to miss!


There are several types of udon noodles such as cold udon, shin udon, warm udon, su udon, bukkake udon, yaki udon, kamatama udon, and wakame udon.

Tokyo is home to many udon specialty restaurants. Some of the best udon restaurants in Tokyo include Chikara Udon, Sanuki Udon Restaurant, and various standing udon shops.

Udon is made from wheat noodles. The dough is kneaded, rolled out, and then cut into thick noodles. The noodles are boiled until they are soft and chewy.

Udon is topped with various ingredients such as tempura, sliced green onions, grated daikon radish, shredded nori (seaweed), and kamaboko (fish cake).

Yes, Kagawa Prefecture is famous for its udon noodles. The region is known as the ‘Udon Prefecture’ and is renowned for its sanuki udon, a type of udon specific to the region.

Besides Tokyo and Kagawa Prefecture, there are many udon hotspots throughout Japan. Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Nagoya are known for their delicious udon dishes.

No, udon and soba noodles are different. Udon noodles are made from wheat, while soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour. They have different textures and flavors.

Standing udon refers to a style of dining where customers eat their udon while standing at a counter. It is a convenient and popular option for those looking for a quick meal.

Udon noodles are usually served hot, in a warm broth. However, there are also variations such as cold udon, which is served chilled with a dipping sauce.

Yes, there are several low-cost udon chains in Japan that offer delicious udon dishes at very affordable prices. Some of the most popular ones include: (1) Marugame Seimen: Also known as Marugame Udon in some places outside of Japan, this chain is known for its self-service style and freshly made Sanuki-style udon. Customers can watch the udon being made before their eyes. (2) Hanamaru Udon: This is another popular chain offering a variety of udon dishes in a self-service format. In addition to udon, they also have a wide range of tempura and rice balls. (3) Yoshinoya: Although more famous for its gyudon (beef bowl), Yoshinoya also offers udon dishes at a low cost.

Udon is served in a variety of ways, but a simple, traditional recipe to try at home is 'Kitsune Udon'. This popular dish consists of boiled udon noodles served in a savory soy-based broth and topped with sweet and seasoned tofu.

Cold udon, known as 'Zaru Udon', is a popular dish especially during the hot summer months in Japan. The noodles are chilled and served on a bamboo tray, typically accompanied by a flavorful dipping sauce.

Shin Udon refers to a style of udon where the noodles are thinner than traditional udon. Originating from the Shinjuku area in Tokyo, a typical bowl of Shin Udon might feature udon topped with green onions, tempura, or raw egg yolk.

Every region in Japan has its own udon specialty. For instance, in the Kagawa prefecture, 'Sanuki Udon', characterized by its square shape and flat edges, is a must-try. It's typically served with a soy-based broth and topped with green onions.

Udon is a dish with countless varieties. The key differences lie in their toppings, thickness of the noodles, and the type of broth used. For instance, 'Kake Udon' is a simple dish with noodles served in a hot soy-based broth, while 'Yaki Udon' is stir-fried and often features a variety of vegetables and proteins.

Warm udon is very popular during the colder months as it provides a comforting and hearty meal. A popular dish is 'Tempura Udon', which is a bowl of udon served hot with pieces of tempura, like shrimp or chicken tempura, on top.

Choosing an udon dish often depends on personal preference and the season. For instance, a refreshing bowl of cold udon might be ideal in summer, while a steaming bowl of 'Kitsune Udon' or 'Curry Udon' would be comforting in winter. Regardless, any type of udon will give you a taste of these delightful wheat flour noodles.