Tokushima’s serene Iya Valley holds many surprises, one of which is visiting an award-winning folk singer’s home to learn the art of soba-making.
Iya Valley is peppered with numerous surprises for the experience-hungry traveller, with local stories and historical tales waiting at every turn. The humble making and cooking of soba (buckwheat noodles) – one of Shikoku’s specialities – is one such example.
Deep in the valleys of Tokushima’s rugged mountains sits a quiet studio run by Tsuzuki-san, an elderly soba master who supplies the noodles to restaurants and hotels across the region.
Classes taught by Tsuzuki-san are peaceful, but at the same time, fun and even challenging. She guides participants through the soba-making process, and the workshop is followed by a meal of vegetable tempura, cold dishes, and free-flow soba. As time drew to a close for my class, Tsuzuki-san brought us from noodle stirring to a heart-stirring end with a short performance of her award-winning folk singing.
We participants first had to don aprons and bandanas, before Tsuzuki-san embarked on the soba-making experience. She started by demonstrating how to mill soba grains with a hand-powered millstone. We then moved on to kneading, cutting, and finally, boiling the noodles.
Although she was only able to converse in Japanese and through hand gestures, Tsuzuki-san was encouraging and good-humoured, patiently guiding us in milling and kneading the soba.
The meal that followed was simple but scrumptious, and filled me with contentment as we sat on tatami and cushions in the cosy, homely restaurant. Tsuzuki-san’s performance at the end was the cherry on top of an enjoyable afternoon.
Ideal for smaller travel groups or even solo travellers, Atelier Tsuzuki is one of Iya Valley’s truly hidden gems that offer an indelible taste of Tokushima.
Duration: Approximately two hours
Rate: 1,350 yen (US$12.30)