As mentioned in my first post about Kagawa Prefecture, Udon is Kagawa’s most famous food. Before coming to Kagawa, I was never a fan of Udon. I don’t dislike it, but I was just neutral towards it, but this is because we only have (below) average Udon available commercially in Singapore. Having been to Japan so many times, I understand that when a prefecture is famous for a certain type of food, it is really 10 times better than what you can find else where. I was filled with anticipation to try Kagawa’s famous Sanuki Udon and was prepared to have my perception of Udon revolutionized forever.
So for this trip, Udon is of course a major objective, but we weren’t just going to eat it, we were going to learn how to make it! They have a new facility in Kagawa called Udon House, and this place is precisely where you’ll want to go if you want to learn how to make udon.
They actually conduct workshops as full board 2 day package where you go to the market to learn how to pick ingredients, go around the town to try Udon from different shops, and you even stay here overnight. After the 2 days bootcamp you’ll be an expert.
We attended this session like a media preview and it was condensed to just learning to make Udon. First, we were given a crash course about the history of Udon, what it’s made of, what makes Sanuki Udon of Kagawa special and how they make dashi stock.
For lunch part 1 we were served Udon (made by noodle master!) with a side of kakiage tempura. IT WAS THE BEST UDON IN MY LIFE. The texture of the udon was so bouncy, and the dashi stock was so packed with flavour. The kakiage was also just perfect even though it’s just vegetables. This meal was just so simple, but so delicious. Take note of the lacquer ware chopsticks – these were gifted to us by the Governor of Kagawa Prefecture! Perhaps eating Udon with lacquer ware chopsticks makes it better because it was really that good.
And so the process of Udon making begins, coached by noodle master Nobuchika Higashida. After forming the dough by combining flour, water and salt, we had to STEP on it. Yes, this stepping process makes a lot of difference. It releases the gluten in the flour and that’s how you get the good texture you want. After the dough has rested enough (gluten takes time to come out), we had to knead it and then roll it out flat using the technique instructed by the noodle master. It isn’t as simple as it seems as the dough does have resistance, and first timers will definitely feel unfamiliar and clumsy (yes, me).
When the dough was thin enough, we had to chop it (yes manually!) using a cutting machine to get the noodles of desired thickness! And here I present, Hungry Bird’s hand-(and foot)-made Udon!
The experience at Udon House was really one of a kind, and as a person very interested in food, I would definitely sign up for such activities when I travel! However, if you would like to make Udon but is stuck in Singapore, the next best place you can learn it will be in ABC Cooking Singapore. They have Udon making lessons in June every year.
As mentioned, we were here as part of a media preview and they had the media filming the entire session. It was only later did we realise the said media was actually NHK (the largest channel in Japan) and we were on the evening news that very day!
Udon House is not yet open to the public, but will be open from September 2018. The location is not in the city, but they have a JR station, Motoyama, just 1 minute walk away.
１６５１−３ Toyonakacho Okamoto, Mitoyo, Kagawa Prefecture
The next activity is my personal favourite, and my highlight of the trip – Peach picking! I have mentioned this many times, but I personally never liked eating fruits. I don’t normally touch fruits we have commonly in Singapore and will never miss eating it. It’s just not part of my life. But Japanese fruits are just different. The moment of realisation happened when I had my first taste of Japanese musk melon in Shinji back in 2011, and that’s when I realised that there’s actually natural fruit that’s even better than cakes and ice cream as dessert. This is only possible with Japanese fruits and I try to go for fruit picking whenever I’m in Japan, or at least buy it from the supermarkets! I’ve so far tried apple, grape and strawberry picking and I’m not stopping.
When I visited Okayama in March this year and tasted their famous peach flavoured food, I was sold. I never used to like peach at all, but Okayama’s peach flavoured food tastes so good, I became super interested in Japanese peach -I even thought of coming to Okayama during the peach season again (July), but had no chance to this year. When this Kagawa trip came along and when they arranged peach picking, I was SUPER HAPPY. Kagawa is just south of Okayama so I suppose their peaches will be great too!
This is Mr. Hosokawa “momo guy”, the owner of Hosokawa Farm. We’ve met him when he brought his peaches to Cafe de Flots the day before.
He gave a crash course on how to pick the peaches and off we go!
All peaches are wrapped in paper to protect them. EVERY one of them. So much dedication from Hosokawa farm! We will pluck them gently by pulling with two hands. We had to be very careful not to bruise the peaches. Peaches are very easily bruised and once bruise, it has to be eaten immediately.
Not going to lie, the sun was scorching hot. The heat wave in Japan just started while we were there, but thankfully we didn’t go a week earlier anyway because it was raining. To enjoy the best peaches in Japan (and in the world haha), you just got to brave the heat. It is worth it! I’ve new found respect to these dedicated farmers who choose to grow summer fruits like peaches! Imagine how they need to do the harvesting out in the extreme heat, it’s such a difficult task!
Like Okayama, Kagawa Prefecture usually gets little rain and it’s sunshine most of the time. This climate is exactly what’s required to harvest sweet peaches – as little rainy weather as possible. The variant of peach from Hosokawa Farm is called Natsukko なつっ子, and this species is usually around 300 – 350g each. It’s huge, just look at the size!
When choosing peaches, select those with shallower indent. Also choose based on how strong the fragrance is. This one I picked still had the leaves on and I brought it back looking like this!
