Experience Japanese Food Culture: How to Enjoy Udon



Japan’s food culture attracts travelers from all over the world with its diversity and deep history. Of these, udon is one of the most popular and must be experienced when visiting Japan. Udon is a simple noodle dish made from flour, water, and salt, but it can be enjoyed in a variety of flavors depending on how it is prepared and the regional variations.

Udon can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, from hot to cold, depending on the season and your preference. Sanuki udon, Inaniwa udon, Ise udon, and other styles of udon have developed in various regions of Japan, each with its own unique charm. Udon has a simple yet deep flavor and is one of the most important elements in understanding Japanese food culture.

This article details the history of udon, its types, the correct way to eat it, recommended restaurants, and other information to help you enjoy udon to the fullest. Please use it as a guide to gain a deeper understanding of Japanese food culture and experience its rich flavors. Through udon, we hope you will fully enjoy the depth of Japanese food culture and its charms.


Udon has a very long history, dating back to the Nara period (710-794). It is said that the flour-based dish introduced from China developed uniquely in Japan and took its present form as udon. At that time, the boiled wheat flour dumpling-like food was popularly known as “udon.

During the Heian period (794-1185), records show that a flour-based noodle dish called sakubei was enjoyed by the nobility. However, it was not until the Kamakura period (1185-1333) that the long, thin udon noodles we know today became common. During this period, a long, thin noodle dish called “somen” was introduced from China, which became the basis of Japanese “udon.

During the Edo period (1603-1868), udon became widely popular among the common people. Especially in the Sanuki region (present-day Kagawa Prefecture), “Sanuki udon,” made using a unique process, developed and became popular for its firm texture and rich flavor. Sanuki udon remains one of the most popular udon noodles in Japan to this day.

In the Edo period (1603-1867), “Ise udon” also appeared in the Kansai region. Ise udon is well known among local people for its unique soft noodles and thick sauce. Furthermore, “Inaniwa udon” in Akita Prefecture also developed during this period. Inaniwa udon is characterized by its thin and smooth texture and is often regarded as a luxury item.

Today, udon has become a beloved dish throughout Japan, and many regions enjoy udon with their own unique characteristics. Udon is also a common home-cooked dish, and its easy preparation makes it a favorite in many households. There are also many restaurants specializing in udon, and it has become one of the most popular food cultures among tourists from Japan and abroad.

By learning about the history of udon, you will be able to understand and further enjoy its deep culture and regional characteristics. When you visit Japan, please taste the local udon and experience its history and charm.


Udon has many variations from its simple basic form, and unique menus have developed in each region. Here are some typical udon menus.


Kake-udon is the basic form of simple udon. It is to be enjoyed with udon dipped in warm broth, allowing you to fully appreciate the flavor of the broth.


  • Dashi: Dashi broth made from dried bonito flakes, kelp, dried sardines, etc. is used.
  • Toppings: Negi (green onion), tenkasu (fish cake), and shichimi (seven spice) are common toppings.

Udon noodles

Zaru udon is cold udon served in a colander and dipped in special sauce. It is especially popular in the summer months and has a smooth, refreshing taste.


  • Tsuyu: Udon noodles are dipped in tsuyu, a sauce made of soy sauce, mirin (sweet cooking sake), and dashi (Japanese soup stock).
  • Yakumi: udon noodles are served with green onions, wasabi (Japanese horseradish), grated daikon (grated radish), etc.

Bukkake Udon

Bukkake udon is a style of udon served cold or hot with thicker broth. It is a satisfying dish with a variety of ingredients and toppings.


  • Tsuyu: Strong soup stock is poured over the udon to give it a strong flavor.
  • Toppings: Tempura, grated daikon (grated radish), onsenshi tamago (boiled egg), etc. are common.

Curry Udon

Curry udon is udon noodles served in a curry flavored broth. The spiciness of the curry matches perfectly with the chewiness of the udon.


  • Soup: Spicy soup with curry powder or roux.
  • Ingredients: Pork and vegetables (onions and carrots) are commonly used.

Fox udon

Kitsune Udon is udon topped with sweetened deep-fried tofu. It is especially popular in the Kansai region.


  • Air-fried tofu: Sweet and spicy cooked deep-fried tofu is a feature of this dish.
  • Dashi: Dashi broth made from dried bonito flakes and kelp, with a refreshing taste.

Tempura Udon

Tempura udon is a dish of udon noodles served with crispy tempura. The type of tempura varies; shrimp and vegetables are often used.


