Soba Off the Beaten Path – Part 1: Inakaya (田舎屋)

Gourmet
Sat, Feb 17, 2018
3
Soba Off the Beaten Path - Part 1: Inakaya (田舎屋)

While there are soba noodle shops galore in central Matsumoto, there are some great options you can find off the beaten path, too. Since these shops usually aren’t trying to cater to the troves of tourists coming to the city, you can rest assured you’ll have an authentic experience.

The first place I want to talk about is Inakaya (田舎屋), a soba shop located straight east from Matsumoto Castle on the way to the Utsukushigahara Onsen hot springs area and not too, too far off the beaten path (see below for access info).

Inakaya's entrance
Inakaya’s entrance

I’m a little partial to Inakaya because it’s the first soba shop I visited when I moved to Matsumoto, but they definitely serve some high quality soba! They make their soba noodles by hand using soba flour from the Kaida Highland area in Kiso, Nagano and you can see the soba noodle making room on your right when you walk in the door.

Inakaya serves a variety of both chilled soba and hot soba in soup, and like many classic soba shops, you can get a side of crispy tempura on the side. The simplest way to enjoy the soba is the plain chilled soba which has a great texture and delicious, subtle flavor. It gets dipped into a concentrated dipping soup (tsuyu), which after you’re done eating, gets diluted with the thick water from boiling the noodles so you can drink it like soup. Another, more luxurious option is to get the chilled soba with the duck dipping soup, which includes a small, but tasty piece of roast duck.

Chilled soba with duck dipping soup
Chilled soba with duck dipping soup

There is also a hot version of the duck soba noodles:

Hot soba noodles with duck
Hot soba noodles with duck

If you’re a fan of tofu (in particular, fried tofu), then you’ll love the hot tanuki soba (yes, that would be the same tanuki from Super Mario!) which features a big, fat, juicy piece of fried tofu in the soup. Similarly the hot kizami soba has slices of fried tofu with green onion in the soup.

Tanuki soba noodles
Tanuki soba noodles
Kizami soba noodles
Kizami soba noodles

Other types of soba are sansai soba noodles which are served with wild mountain herbs and plants, soba with grated Japanese yam, and tempura soba.

The shop itself has a cozy, country-style atmosphere with a wood-burning stove in the middle of the restaurant and old Japanese folk masks hanging on the walls. Most of the seating is on tatami mats with low tables, but there are also a couple of regular tables with chairs.

Inakaya's wood burning stove
Inakaya’s wood burning stove
An old "otafuku" mask on the wall
An old “otafuku” mask on the wall

The good news is that if you want to try Inakaya’s excellent soba, it’s not too hard to get to!

The shop is only about 2 kilometers from Matsumoto Castle, so you could easily get there by bicycle in 15 minutes or in 30 minutes by foot. From Matsumoto Station it’s 2.7 kilometers, so it’ll take a few more minutes from there. It is also accessible by bus: just take the Utsukushigahara Onsen line bus to the Souza bus stop in front of the Delicia Supermarket (this bus departs both from Matsumoto Station and Matsumoto Castle/City Hall).

Shop Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

I’ll be posting about a couple more soba shops you can find “off the beaten path,” so keep an eye out! 😉