This is Mr Hosokawa’s mother, who helps out at the farm. She personally packed our peaches in boxes for us! Here I have a box of 6, 3 of them picked by me, and 3 of them harvested this morning. If you would like to purchase, a box of 6 is around 2kg (each peach is around 325g) and cost ¥3000 ($36), making each piece around $6. WHAT A STEAL! Peaches of this size cost 2 for $15.90 at the very lowest in Singapore (from Donki) but I can’t speak of the quality as I haven’t tried yet. The peaches from Hosokawa farm was definitely super sweet and good, I highly recommend it. (But where else besides Kagawa can you purchase it, I have no idea.) In fact, Japanese momo has now over taken ichigo as my favourite Japanese fruit. I can’t believe that it’s even better than ichigo!
I think the production of fruits in Kagawa is generally smaller than other prefectures like Yamanashi, Fukuoka etc, so they may not be easily found out of the prefecture itself.
Currently this peach picking experience is not open to public yet, but perhaps it’ll happen next year when the season opens. If you want to visit Japan and summer is the only time you’re available to do so, I highly recommend going summer fruit picking because this will make your sacrifice of coming during the heatwave worth while!
Hosokawa Farm 細川農場
Yamamotochō Kōda, Mitoyo-shi, Kagawa Prefecture
We made a brief stop at a farmer’s market, Ryoshin Ichi Takase 良心市たかせ, for some shopping. They sell local fruits and vegetables here, as well as dried ingredients and essential condiments. I highly recommend visiting farmer’s markets in Kagawa because some (or most?) of these local produce doesn’t get distributed to overseas, bigger cities, or even local supermarkets. On top of the exclusivity factor of getting local produce, the prices here are really hard to beat. I bought 2 bunches of ping pong ball size New Pione grapes (seedless version of Pione) and it was ¥1000 and ¥1200 respectively. That’s just $30 total for these 2 bunches! I carefully brought them home and they survived well! These grapes were just so good, best I’ve ever eaten. Just last month I bought some Kyoho grapes from Donki in Singapore and I thought that was damn good already, until I tried this.
Ryoshin Ichi Takase 良心市たかせ
1647 Takasecho Kamiasa, Mitoyo, Kagawa Prefecture
Leaving Mitoyo City, we arrived in Kotohira for a ryokan stay at Kotohira Kadan. I love ryokan stays and I always try to have at least one night in a ryokan for my trips to Japan, especially if I visit rural areas. I am so thankful that CLAIR organised a ryokan experience for us to complete our Kagawa experience! Ryokan stays and fruit picking are my absolute favourite things to do in Japan (on top of all the crazy shopping and eating that is) and I’m glad that we had both today.
And Kotohira Kadan is not just any ryokan, it’s a really nice, classy and modern ryokan! The room was new looking and I loved everything about it.
To make things even more exciting, colourful yukata experience is included in our stay! Yukata is the summer version of a traditional Kimono, which I am sure I wouldn’t want to be wearing in this heat. The yukata is thin enough so it is perfect for dressing up in this weather! I’ve worn colourful yukata once, in Kinosaki Onsen, also part of a ryokan stay.
We got to choose which yukata and obi (belt) we wanted. I went for pink on pink! The ryokan’s owner helped us get dressed and her magical hands made it look so professionally done!
All pictures I took was within the ryokan itself, which did not lack photogenic spots.
Before long it was dinner time. Kaiseki dinners in ryokan is a big reason why I like ryokan stays in the first place. I love kaiseki style of meals because I like how several different cooking techniques are used in a meal making it non-boring, and I like to see what the chef can do with seasonal ingredients. They call the cuisine of this region Setouchi cuisine, and I suppose this is the cuisine of prefectures surrounding the Seto Inland Sea.
The meal here was not bad, but not the best. I have truly been spoilt by kaiseki in Kyoto and it’s hard to beat, but I like the array of multiple courses, as mentioned. I someone who loves variety. The kiwi cake for dessert is something unique. I have never seen a kiwi cake before and I’ve never even imagined it as a cake flavour. Kiwi fruit is actually grown in Kagawa and this was quite surprising because I never expected Japan to grow kiwis! Kiwi cake must be a truly Kagawa thing.
Last few pictures in yukata before I removed it!
After dinner I went to soak in the onsen. Yes, onsen even in SUMMER. The thought of it was crazy and judging from how hot I felt during the day, I thought I wouldn’t do it, but I did! During the night, the ambient temperature was a comfortable ~25 degrees Celsius and it there was slight wind. The humidity at night as alright too. When soaking in the outdoor bath, I did feel a relief from the hot water when I got out and exposed to ambient temperature. The onsen soak was something I really needed as I have been experience SI joint pain for a week odd prior to the trip and the pain acted up during the second day. After soaking in the onsen, any sensation miraculously went away and I realised it only the next day because I literally felt nothing in that area anymore! I don’t know what sorcery this is, but hot spring water is like magic.
The public bath area also provided Panasonic Nanocare hair dryers for use! That is my favourite hair dryer that is the highly popular in Japan. Before coming down I was low key hoping to see it in the public bath area and was glad my wish came true.
I do not normally eat breakfast but I could not give ryokan breakfast a miss. They served teishoku style breakfast, typical of most Japanese ryokans and while I had no appetite in the morning, I liked the mentaiko on rice.
Kotohira Kadan 琴平花壇
1241-5 Kotohira Town Nakadatsu-gun Kagawa Prefecture