The place we choose as the new program CHIKISHOKU, which stands for the meaning of regions, seasons, and foods, is Fujiyoshida City, Yamanashi Prefecture. It takes about two hours by car from Tokyo and the altitude is 700-900 meters in the northern foot of Mt. Fuji.
The reason that I got to know Fujiyoshida was that one of the Japanese members of BreathTOKYO introduced me. He is a big fan of Yoshida no Udon, which is famous for firm and chewy, and also his mother was born and raised there.
Whenever the members and I traveled around this area such as on a business trip, at lunchtime, we never fail to visit the Yoshida no Udon shop he had recommended and enjoyed the taste that you can only enjoy there. This is my initial memory of Fujiyoshida. And also I had an image that there were many mountaineers gathered at “Yoshidaguchi” to climb Mt. Fuji in summer.
Speaking of Fujiyoshida, the view of Mt. Fuji and cherry blossoms through the five-storied pagoda (Chureito) at Arakurayama Sengen Park was spread as one of the most instagrammable places, many tourists from Thai visited there, then, the place has been spreading to all over the world and subsequently became famous. (See the photo below)
Also, the scenery of Fuji that glowed in the nostalgic cityscape was spread as the instagrammable place. And more such as full of fun and exciting place Fuji-Q Highland, and Lake Kawaguchi located in the neighboring town and has lots of sightseeing spots, and so on. Fujiyoshida is familiar to everybody, so to speak.
Luckily, the weather turned out fine on the second day of our visit, and I felt so great to walk around through the city in the cold air. (A few clouds covered the top of the mountain in the afternoon, though)
On the Shimoyoshida Honmachi-Dori, the main area of the city, when Mt. Fuji became clear to see, the zebra crossing was crowded with people to take photos in the famous pose that four people walking on the crosswalk like in Abbey Road.
We collected information about the local food culture of Yoshida no Udon on that day. The texture of Yoshida no Udon is different from Houtou, which uses miso as stock and is familiar to everybody who has visited Lake Kawaguchi. The texture is extremely firm and chewy, even more than Sanuki Udon, and the ingredients are simpler than Houtou. By the way, the Ministry of Agriculture selected Houtou and Yoshida no Udon for one of the top 100 rural culinary dishes, that is why you can say these two types of Udon are the representative local food of Yamanashi prefecture.
The first place we visited was MIURA UDON, which was recommended by the owner of Bar TOTAN we had visited on the previous night and is popular among not only local people also tourists. Generally, ordinal living rooms are used as the shops of Yoshida no Udon. On the other hand, MIURA UDON is the simple prefabricated shop, which has an attractive view of Mt. Fuji.
Fortunately, when we got there, only one vacant table left. I did a little fist pump in joy. After getting the table, customers came in one after another and some of them had to wait for 20-30 minutes.
The thing that impressed me personally was Tsukimi Udon, which is a bowl of Udon in hot soup topped with an egg likened to the moon. It convinced me enough that there are many fans of this shop because the Udon had so smooth palate feeling. Two things more that impressed me were the time from ordering to delivery was short, which means they were operating efficiently, and I saw well the inside of the kitchen through the expansive structure. Unintentionally, I was gazing at how they were kneading and boiling the noodles.
The unique culture of eating horses meat in Yamanashi prefecture and firmest and chewiest Udon
When I pronounced Yoshida no Udon for the first time, I felt uneasy with “no” sound. However, when I pronounced Yoshida Udon deleted “no” sound, one of our members and the local guide corrected, “You need to add “no” between Yoshida and Udon. Yoshida “no” Udon means the specific Udon from Fujiyoshida.” I felt their love, strong particular, and aesthetic sense to the local cuisine from how to call the name.
While I was collecting information, I got to know about the basic combination of Yoshida no Udon and others, which were soup stock, firmest and chewiest Udon, boiled cabbage, and simmered horsemeat with salty-sweet sauce. It is said that every shop has its original soup stock.
It is said that the birthplace of Yoshida no Udon is Sakurai Udon, which is the only shop where doesn’t have meat Udon on the menu.
It was very good timing to ask about Yoshida no Udon to the wife of the owner because there were only a few customers. There is only one dish, Yoshida no Udon, on the menu, and the soup stock is so simple, there is no meat stuff for toping. You can choose the size, one bowl or half of the bowl, and also cold or hot.
Speaking of the culture of eating horsemeat, Kumamoto, Fukushima Aizu, and Nagano areas is more famous in common. How was the culture also born in Fujiyoshida?
According to the locals, there were two main reasons that the culture was born in the historical backdrop. One is the mountainous region. And the other is that it was easy to get horses because people used to use horses to convey luggage when they climbed Mt. Fuji.
In addition to the horsemeat in Yoshida no Udon, you can also eat horsemeat raw like sashimi with soy sauce, ginger, garlic and other condiments if you stop by Izakaya restaurants near Fujiyoshida. You can also buy horsemeat at butchers in town and eat it at home. We were supposed to buy horsemeat and eat it before the butcher closed, but unfortunately, the stores were closed, so we decided to eat horsemeat raw at the Izakaya restaurant.