The country that is home to some of the fastest trains in the world and rated by travelers to have one of the most convenient transport systems in the world, Japan’s decision to up the ante by introducing a new form of travel may change the game entirely: the Udon Taxi.
If you’re a fan of Udon– which by the way, who isn’t?– then your first-class udon experience awaits you in Shikoku Island’s Kagawa Prefecture. Kagawa is known as Japan’s udon capital, where over 600 different restaurants, each with different flavors of udon can be found and enjoyed.
If you just so happen to be doing an Asia trip and are flying in from Hong Kong, you’re in luck because Hong Kong Express flights have finally partnered up with Kotobus Airport Express from Hong Kong Airport to Takamatsu Airport, where you’ll be able to experience this food ride of a lifetime. Luckily for you, if you take this great deal, the Kotobus Company also runs the Udon Taxi Service, so being able to book yourself a ride is beyond easy, as they are also very English-speaking friendly.
The service aims to introduce the popular local udon dishes of the area in a unique way. You’ll get driver who is part taxi driver host and part udon expert. When we arranged our ride to pick us up, our taxi driver made sure to us that he knew what he was doing.
“I had to pass three exams to get here:the driving exam, the taxi drivers exam… and the udon-making course.”
From there, we knew we trusted this man with our lives.
In entering the car, you’ll receive a map of the available udon restaurants, as well as the option to choose where you would like to go. For us, we were given the choice to try some high-class expensive udon, or try something more rare and specific to Kagawa. In alliance with our urge to be as local as we can, we went with the Kagawa option, which he then asked if we wanted to try Kagawa most famous udon type, ‘Sanuki Udon’ or if we wanted to try something a little more eccentric. Of course, we chose the more eccentric route, which ended up being inoshishi (猪, or boar) udon, and with that, we were on our way.
Arriving at our first udon spot, we were hungry, cold and excited for a wholesome bowl of homemade udon noodles. Admittedly, when we arrived at the restaurant, it looked like a regular farm house– not shabby or anything, but it just didn’t look like a restaurant.
In the truest form of shifting first impressions, who knew we would be entering the house of the best and freshest udon we’ve ever tried. We saw locals already eating and serving themselves. There was one large pot of udon broth where customers were able to serve themselves by cooking their own udon and pouring the beautiful slow-cooked boar meat and daikon radish broth over.
The winner of the dish was definitely the udon noodles– super soft and chewy noodles in the bath of salty, but not overpowering, boar broth made from scratch. The tender boar meat was subtle but was so necessary in making the udon taste hearty and perfect for a Winter day. Like the broth, the udon noodles were made to eat fresh every day. Right next to the front desk is a cooking station, which looks like it was doused with tonnes of flour, but you could see patches where the table below was seen from the day’s udon-making.
Along with the great quality of the udon broth and noodles, what also surprised us most was the fact that it was less than ¥400 yen for the bowl! Better in quality and for our wallets, we seriously contemplated making the move to Kagawa from Tokyo’s ¥800 yen udon for this bowl.
Not only do you just go udon-restaurant hopping in the local area, but the driver also sits down and eats with you, engaging in chats about the local food, culture, history, and different udon-cooking techniques in the region. Our driver was extremely helpful in organising our arrival to each restaurant, and his recommendations? Incredible. A-class udon joints off the beaten track, famous by local residents but unknown on Google.
For our readers who speak a limited amount of Japanese, admittedly it will be a little difficult but in the process of booking your tour, we recommend mentioning that you prefer an English-speaker. Don’t expect full British or American fluency though– by English speaker, they mean they’re able to understand what you respond to when they ask you “what type of udon do you like?”. Obviously it would be great if you could understand them when they tell you about the local area, but at the end of the day, take the udon-master’s advice and enjoy some really great Kagawa famous udon!