Soba in Japan (Outside of Tokyo)
I'm traveling to Japan the second week of April and am trying to find out the best place to experience soba outside of Tokyo. I only have a week in Japan and plan on spending 4 days in Tokyo and 3 days in a town or city known for their soba. I looked into Hokkaido, but the flights are very expensive. The other places I'm looking at are Takayama and Togakushi. Hida beef and the Takayama Matsuri is happening so that is a bonus for Takayama. I haven't found or am not looking in the right places on the internet for more information about great soba towns. Does anybody have any recommendations before I book Takayama?
Takayama is not known for soba as far as I know but a short bus ride away is Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO preserved old time village that is kind of known for soba and has an operating old fashioned soba making operation. I think you can take classes as well. Three days that include Takayama and Shirakawa-go would probably be worth looking into.
I know Nagano Prefecture is known for soba but I've never heard of Togakushi. There are a lot of small towns and villages that are known for soba and you can google around to find those but I don't know if you will find 3 days worth of anything to do as a tourist in some of them- Togakushi included.
I had some really good soba in Takyama. It was near the folk museum iirc and after a bit of research I'm pretty sure Kyoya is the place.
Regardless of the soba Takyama was one of my food highlights when I was in Japan and it's worth going for the Hida beef and they have some interesting food stalls at the market by the river and the Izakaya near Takayama train station-Origin, had some really interesting dishes.
For easy access to good soba head to Nagano. Karuizawa has lots of good soba shops and is easy to reach. Matsumoto has many as well, and also great shoyu, but is a bit further from Tokyo. The Aizu region (Fukushima Prefecture, and far from the nuclear mess) is famous for soba. If you are bit more adventurous head to the soba kaido area of Yamagata. The name says it all. If you are really adventurous go up to Horokanai in Hokkaido. I think there are ten soba shops, and this in a city with fewer than 2,000 people. If you go it is best to drive as public transportation is slow and infrequent. But their soba is fantastic.
Awesome! Thank you all for the great information. I wish I only had more time in Japan to hit up all these spots. I'll just have to come back again which I'm sure I'll do. I'm leaning more towards Nagano now since I am limited to 3 days and have heard other great things. Takayama and the hida beef sound amazing, but getting there requires several connections and is almost double the travel time. Thanks again for the tips. This is such a great community and source of information. I'll try to report back on the good soba ya's when I return.
I don't know much about soba and where it's famously made, but I'm surprised to hear about the expensive flights. Right now Skymark is offering flights from Haneda to Sapporo on April 7 for $129 each way, slightly less from Narita. AirDo is at $140. These probably don't show up in most international flight search sites, but you can find them on skyscanner, for example. Asahikawa (if that's more convenient to the soba wizards village) is $170 or so.
Nagano is definitely the place to for soba. There is plenty of information in Japanese, which is not much help to you I suppose, but if you do google searches for the main Shinshū soba varieties and the areas they originated in, you can find quite a bit of information:
Togakushi soba, Togakushi
Tōji soba, Nagawa - Matsumoto http://www.vill-nagawa.jp/food/index....
Kirishita soba, Shinanomachi
Gyoja and Takato soba, Ina City
Accessing those areas will be pretty difficult without a car, so maybe just stick to trying regional varieties in a big centre like Matsumoto or Karuizawa.
I was recently in Nagano doing a tour of sake breweries, and as sake & soba are natural partners it might be fun for you to check out some kura while you are there. Miyasaka Shuzo (makers of Masumi) is the biggest in the area (about an hours train ride from Matsumoto), and they have a great set up for visitors.
Once again, a google search will reap plenty of information, if you are interested.