What do you think of when you hear the words ‘Japanese food’? Of course, rice is a staple in the Japanese diet, and Iwate is one of the most well-known rice producers in Japan . In early summer, you’ll see the rare scene that is the natural beauty of Iwate reflected in the rice paddies before rice is planted.

Mount Iwate, seen from early summer in Morioka

However, this article is not about rice. More than rice, the people of Iwate love noodles! That’s why I’m here to showcase the culture of the“Three Great Noodles of Morioka,” which is the capital city of Iwate Prefecture.

1)Wanko Soba (All-you-can-eat soba noodles)

Wanko Soba is a traditional food culture that arose from wanting to show hospitality to a large number of guests during gatherings. They place a bite-size portion of Japanese soba noodles in a small bowl, and serve it with a number of different appetizers. The server will stand by and cheer people on with a hearty “hai, janjan! (Here’s more!)” and “Ganbatte (do your best!)”as they fill up the bowl with more noodles once you’ve finished your portion. You don’t stop until you place your lid on top of the bowl. They place how many bowls you’ve eaten right in front of you so you can count how much you ate. It’s a very satisfying, fun, and delicious meal.

2)Morioka Reimen (a spicy noodle dish in a cold broth)

Morioka Reimen is a traditional dish from the Korean peninsula that has been arranged to fit Japanese tastes. The chewy, slightly-transparent noodles are served in a clear beef-bone broth. The soup and noodles are chilled, making it a very popular menu item during Japan’s hot summers. You can add as much or as little kimchi as you like to adjust the spiciness levels. Spice lovers should add enough to make the broth turn red!

3)Morioka Jajamen (flat noodles mixed with cucumbers and a miso paste)

Morioka Jajamen were developed based on a noodle dish from the northeast of China. Each restaurant has their own take on the miso paste added to the dish, which comprises of flat noodles that resemble udon noodles. Mix it all up when you’re ready to eat, adding vinegar, chili oil, and other condiments as you like – making it to your own tastes is the standard way of eating jajamen (called “ajihen”).

When you’re done eating, don’t forget to leave a little bit of noodles and other ingredients in the bowl. You can then add a raw egg and then ask the restaurant staff for “Chitantan!” This means they’ll fill the bowl up with piping hot soup so you can mix it all together and enjoy every last bit of the jajamen.

Be sure to make room in your stomach to enjoy our bountiful food culture! I hope you one day visit Iwate to give it a try.

(Photos by Morioka city)