Iconic New Year's Eve Soba in Kyoto
Text: Yasuko Yunohara / Photo: Takashi Oka
Among many Kyoto-products, 'nishin soba' must be one of the popular food. It is a soba noodle topped with herring. Sohonke Nishin Soba Matsuba at the Shijo Ohashi is said to be the restaurant in serving such style first.
Nishin soba is also common as a New Year's Eve meal in Kyoto. This custom goes back to the Meiji period (1868-1912).
Matsuba started business in 1861 by Yoemon Matsuno at Kitaza near Shijo bridge as a theater cafe. The second generation Yosakichi Matsuno had moved to the present location next to Minamiza as a noodle shop. This Yosakichi is the father of nishin soba. Yasuharu Matsuno, the fourth generation, says that 'Yosakichi was an innovative person who must have always been thinking of serving a new menu'.
Seafood is very valuable in Kyoto where it's surrounded by land. Herrings are carried from Hokkaido, way at the north. It's inside is taken out and then dried to become a 'migaki-nishin' which is a preservative food rich in protein. This migaki-nishin cooked with eggplant is one of Kyoto's old home style menu.
'Yosakichi probably got the hint from this herring & eggplant dish and tried out topping herring on a soba noodle' guesses Yasuharu. Such new menu quickly became popular. 'Popular Nishin Soba' is written in one of the old menu that was used during late-Taisho to early-Showa period (around 1920-30s).
Yasuharu is strictly keeping the traditional taste. 'It's a valuable fact that customers feel happy to taste the same soba as before', he says. The migaki-nishin from Hokkaido is first soaked in water, then cooked for 3 days with sugar, mirin and sake. Homemade soba is also prepared in traditional way.
The sweet and spicy herring is placed on the bowl first, then the boiled noodle and soup on top. First the soba should be simply enjoyed, then with the soft and tasty herring. It's a perfect bowl for winter that warms up the whole body.
They open from 23:30 on the New Year's eve until 3:00 a.m. Around 2,500 people come to have this soba to look back on the year and to await for a new one with a happy stomach.
ADDRESS: 192 Kawabata-cho, Shijo-ohashi Higashi-iru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto (map)
HOURS: 11:00-21:30 (L.O.21:00)
CLOSED: Wednesday (open if public holiday) *may differ according to some seasons
★This is the last featured spot from Ryo Wakamura's TRAVEL IDEA '***'. Please enjoy other TRAVEL IDEAs, too!