By Mandy Bartok
Speaking of Ibusuki in southern Kagoshima, usually what comes to mind would be the black sand bath along the beach. However, Ibusuki is also the birthplace of nagashi somen (flowing thin white Japanese noodles made of wheat flour which are usually served cold), a style of eating somen, in which you catch fine white somen noodles from cold running water. Usually eaten in summer, it can be enjoyed all year round at Tosenkyo Somen Nagashi. The restaurant is located in the valley, surrounded by an abundance of trees and you can hear the gentle sound of water flowing, making one feel closer to nature. There is even a lift available if needed.
Conventional nagashi somen restaurants would offer flowing somen sliding down in bamboo poles. At Tosenkyo Somen Nagashi, circular trays are used. Each tray is installed on a table, in which spring water from the bottom of the valley is pumped in, and the somen flows continuously in a circular motion. The spring water used here was chosen by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism as one of the top 100 sources of water in Japan. You can bet that the water will taste very refreshing! Unlike the bamboo poles, you can just pick up the somen in front of you, and there is no need to wait for the somen to reach you unlike those in the bamboo poles. Leave the somen to spin for a few rounds, then put your chopsticks in, and let the noodles accumulate. Do not attempt to pick them up as they flow! Each group or family is provided an individual table, so you don’t have to worry about sharing the water with others.
It is very easy to place an order with the picture menu. Their signature dish is the salted trout, which tastes very well together with the refreshing somen noodles. Popular side dishes here include carp sashimi, onigiri rice balls and inari sushi. Do try the carp miso soup in winter, which tastes heavenly in the cold. Queues can form during peak times in the summer months, so do remember to make a reservation first!
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I still clearly remember the day I first landed in Japan, and since then it has been my goal to set foot in all 47 prefectures. I try to look for less touristy areas, preferring the countryside to the city. I'm always amazed by the many Haagen Dazs and ice cream flavors available only in Japan.