Kanamaruza is the oldest existing kabuki theater in Japan. Konpira Kabuki is performed every spring and, in the other seasons, the theater is open to tourists. Konpira Shrine, also known as “Konpira-san,” has a long history. It enshrines the god of the sea. At the top of the 785 stone steps up to the main shrine, you can see a splendid view. Shopping at shops along the way or soaking in a bath at Konpira hot springs are also fun.
When traveling around Kagawa it will be hard to miss the numerous udon stands and restaurants so if fond of the white noodle it might be interesting to master preparation techniques prior to leaving the area and there is no better place to do so than near the stone steps leading to Konpira-san. Named Nakano Udon School, and labeled one of the funniest and most entertaining of schools in Japan, this isn’t a place for mathematics or science as the only subject on the curriculum is udon cooking.
“We are called a dancing udon school” principal, Ms. Sumiko Matsunaga says, asking customers (students) to call her by her nickname of Matchan – and it is clear from the outset that her interest lays primarily in entertaining her students.
While struggling with the flour and elbow deep in the process of kneading, Matchan suddenly turned up the music and shouted “Let’s dance!” – herself already swaying to the music. At first I was literally stunned but upon seeing her boundless enthusiasm had no other choice but to join in. Mere seconds, or was it minutes later, my shame done away with I had discovered the perfect blend of cooking and dance.
After rolling then cutting the ‘block’ into noodles, immerse them in boiling water and wait for a short time. Only then do you fully appreciate that anything made with our own hands is so much more delicious than that purchased and eaten. With just a little soy sauce, raw egg, grated radish, and of course traditional bonito soup nothing can quite surpass these noodles.
“Cooking udon is, in a sense, a similar process to that involved in bringing up children” chirps in Matchan now wearing a rather serious face. “It’s useless resorting to power in the kneading process when a combination of love, and tenderness will take you so much further” – a lady truly pleased that her students will take these lessons back home with them.
For more information about udon cooking at Nakano Udon School.
Nakano Udon School:
796 Kotohira-cho, Nakatado-gun, Kagawa
Udon-cooking 1575 yen (60-80 mins)