New Year’s Soba … ‘Chya!

If you live (or have lived) in Japan, you are no doubt familiar with toshikoshi soba (年越し蕎麦 or New Year’s soba). If not, it is Japanese tradition to eat soba on the last of the year, letting go of the hardships endured, with the buckwheat plant representing strength and resiliency. The tradition started sometime during the 250 years of the Edo Period, so I like to have my soba in an atmosphere that reflects “Old Japan”.

My favorite soba shop for this traditional atmosphere is Sobachaya (そば茶屋), located at the southern end of Koenji’s PAL Shotengai. The centerpiece of the small restaurant is a large communal hibachi table — a beautiful cypress tree trunk surrounded by smaller stumps for seating. Above it is a large, red Japanese oil-paper umbrella (wagasa or 和傘). There are a few tables along the window front and two tables on tatami mats at the back for those who like to sit on the floor.

Fortunately, the soba is as good as the decor. The soba noodles must be nearing a metre in length and served with a generous portion of tempura. When ordering soba with tempura you have a choice of tenzaru soba (ざるそば) — cold noodles on a plate with a side of tsuyu (つゆ) for dipping, or tempura soba (天ぷらそば) — all of it served in a bowl of hot soup in a manner similar to ramen. The shrimp (ebi or 海老) is as tasty as it is huge. Not bad for under/around 900 yen.

Koenjagaya_Sobachaya_001
Tempura soba (hot)
Koenjagaya_Sobachaya_002
Tenzaru soba (cold)
Sobachaya in 2010
Sobachaya in 2010
Shop info:
Sobachaya
4-6-2 Koenji-Minami
Suginami-ku, Tokyo 166-0003
Tel: (03) 3311-4570
Lunch: 11:30 to 16:00
Dinner: 17:30 to 20:00
Closed Thursdays
Website: none found
Email:none found
Twitter: none found
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