Tohoku lies in the north-eastern region of Japan’s Honshu island. Its largest city is Sendai. By Shinkansen (bullet train), it will take you 1hr 40mins to get from Tokyo Station to Sendai Station. A stone’s throw away! The experience I had in Tohoku is too rich to summarise in one blog entry, and so I will highlight three of my favourite Prefectures in a mini-series: Yamagata, Iwate and Miyagi.

 

When I was in Hokkaido in 2007 to cover a story for Club Med Sahoro, I had my virgin attempt at making soba or buckwheat noodles.

But all I can remember of that experience was this adorable Club Med G.O. called Tamago (her name means “egg” in Japanese!) who was desperately trying to translate the instructions from Japanese to English for us, and we couldn’t understand a thing she was saying! *LOL*

So when I had the opportunity to roll up my sleeves and make my own soba in Yamagata – for the second time – I didn’t hesitate to give it a go!

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If you’re in Tohoku’s Yamagata Prefecture, there are several of these little local eateries that run their own private group lessons. It’s quite an experience because you learn to appreciate the skill that’s involved in making something so basic.

I attended a soba-making class by this soba shop owner (above) en route to Mount Zao. It was a humble little shop in a small town, and – like the elderly lady owner in Hokkaido – he too could not speak a word of English! So yes, we had to have a translator help us understand his instructions. Thank God Michiko-san was much better! *LOL*

Sifting buckwheat floor to make the dough.

Sifting buckwheat flour to make dough.

Rolling the dough into flat sheets before folding.

Rolling dough into flat sheets before folding.

Cutting folded dough into thin strips of noodles.

Cutting the folded dough into thin strips.

After what seemed like forever, we finally had something that remotely resembled Japanese noodles… All I can say is that after spending a good part of the morning making soba from scratch – with my bare hands – I will never take a bowl of soba for granted again!

Finally, our soba dough ready to be cooked in the kitchen!

Finally, our soba dough is ready to be cooked!

Watching over my buckwheat noodles!

Watching over my buckwheat noodles…

Running the cooked soba under iced cold water.

Running the cooked soba under iced water.

For a non-cook like me, it was a harrowing experience indeed. But the best part of the experience for me was that I got to enjoy the fruits of my labour at the end, complete with a spread of delectable homemade tempura!

We “soba minions” feasting after a morning of hard labour!

We “soba minions” feasting after a morning of hard labour!

And just for the record, pumpkin was in season in Tohoku, and this homemade pumpkin tempura was the best I’ve ever had – it was soft and sweet, coated with a secret tempura batter, and deep-fried to a light crunch. Awesome! 

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*This write-up was submitted to Key Destination, a travel website where I am part of a global team of in-house bloggers. 

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