Quick Summary for Those Short On Time
- Cost: 300-400 yen
- Place: Near Mikuni Station, Osaka
- Food: Udon and Soba
- Speed: Very Quick Food
Discovering Mikuni Soba
My first experience of Japan was one through red eyes. I was jet-lagged from a 15 hour flight from JFK in New York to Hong Kong that was immediatly followed by a 4 hour flight into Kansai International Airport in Osaka. From there I had to wait 2 hours to get through customs as they put me in the line with the trainee. I am not the kind of guy who can sleep very well on airplanes so I was exhausted and hadn't slept in more than 36 hours. Through the help of some of the nicest people I have ever met I survived another 1:30 minutes to my hostel in the Mikuni are of northwest Osaka.
I passed out in my bed without even eating. Before I knew it 15 hours had gone by and It was morning again in Japan. When I woke up and wandered into the kitchen I realized that there wasn't a lick of food around anywhere. The hostel's owner however was sitting there talking to the other guests and got me a cup of tea.
After clearing my blurry eyes and drinking some of her tangy orange tea I asked her where I could get some grub. I instantly saw her eyes light up and she ran to grab a piece of paper. She came back, armed with a pen and paper, and started drawing a map of the surrounding areas and great local places to eat Sushi, Udon, and other Japanese foods.
I asked her what her recommendation was and she instantly pointed to the Udon shop. At this point I had never actually eaten udon so I had no idea what it was. She told me that her and her husband had traveled all around Japan and hadn't found any Udon better than this place. It was decided then, I would try out "the best udon in Japan".
She told me to walk in and ask them for the "Tempura Udon". I gathered some money, said ittekimasu, and stepped out into the brisk morning air. After following the map I arrived at the Mikuni Soba and Udon shop. At this point my Japanese skills were non existant so I couldn't read the red sign that said 三国そば (mikuni soba). I was lucky to stumble into the right place.
After stepping inside I walked up to the cashier, said my order, and got my udon. I have to say, it was absolutely delicious. It was unbelievably good! At that point I had nothing to compare it to but after eating countless udon in differnet places in Japan I can still easily say this is my favorite Udon in Japan. If you know of a better place I'd love to know!
The Details of Mikuni Soba
When you first arrive and walk through the small door you will of course be greeted with "いらっしゃいませ" (irrashaimase) or the traditional greeting when entering a store. Don't worry, a reply is not needed or expected.
If you want water then look back towards the entrance and there should be a water station there. Feel free to just grab a cup and some water!
The first thing you will notice is that this is a standing bar udon shop. That means that there are no seats. This is not a place to sit down with the family for a while. It's meant for a quick meal when you need it. This actually works in your advantage because this allows the food to be dirt cheap.
When you find an area you can stand just take then look over the menu. Please note that there are no English menus and the only menu is on the back wall and in Kanji. This is not a tourist destination, it's a local place.
Don't worry though, here are some common udons you can order:
- Kitsune Udon (きつねうどん）: Fried Tofu Udon
- Tempura Udon (てんぷらうどん）: Deep Fried Udon (This one is by far the best, it has small bits of shrimp and other fried goodness in it. This is my recommendation)
- Gyuuniku Udon : Meat Udon
- Sake Udon: Plain Udon
When the Food Arrives
So as soon as that bowl is put down have your money in your hand and give it to them. It will make them feel more comfortable and happy that you followed the correct custom!
You will notice a little bottle with a red lid that says "七味唐辛子" on it. If you like spice then throw that on. It improves the taste even more and is so good. Side note: I love this spice so much that even though I'm back in my home country I have this stuff imported so I can use it. It's such a great spice.
How to get to Mikuni Soba
And here's the street view oriented on the restaurant:
Here are the directions:
- From Hankyu-Umeda Station you are going to get onto the Hankyu-Kobe Line. These trains leave from most far left tracks if you are looking at the trains from the entrance. You can get on any train here. The fasted will be the trains with the express or limited express trains. You will know them because above the doors there will be either a Yellow or Red display. The Local trains (black display) also work just fine!
- Ride the train until you get to Juso station (十三). Get off here. You should get to this station, depending on your train anywhere from 2-5 minutes. So stay near the train door.
- Go to Line three. You may have to go up and over the tracks of the train you just got off. Follow the blue signs!
- Get on the local train at this line. MAKE SURE IT IS THE LOCAL TRAIN. Mikuni is a small station, so if you get on any other train then you will skip the station. Make sure the train's display is black and you see "普通", that is the local station.
- Ride the train for 1 stop. Mikuni station is the very first stop on this line. Get off there.
- Leave out the East Exit (東口). Here you will see a courtyard like thing with a koban on the left side. If you see this then you got out of the station on the correct side.
- From from here you should a road running parallel to the station in front of you. If you look to the left you should see an intersection. At that intersection on the side farthest from you to the left is mikuni soba. Look for the red banner!