Hokkaido’s Otoineppu Soba: Renowned as Japan’s Best Soba Noodles
What’s “Eki Soba”?
“Eki soba” is soba noodles served on the platform of railway stations in Japan. It is said that those who were providing lunch boxes to the train passengers started to also offer noodles to them first in the late Meiji Period (the late 20th century). They were mainly provided as a kind of fast food at stand-up style stalls on station platforms so that train passengers could casually drop in to grab a bite during the waiting intervals between the train departures, which were fairly long back then.
Among many other soba noodle stalls found on the station platforms around Japan, especially renowned as Japan’s most delicious “eki soba” is the one served by “Otoineppu Soba,” the soba stall located within JR Otoineppu Station. What kind of soba is “Otoineppu Soba,” which even attracts many avid fans from remote areas? Let’s take a look at its attractive features. Photo: flickr.com
Otoineppu-mura, the Smallest Village in Hokkaido
This enormously popular eki soba noodles can be enjoyed in Otoineppu-mura, the village with a population of about 780, which is known as the smallest village in Hokkaido Prefecture. Located 2 and a half hour’s drive from Asahikawa City, it is a village blessed with rich nature with about 80 percent of its area covered with mountains and woods. The temperature difference between summers and winters here is fairly large and it rises up to 30 degrees Celsius in summer and drops down to minus 30 degrees in winter. It is known as an area with one of the highest snowfall in all Hokkaido and the snowfall often reaches the depth of well over 170 centimeters. Otoineppu Noba noodles have been produced over three generations here at the area with such a harsh climate.
Characteristics of Otoineppu Soba
Tokiwa-ken(常盤軒) Kake (Plain) Soba 370 Yen, https://www.flickr.com
Hatayama Seimen has long been the exclusive manufacturer of Otoineppu Soba noodles. The noodles are made with carefully selected unpolished buckwheat of the best quality of the year. Only the amount of buckwheat needed for the day is ground to make soba powder, which is kneaded in a secretly handed-down ratio with other ingredients into noodles. It is the product of such a great care.
What is most notable about the noodles is their color. It’s black! Many people who see the noodles for the first time are surprised by the black color, which looks nothing like the soba noodles they have seen before.
Why is Otoineppu Soba Black?
The black color of the noodles comes from its producing method. Usually buckwheat is polished to remove the skins but Otoineppu Soba noodles are made by grinding buckwheat together with its skins. The black color of the skin is thus retained in the finished noodles. As for the taste, it has a rich and genuine flavor of soba buckwheat and matches any kind of topping ingredients. The buckwheat skins also make these noodles high in nutrition.
Go Enjoy the Soba of Tokiwa-ken at the Train Station!
This is JR Otoineppu Station. Tokiwa-ken can be found here inside the station building.
(Tokiwa-ken inside the station. It was a little before 3 PM but unfortunately, the shop was already sold out of their noodles and closed by the time the author visited here. It’s recommended to visit the shop at early hours especially on holidays.)
Tokiwa-ken, located inside JR Otoineppu Station, is the shop serving the popular eki soba. The shop was originally operating on one of the station’s platforms but was moved to the current area inside the station building and is still serving its specialty without losing its original taste. The shop has only one long counter and serves noodles in stand-up style but you can also take a bowl of noodles out of the shop to enjoy it at one of the benches inside the station.
Tokiwa-ken Soba with Tempura 470 Yen, https://www.flickr.com
The menu includes Kake Soba (370 Yen), Tempura Soba (470 Yen), Tsukimi Soba (420 Yen), and Tentama Soba (520 Yen). Dried soba noodles and dipping sauce for soba are also available for takeaway.
- Kake (Plain) Soba: Simple with Hot Dashi Soup, Noodles and Chopped Green Onions
- Tempura Soba: Hot Soba Topped with Batter-fried Vegetables (a Variation of Tempura)
- Tsukimi Soba: Hot Soba Topped with a Raw Egg
- Tentama Soba: Hot Soba with a Raw Egg and Batter-fried Vegetables
* “Tsukimi” means “admiring the moon.” With an egg likened to the moon, this style of soba is commonly referred to as “Tsukimi Soba” in Japan.
Especially on holidays, the shop bustles with a lot of fans including those visiting from remote areas looking to enjoy the specialty noodles of this shop.
Opening Hours: 10:00 AM – 3:30 PM (Closes When Stock Soba Noodles for the Day Run Out)
Closing Day: Wednesdays
This very popular soba noodle shop at the small station in the small village of Hokkaido always attracts a lot of people from around Japan for its long established specialty. The black-colored unique soba noodles with rich flavor and taste have long been and still are savored by great many people every day. If you ever happen to be travelling through Hokkaido, why not visit the small village of Otoineppu and enjoy its specialty soba noodles, which are renowned as Japan’s most delicious soba? You might well become addicted to the black noodles!