It’s not hard to find decent noodles in Kagawa, the unofficial “Udon capital of Japan”. Shikoku Island Prefecture is home to more than 700 restaurants specializing in udon. You’re never more than a few minutes away from a deep bowl of thick, chewy noodles drenched in a steaming, flavorful broth.
But if you are looking for better udon noodles in Kagawa, there is only one place to go: the Taxi Udon. This tour service takes travelers from restaurants to udon places they would never find on their own. Think: holey joints in small villages, family factories with lines that wrap around the block, and distinctive restaurants that put a unique twist on traditional noodles.
With Japan easing its border restrictions, potential visitors to this must-see destination should consider arranging a tour in the Udon taxi. Here’s what to know about this edible excursion.
Drivers have expertise throughout Udon
Your private guide isn’t just a driver, he’s a true udon expert.
“I need knowledge about the history of udon, the taste of udon in each restaurant and their prices, location, menu, etc.,” says June Tada, tour guide at Udon Taxi.
Prospective guides must pass written and field tests, as well as a practical udon-making exam, before they can drive travelers in one of Udon Taxi’s shiny black sedans, each crowned by a large bowl of noodles. Passing the evaluations is a source of pride for the pilots. They are eager to share their passion for udon with Japanese and foreign tourists.
“There are many famous udon in Japan, but you can eat the best udon in Kagawa. It produces all the ingredients needed to make udon,” says Tada, adding that the wheat from the region is of the highest quality.
Try more than one type of udon
Taxi tours of Udon last one to two hours and start at 4,800 yen (about $35) for up to four people. The longer your visit, the further you can go off the beaten path in search of the best udon noodles in Kagawa.
All you need to travel is a big appetite and the urge to sip. Guides ask guests if there is a particular type of udon they want to try, such as zaru udon (cold noodles served with grated nori and a strong broth), niku udon (hot noodles topped with thin slices ginger beef) or Geso tempura udon (hot noodles with fried squid), or if they just want to focus on classic kake udon with umami-rich dashi broth.
Udon culinary experiences are organized
Like a concierge, the udon-loving drivers curate Kagawa’s top two or three restaurants for each traveler. They also have dinner with their guests to give them a chance to chat about noodles and Japanese culture.
No two tours are the same and the places you go will be heavily influenced by your guide. Tada enjoys bringing travelers to Ayauta Seimana self-service udon stand in Marugame with stunning views of Mount Iino.
“They have a unique dish called vegetable udon, which is made with garlic olive oil. It’s very delicious,” says Tada.
Tada also recommends guests to dine at Kanonji City’s Kamakiri udon shop, “a very fancy restaurant where you can enjoy fluffy udon noodles”, and Teuchi Udon Okada, whose owner is dedicated to the art of making handmade noodles.
But no matter where you go in the Udon Taxi, one thing is certain: you’ll end the tour with a full stomach and an even deeper appreciation for Kagawa’s signature dish.