  • Tempura: Shrimp, vegetable (pumpkin, eggplant, etc.) tempura.
  • Dashi: Simple soup stock similar to kake udon.

Nabiyaki Udon

Nabeyaki udon is hot udon noodles served in a small pot. It is perfect for the cold season and contains a wide variety of ingredients.


  • Ingredients: A variety of ingredients such as chicken, fish paste, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, etc.
  • Dashi: A thick broth, infused with the flavor of the ingredients.

By trying these different types of udon, you can enjoy the diverse flavors and cooking styles of different regions of Japan. When you visit Japan, be sure to taste and enjoy the many different styles of udon.

Manners and how to eat

When enjoying udon, knowing a few basic manners and the proper way to eat it will help you enjoy its taste even more. Here we will introduce some udon eating manners and etiquette.

Proper way to eat udon

  1. How to slurp udon.
    In Japan, it is common to slurp udon noisily. By slurping noisily, the udon is taken in with the air and the flavors can be felt more richly. This is part of Japanese food culture, and people around you consider it good manners to eat noisily.
  2. Usage of Tsuyu.
    For hot udon, it is common to dip the udon into the tsuyu before eating. In the case of cold udon, there is another style where the udon is dipped into the dipping sauce. In either case, the key is to soak the udon a little at a time, rather than a large amount at a time.

3.How to use condiments.
Udon noodles are sometimes served with yakumi (condiments) such as green onions, shoga (ginger), wasabi (Japanese horseradish), and shichimi (seven spice). These condiments can be added in small quantities according to taste. In particular, shichimi togarashi should be added in small amounts to adjust the spiciness.

Etiquette and manners during meals

  1. Eat quietly.
    Japanese dining culture expects people to speak quietly while eating. Especially at udon restaurants, where the emphasis is on enjoying the quiet environment, try not to speak loudly.
  2. Words of thanks.
    When the meal is over, it is common to express gratitude by saying “Gochisoso-sama desu” (Thank you for the meal). This is an important manner to show your appreciation to the owner or staff who prepared the food.

By observing these manners and eating styles, udon can be enjoyed to the fullest. It will be a valuable experience for you to feel the true flavor of udon and to gain a deeper understanding of Japanese food culture.

Recommended restaurants

There are many udon specialty stores throughout Japan, each offering its own unique charm and flavor. Here are some of the recommended udon restaurants that visitors to Japan should definitely visit.

Yamakoshi Udon (Kagawa Prefecture)

Yamakoshi Udon is known as one of the best Sanuki Udon restaurants in Kagawa Prefecture. This restaurant, loved by locals and tourists alike, is especially famous for its “kamatama udon.

Recommended Points

  • Specialty Menu: Kamatama Udon (freshly boiled udon topped with raw egg and special soup stock).
  • Access: Easily accessible from major sightseeing spots in Kagawa Prefecture, it is convenient to visit by car.

Okasen (Kagawa Prefecture)

Okasen is a very popular udon restaurant in Kagawa Prefecture, especially for its tempura udon. You can enjoy the combination of the crispy texture of the tempura and the firmness of the udon.

Recommended Points.

  • Popular Menu: Cold Ten Oroshi Udon (cold udon noodles with tempura and grated radish).
  • Access: Accessible by car from Takamatsu City and parking is available.

Tsurutontontan (Osaka Prefecture)

Tsurutontan is a popular udon chain with its main branch in Osaka, featuring a wide range of menu items and an upscale atmosphere. Udon noodles served in large bowls are visually pleasing.

Recommended Points

  • Variety of menu: Offers a wide range of udon from standard udon to creative udon dishes.
  • Access: Multiple locations in Osaka City, easily accessible from major sightseeing spots.

Hanamaru Udon (Nationwide)

Hanamaru Udon is a chain of udon restaurants located throughout Japan, offering a convenient way to enjoy authentic udon. It features reasonable pricing and self-service.

Recommended points

  • Easiness: Delicious udon can be easily enjoyed in many locations throughout Japan.
  • Accessibility: Stores are located in many cities, making it easy to stop by while sightseeing.

Marugame Seimen (Nationwide)

Marugame Seimen is a major udon noodle chain that operates throughout Japan and is known for its fresh, handmade udon noodles. The self-service format allows customers to choose their own toppings and sides.

Recommended Points

  • Freshness: Fresh udon noodles hand-pulled in the restaurant.
  • Customization: A wide variety of toppings and sides to create your own personalized dish.
  • Access: With many locations throughout Japan, it is easy to stop by while sightseeing.

