Monday, August 11, 2008

Nagashi Somen (流しそうめん) in Kibune

Where: Kibune (north of Kyoto)
When: Saturday June 15, 2008
Info: Kibune is a small mountain town located about an hour from Kyoto. In the summer months it is a popular destination for kawadoko dining. This is involves eating your meal while seated on platforms suspended just above or near the flowing waters of the river. Kyoto is crazy hot in the summer and apparently, it can feel up to five degrees cooler when sitting on these platforms in Kibune! Oh, and the view is pretty amazing too!

We took a private train line to Kibune and then walked into the town. The road to the town with quite beautiful, lined with cedar forests on one side and the river on the other. The weather turned out to be cool and cloudy but luckily it didn't rain. We were looking for a specific restaurant (Hirobun) located near the beginning of the river restaurants, or in other words, closer to the top of the mountain. It was supposed to have one of the best views of any restaurant in Japan and it didn't disappoint. My jaw almost dropped when I saw where we were going to be eating! Check out the little waterfall!

I was a lot cooler on once we were on the platforms (Truthfully, I was freezing...) and I can imagine that in the August/September heat of Japan this would be REALLY nice. We had to wait for a while since they could only seat about 8 people at a time. All of these people were here for the nagashi somen.

Elspeth had heard about nagashi somen ('flowing noodles') somewhere and I went on an internet hunt to find a restaurant that served it. Nagashi somen is a summer food event where they send small bundles of somen noodles down a 'half-pipe' (traditionally made of bamboo) flowing with cold water. Most of the time this takes place at festivals but we managed to find a restaurant which specialized in it in this picturesque town.

When our turn finally arrived, we were seated in front of a counter and instructed to use the front 'trough'. Our neighbours had the far one and the pipe coming from above was for the four people farther down the counter. The restaurant worker then disappeared into a little shack and we got ready to catch our lunch.

Those little bundles of noodles move quick! I was so busy taking pictures and video that I missed my first bunch. Oh well, not to worry, there was plenty (more somen than I've ever eaten before!). You had to move your chopsticks fast but once you had a grip on the noodles, the little bundle was easy to pick up, dip into your sauce/broth and enjoy. 

The somen was delicious and the broth was fabulous but I think the real winner here was the view. It was gorgeous! 
Blogger is being difficult right now and is refusing to upload my video! So instead here's a link to Elspeth's video (which is better than mine anyways)

The end of the meal is signaled by a bundle of pink somen shooting down the pipe. It was flavoured with ume and shiso (not my fav) but a nice way to end an exciting meal. We said goodbye to the view and started our way back down the mountain.

We walked by a famous shrine in Kibune but weren't too enthusiastic about climbing to the top to find out what was there. Instead we decided to walk back to the train station, head back to Kyoto and contact some of Elspeth's friends.

(We passed some VERY straight cedar forests...and commented on how very Japanese they looked. No leaning trees here...)

(Restaurants facing the kamogawa river in Kyoto)

Later that night we caught up with Elysaar, Elspeth's friend from University. We grabbed some sushi for dinner and for dessert we headed to a pretty posh looking cafe. We chose this cafe because of their parfait selection. The menu had 164 different parfaits!!! And for fun (and for my benefit) Elysaar and Elspeth translated ALL OF THEM! We were there for quite a while but it was fun to look at some of the stranger options. We even wrote down potential choices on bits of napkin and then narrowed our choices down. I finally chose a berry/cheesecake parfait. Yum!

(Elysaar and Elspeth enjoying their parfaits!)

After eating and talking we headed out to find a game centre. Purikura was a must and we rocked the split screen/3 person shots. Elspeth also hacked the machine's website and got all six of the photos for free instead of the usual three. (She's like Dade Murphy, that one! HA!) 

Hilarious. A day of catching noodles shooting down a tube, eating on a platform over a river, parfaits, a shirt with my name on it, purikura, sushi and Kyoto?! Sounds pretty darn perfect. 

Stay tuned for an amazing story about the following day...think kimonos, make-up and the highest platform shoes I've ever you're interested now. muhuuhaaahaaa!!


Elspeth said...

That weekend was truly fabulous! Can't wait to see your post from the Monday!

And also, could this North American weather get better?

Steph said...

Yeah noodles! That restaurant seriously looked gorgeous what with the waterfall and all that. I think it's one of those "only in Japan" experiences...

The weather is nice here in Nashville too! I'm resenting being cooped up writing my paper (man, I really got NO summer vacation at all this year. Bummer.), which I shockingly want to be outside. We rode our bikes to bubble tea earlier in the week, and took the dogs for a mile-long walk yesterday. I tripped and scraped my knee open when Emmy decided to chase a squirrel (and it still burns), but apart from that, it was so fun!

Tang said...

I see nagashi somen in anime, but never thought about experiencing it in real life. Love your post!