Nagashi Soumen

August 9, 2008

So, my time in Japan is almost up. It was a very nice time so far, and even though most of the activities of this blog happened at weekends (don’t get the impression that we’re having parties here all the time – the weekdays are filled with work), we surely did a lot of fun stuff, and I found several good friends. It’s really easy to feel welcome here. The other day, I found a nice cup and teapot at my desk, placed there as a present – without any special reason. During one of the many weekend activities with some people from my lab, I’ve been told to “please don’t go back to Germany.” Though I’m slightly looking forward to be able to have a fluent conversation with everybody around me, it will be hard to leave. Especially with the knowledge in mind that, with high probability, I won’t see most of the people here ever again.

Anyway, instead of becoming depressed, I’ll use this thought as motivation to make the best of my remaining time here (well, I think I also managed quite well so far in this regard)! So, on with a description of a cool event at one of my professors’ house:

Soumen are a specific kind of noodles, made out of wheat, pretty thin, and typically eaten in the summer: cooked, then cooled down and dipped into a tasty sauce. Now, a very special way of doing all of that is called Nagashi Soumen (流しそうめん): You split bamboo stems in half, remove the inner partitions, thus yielding long pipes. Putting two or more of them together, pointing slightly downwards, and you get a system of pipes where water can flow nicely all the way down. Next, the cooked noodles are put into the pipe, and people fish them out of the running water with their chopsticks. It’s not the most convenient way to eat noodles ^_^, but heaps of fun!

The whole thing gets even better if you produce all of the stuff by yourself, like we did: Cutting fresh bamboo, driving away the snakes, splitting the bamboo to build said pipes as well as all the needed tableware: cups, bowls for the sauce, and the chopsticks! It was totally amazing.

In addition to the soumen noodles, there were roasted chicken skewers (yakitori) and tempura: For the latter one, we just went through the garden and some bushes along a small creek, collecting leafs and herbs that were eatable (according to my professor ^^), pulling them through some batter, then deep frying them. Especially the shiso leafs were delicious.

We used some of the remaining bamboo to building a tool that is known as “deer chaser”: a type of shishi odoshi (鹿威し) by the name of sōzu (添水). It’s basically a hollow rod that slowly fills with water until the weight causes it to swing down, empty its content and swing back with a loud “knock”. It’s really amazing how much fun you can half with just some trunks of bamboo. Later, we let the event wind down by strolling along the creek, searching for crayfish and other underwater creatures. A typical party of the traditional kind, and a very enjoyable day.

Space is limited
In a haiku, so it’s hard
To finish what you



  1. Nice pictures and text, as always 🙂
    I guess creating your own tableware and immediately utilizing it to eat fresh Soumen is an experience hard to top and especially hard to get outside of Japan.

  2. Yeah, I can subscribe to that. Actually, after telling several Japanese friends of this party, half of them said that they never experienced Nagashi Soumen in this way either – not with making everything by themselves.

    I’m really glad this Prof. (Yuta) is so strong on traditions, always having cool ideas and inviting people to such kind of actions (half of my hiking trips, for example, also go on his account.)

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