Shisan Udon (Fukuoka Prefecture)

Shisan Udon is an udon chain that operates mainly in Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture, and is well known among the locals. The noodles are soft and the broth has a gentle flavor.

Recommended Points

  • Specialty Menu: Goboten Udon (udon noodles topped with burdock tempura).
  • Access: Located in the center of Fukuoka City, access is very convenient.

Each of these udon restaurants has its own unique charm and is well-loved throughout Japan. We encourage you to visit these restaurants during your trip and enjoy the variety of udon flavors. You will experience the richness of Japan’s food culture.

Specialty products of each region

In every region of Japan, there are udon noodles made with specialties that are unique to the climate and climate of that region. Udon noodles that make use of these regional specialties are an interesting experience for travelers, as they allow them to enjoy the flavors and textures of each region. Here are some of the specialties of each major region.

Sanuki Udon (Kagawa Prefecture)

Kagawa Prefecture is known as the home of Sanuki udon. Sanuki udon is characterized by its strong and elastic noodles, and is often enjoyed with a simple dipping sauce made from iriko soup stock and dried bonito flakes.

Specialty Products

  • Iriko-Dashi: A broth made from iriko (dried sardines) from the Seto Inland Sea that is rich in flavor and enhances the taste of udon noodles.
  • Flour: Specially selected wheat flour from Kagawa Prefecture is used to give the udon its unique firmness and texture.

Inaniwa Udon (Akita Prefecture)

Inaniwa udon from Akita Prefecture is characterized by its thin and smooth texture. Made using the hand-pulling method, these udon noodles are thin and uniform, giving them a luxurious appearance, and are highly regarded throughout the country.

Specialty Products

  • Hand-pulling method: Using traditional hand-pulling techniques, the noodles are thin and smooth.
  • Akita water: Kneading with the pure water of Inaniwa gives the noodles a unique thirst-quenching texture.

Ise Udon (Mie Prefecture)

Ise udon from Mie Prefecture is characterized by its thick, soft noodles and thick sauce. The sweet and spicy sauce based on tamari soy sauce gives it a unique flavor.

Specialty Products

  • Tamari Soy Sauce: Made from local Tamari soy sauce, the sauce is thick and rich.
  • Thicker noodles: Thicker than regular udon noodles and boiled softly to give them a unique texture.

Goto Udon (Nagasaki Prefecture)

Goto Udon in Nagasaki Prefecture is a specialty of the Goto Islands and is characterized by its thin yet strong texture. They are kneaded with camellia oil, which gives them a unique flavor and smoothness.

Specialty Products

  • Camellia oil: Camellia oil, a specialty of the Goto Islands, is used to give the noodles their rich flavor.
  • Local Water: The clean water of the Goto Islands is used to give the noodles their unique firmness and texture.

Kishimen (Aichi Prefecture)

Kishimen, a specialty of Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, is characterized by its broad, flat noodles. Its unique shape gives it a different texture from other udon noodles.

Specialty Products

  • Wide noodles: characterized by its wide and flat shape, you can enjoy its sticky texture.
  • Dashi (thick soup stock): The thick soup stock made from local ingredients enhances the flavor of the noodles.

Udon noodles made with these regional specialties reflect the climate and culture of each region, allowing you to enjoy the unique flavor of each region. When you travel, be sure to try udon noodles that make use of local specialties and experience the diversity of Japan’s food culture.


What you can gain through your experience at a restaurant

Udon is one of the most representative dishes of Japanese food culture, loved by many people for its simple taste and diverse variations. By visiting udon restaurants throughout Japan, you can enjoy the unique flavors and ingredients of each region. From the strong firmness of Sanuki udon, the smooth texture of Inaniwa udon, to the soft noodles and rich sauce of Ise udon, udon that makes the most of regional specialties is a wonderful way to experience the local culture and history.

A step toward a deeper understanding of Japanese food culture

Through udon, you can experience the depth and diversity of Japanese food culture. By trying different styles of udon in each region, you will gain a deeper understanding of the local climate and characteristics of the ingredients and gain a deeper culinary experience. In addition, learning the proper way to eat udon and its etiquette will deepen your understanding of Japanese food culture and further expand your enjoyment of eating udon.

We hope that you will experience and fully appreciate the richness of Japan’s food culture through a trip to enjoy udon. When you visit Japan, we encourage you to visit a variety of udon restaurants and enjoy the diverse world of udon. The taste of udon and the richness of Japan’s food culture will create unforgettable memories for you.