Foodie travelers visiting Japan can now indulge in one of the country’s most famous foods without having to leave the hotel.
Udon House is a cooking school and lodging house in Kagawa, Japan’s smallest prefecture, on Shikoku Island.
Beyond its landscape, the region is so prized for its thick, chewy udon noodles that mail addressed to “Udon Prefecture” will be delivered to Kagawa without question.
Bed and breakfast, and lunch, and dinner
Guests at Udon House take cooking classes from Japanese masters downstairs, then sleep in shared rooms upstairs. But don’t worry – there are opportunities to get out of the house a bit, including tours of local farms and canoeing or stand-up paddleboarding nearby in the Seto Inland Sea.
The Udon House project is a collaboration between two entrepreneurs, Hima Furuta and Kanako Harada.
Although neither is from the Kagawa area originally, both quickly grew to love it during their travels.
Harada is a consultant who works with travel agencies to promote under-visited regions in Japan. Furuta is the CEO of Umari, a design company that works on social-good projects.
Before investing in Udon House, Harada established Peace Kitchen, a Japanese food project that brought communities together through cooking courses, talks and interactive dining experiences.
From house to home
The timing was good, too.
Throughout Japan, particularly as the country braces for a huge influx of visitors ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, there is a big push to publicize and promote less-visited regions.
Part of that effort has tapped into Japanese mascot culture, with small towns or regions using a cute mascot as a form of travel PR. Udon House has taken advantage of that, using a mascot who has udon noodles for a brain.
And Udon House is more than just a place to stay.
As much of Japan’s population is aging and many young people have moved to larger cities looking for work, there are abandoned homes, called akiya, throughout the country falling into disrepair.
One of those homes is now Udon House. Furuta and Harada chose it because the house had a good foundation, a lot of space and was close to a train station. After that, they handled refurbishments and added new appliances and other technology like Wi-Fi to make it more friendly to guests.
Beyond the bowl
It’s not only foreigners who are taking advantage of Udon House’s existence. There’s also Udon Plus, a creative incubator for local business owners who have ideas connected to udon and want to try them out – recently, a coffee startup came in to test out ways to mix coffee grounds and udon soup broth.
There are also demos and occasional events.
Udon House hopes to fulfill several goals – teaching the art of udon noodle-making so that future generations will be able to enjoy it, as well as bringing tourists to a lesser-known region in Japan.
And if you’ve ever had the experience of being so full after a big meal that you could barely get up from the table – good news, as Udon House won’t make you go very far to sleep it off.
Udon House, 1651-3 Okamoto, Toyonaka-cho Mitoyo City, Kagawa Japan 769-1507, +81 (0)875-89-1362