I think one of the oddest meals we ate during our time in Japan was in a small village in the mountains to the north of Kyoto. It was nagashi somen. It wasn’t so much the food that was odd - just thin somen noodles and a dashi-based dipping sauce - more the method of its delivery: fast flowing stream.
The idea is that diners sit on platforms above a broad mountain stream. In front of you is a counter with a system of what, for want of a more elegant, culinary description, are steel and bamboo gutters down which fresh mountain water runs. The cooked noodles are sent in mouth sized bundles down the gutter from the ‘kitchen’ (a wicker hut), and you grab them as they pass.
This is all very entertaining and Elysian, and chimes well with Japanese sentiments regarding the symbiosis of food and the elements, but there are two flaws as far as I can make out.
One: If you happen to be sitting next to a hungry and chopstick-adept seven year old, you’ll be lucky if any noodles reach you. And two: your dipping sauce gets progressively diluted by the watery noodles to the point where you are just dipping watery noodles in water.
(There they go!).
Still, we were all pleased to have had a chance to try this near mythical dish (there are only a handful of restaurants that serve it in Japan), not least arrived extremely late on the very last day of the season - nagashi somen is a summer dish (it gets too cold to sit outside in winter).
And pink noodles - coloured by ume - signifies the meal is over.
The boys’ verdict: ‘All foods should be served this way.’ ‘Even burgers?’ ‘Yes, burgers!’