I was born in Saitama city, not far from Tokyo, but I spent my childhood in Ashikaga, a city two hours from the capital. It is also known as ‘East-Kyoto’ and ‘North-Kamakura’, as several hundred years ago it was one of Japan’s most important cities. It remains the location of beautiful, historical buildings, temples and shrines. It’s surrounded by some incredible areas of natural beauty. It is in Ashikaga where I can recall my best childhood memories – I spent a lot of time in the mountains, where we would catch river crabs and fish before cooking them over an open fire.
1 Festival food
Festivals are very important to the people of Ashikaga,which typically take place in temples and shrines. My favourites are Hanabi Taikai, a fireworks festival which happens on the first Saturday in August close to the river Watarase, made even more special by the reflections cast on the water. Here you’ll find traditional food stalls serving dishes such as grilled squid, sweetcorn and takoyaki, which are balls of diced octopus. I also love the Batou-Matsuri festival on New Year’s Eve. Batou means ‘curse’, and the premise is that one is encouraged to put all bad things behind them at the end of the calendar year by cursing loudly from the top of a mountain. As you can imagine, this sounds ridiculous, but it is such fun to see hundreds of people together cursing like mad. It is a Japanese tradition to have soba noodles at the end of the year, symbolic of a long and peaceful life and relationships. My favourite is hot soba noodle with tempura on top.
2 Soba noodles
The area is known for its high-quality buckwheat, whichis what soba noodles are made from. The climate and natural spring water from the mountains provide the perfect growing conditions. Naturally, there are a lots of very good soba noodle restaurants in the area. Making soba is acknowledged as a very special technique, just like sushi. I love to prepare them more than any other noodle. My favourite way is in zaru-soba (see recipe, p72), which is cold noodles served with a fish stock-based dipping sauce. There is a very specific way that these should be eaten. First, you must pick up the noodles with chop sticks and dip them into the sauce – but only half the length of the noodle.
A lot of people go crazy and dip in the whole noodle so it tastes stronger, but soba is all about experiencing the delicate aroma of buckwheat on its own. Second, you slurp! There is logic behind this. When you slurp, you breathe the air in with a gentle aroma of the noodle itself. When you breathe out from your nose, you taste it in the best possible way. Slurping can be tricky to master, both mentally and physically, but I strongly recommend giving it a go – it makes a huge difference to the experience.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
A five-ingredient classic that hits the spot every time
April Preston’s Devon kitchen is a unique hideaway designed to bring in the outdoors
Healthy one-dish wonders
We’ve made some of our favourite comfort foods a little bit lighter, but they’re still just as hearty and indulgent
Slowly does it
Relax. It’s Sunday. Take it easy with a slow-roast beef shin for a late, laid-back lunch inspired by the menu at restaurant Liv
Make the most of surplus kale and bacon on this spicy flatbread
Time and patience is what you need to make kimchi, a Korean staple of fermented vegetables that makes a perfectly soothing weekend project
Whether it’s salmon, steak or chicken, give your favourite staples a new twist
Cook with the season
How to make the most of the best winter ingredients
3 Ways With Peanut Butter
Explore the full potential of this storecupboard staple
10 things I love about Ashikaga, Japan
Chefs share the unique ingredients, traditions and dishes of their home cities. This month, we discover the historic city north of Tokyo with Masaki Sugisaki of Dinings SW3
Let the Games Begin
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics works toward a mid-pandemic strategy.
Happy Hacking Pro Hybrid Type-S Keyboard
$337 for this beauty, but why?
JAPAN SPACE AGENCY CONFIRMS ASTEROID SOIL INSIDE CAPSULE
Japan’s space agency said it has confirmed the presence of black soil samples inside a capsule that the spacecraft Hayabusa2 brought back from a distant asteroid last week.
Capsule With Asteroid Samples Arrives In Japan For Research
Japanese space agency officials were delighted by the return of a small capsule containing asteroid soil samples obtained by their Hayabusa2 spacecraft and were anxiously waiting to look inside after preparations are complete.
Can Nike's Anti-Racism Ads Just Do It in Japan?
Its social justice playbook worked in the U.S. but may not translate to a less diverse nation
Howa XL Lite Chassis Rifle
Shooting a New .223 Remington
Japan's Softbank Back in The Black As Investments Improve
Japanese technology company SoftBank Group Corp. said it bounced back to profitability in the last quarter as its investments improved in value.
Translating Toshiko Hirata's Ars Poetica
AUTOart 1969 Nissan Fairlady Z432
The first specialty Z had the heart of a GT-R
TWITCH PLAYS VHS
Streamer FORGOTTEN_VCR turns ’80s found footage into mixtapes