Sep 23, 2010

Ueno Yabu Soba, Ueno, Tokyo.

I don't have a great track record with hunting down restaurants listed in travel guides.  Despite the clear maps and detailed addresses, I always seem to get lost.  Or distracted.

It was even more of a challenge in Japan because of the way addresses work there.  After walking around aimlessly for the first few days we were there, it suddenly clicked.  Addresses are based on where a building is in location to a block on a street and the numbers in the address reflect this.  There are few street numbers.  An anomaly in a country as precise and organized as this.  Or perhaps not, it must make sense to someone otherwise the system would not remain in place to this day.

When we were in Ueno, I had my heart set on visiting Ueno Yabu Soba, 6-9-16 Ueno, Taito-ku.  It is famous for its zaru-soba, or buckwheat noodles.  

To quote my guidebook, "Look for the black granite sign in front that says in English, 'Since 1892'."  Perhaps some of my conviction to visit lay in the fact that it had a sign that was partially in English.

Whatever the case, I must have had my sat nav Birkis on because in amongst all the laneways of the area, I found the sign, as described.

Here's a photo of the restaurant's more prominent signage against the backdrop of the numerous other businesses that were crammed along the narrow streets.

It was one of those firsts that Mr SSG had to celebrate with a cold beer.

Due to the extreme heat and humidity, Mr SSG had to drink the largest bottles of beer available in Japan to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
Flushed with a sense of achievement (and the 36C heat), I sat back on the second floor of the restaurant and gazed outwards through bamboo blinds.

We started with tamagoyaki, a rolled omelette that is a little sweet and flavoured with dashi.


Then the famed zaru soba.  It is such a light yet filling meal.  I don't really eat this at all in Sydney and am now inspired to hunt it out for lunch as a change from my usual favourite of several sushi hand rolls.

The question is, how to eat them?  The noodles arrived topped with nori but there was a bottle of sauce on the side plus an empty bowl under a dish of condiments.  

A couple sitting next to us sensed my confusion and kindly set me on the right path.  The noodle sauce is poured into the bowl and the garnishes added to taste.  Then, chopstick swirls of noodles are plunged into the sauce before being slurped up.  The slurp was emphasized.  When you have finished your meal, the waitress will pour either hot water or stock into your noodle bowl and this is drunk like a soup.

Toward the back of the eating area is a glass enclosed area where the noodles are made by hand.

There were also take home packs of ingredients.

Back to Sydney time.  I've just watched the first episode of Glee Season 2.  Wasn't it brilliant?  The song arrangements made me smile.  My favourites were Empire State of Mind, What I Did For Love and Telephone.  I'm off to Itunes to download.


  1. Hi SSG,
    long term reader, first time commenter. I just read Helen's entry after this one, and she mentioned zaru soba at this new place
    I hope it's as good as the one you had!

  2. FF: Hello, hope you are having a fab start to the weekend.

    B: Thanks for commenting and giving me the heads up on Mappen.

    SSG xxx

  3. Hi,
    I like your travel sharing .Hope you will enjoy there.

  4. Agreed. That first episode of Glee2 was awesome! Hello hello baby, you called? I can't hear a thing ... :)

  5. Just saw the Ueno Yabu Soba comment. Wife and two sons in Melborne as we speak. One sone and me Tokyo in May - staying in Ueno. Sounds great. Thanks for the "how to eat" tips!

    Beaufort, Soyth Carolina USA


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