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Bamboo cups for dipping sauce (Dashi)

What is Nagashi Sōmen or Flowing Noodles?

Have your parents ever told you not to play with your food? Well, that won’t happen when it’s time to eat nagashi sōmen, or “flowing noodles”. In fact, this Japanese tradition is like a game that makes you work for your food! Hungry players must fish out their noodles with chopsticks as they slide down a long bamboo flume with fast-running cold water that carries the Japanese noodles. That’s how it got the name “flowing noodles”. The noodles are then immediately dipped in tsuyu (flavoured dipping sauce) and eaten. Though it can be harder than it looks, it is simple enough that kids can enjoy it, and nobody has to go hungry!

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Flowing noodles

When Do Japanese People Eat Flowing Noodles?

Nagashi sōmen is a lot of fun, so Japanese people must do it all the time right? Actually, flowing noodles is a summer tradition in Japan, like suikawari. Japanese people have all kinds of creative traditions that make the most of each season, and summer is no exception! Taking advantage of the sunny weather, the bamboo flumes can be placed outside where there is plenty of room for excitement and laughter. The cold water is very refreshing in the summer, so you’ll have a hard time stopping yourself from going for another dip trying to fish out some tasty, chilled noodles.

The History of Japan’s Summer Tradition of Flowing Noodles

How did the tradition of flowing noodles get started in Japan? Though sōmen has been eaten for centuries, the history of this summer tradition is relatively modern. Flowing noodles seems to have originated in Takachiho in Miyazaki Prefecture on Kyushu Island in the late 1950’s thanks to the creative owner of the House of Chiho. The pure natural spring water of the area was the inspiration for this tradition, as it added a certain freshness and natural flavor. The cold water also quickly cooled the boiled noodles so they could be eaten more comfortable in the summer heat. Since then, the tradition spread to other places around Japan. As flowing noodles grew in popularity, the tradition evolved, becoming more accessible. Now people can get flowing noodle machines that spin the noodles around in a circle, so it can be enjoyed anywhere.

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Where to Eat Flowing Noodles Around Tokyo

Being an outdoor summer tradition, the best place for enjoying flowing noodles with friends is a camp or local park event surrounded by beautiful Japanese nature. However, there are some restaurants that set up areas for flowing noodles too! In the Tokyo suburbs of Nagatoro, Saitama, you can try flowing noodles at Hana-no-motenashi. The natural scenery and charming atmosphere of Nagatoro is perfect for a day of adventure outdoors. A refreshing all-you-can-eat meal of chilled flowing noodles makes the journey even better!

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