Kyoto Nishijin Shinise: Tawaraya Meibutsu Udon

Tawaraya Meibutsu Nihon (Two Noodle) Udon たわらや名物二本うどん

Tawaraya Meibutsu Nihon (Two Noodle) Udon  たわらや名物二本うどん
A bowl of udon with only two noodles? Is it a rip-off or a find? Though Tawaraya’s famous udon dish is a bit gimmicky, it does have that special and refined ‘shinise’ taste. This is a dish that has been enjoyed, across the street from an ancient shrine, by several generations of locals and pilgrims.

Today I visited another Nishijin restaurant that I had only heard about but had never been to: Tawaraya.

Tawaraya ‘Two Noodle’ Udon
Tawaraya Meibutsu Nihon (Two Noodle) Udon  たわらや名物二本うどん

Tawaraya is located just down the street from the main gate of Kitano Tenmagu Shrine in a very old and beautiful Nishijin Machiya. Tarawaya’s famous ‘meibutsu’ dish is called Nihon Udon, literally two noodles udon. You only get two noodles, so you know that they have to be substaintial. Tawaraya’s udon isn’t just thick, or even really thick, it is unbelievably, ginormously thick!

In Japan, you normally slurp noodles, but not there. Of course you still eat them with chopsticks but instead of slurping up a mouthful at a time, you bite off a mouthful at a time, from a single noodle!

Nihon udon is served with a very rich and rather salty dashi broth and shredded ginger, which you add yourself. I only used about half of mine.

The noodles of course taste like udon, but the feeling is more like eating mochi, very interesting.

Numerous other noodle dishes are available, but I didn’t try them. It looked like the other udon dishes are not served with the super thick udon, but ‘standard’ thickness udon.

Tawaraya Storefront
Tawaraya Meibutsu Nihon (Two Noodle) Udon  たわらや名物二本うどん

The machiya is especially beautiful, inside and out. The thick wooden columns and lintels are painted blackish brown. In the genkan entry there is a huge well with a bamboo cover. The floor is made of huge stone slabs, generously sprinkled with water. (Japanese love sprinkling water on pavement, stones and so on.)

While the price of 700 yen is reasonable for a tasty, shinise lunch in Kyoto, if you are a famished traveler the nihon udon probably would not be a substantial enough meal for you. The meal is classic Nishijin style, not a large serving but it is just enough to keeo you going for . If you want to try something novel and a Kyoto meibutsu that many Kyotoites haven’t sampled and you are visiting Nishijin or Kitano Tenmagu Shrine, this is a great place to lunch.

Lunch is quick here and it is not the kind of machiya dining experience in which you can really take your time and enjoy the atmosphere and the food.

Tawaraya Noren Curtain
Tawaraya Meibutsu Nihon (Two Noodle) Udon  たわらや名物二本うどん
Tawara means ‘straw bail of rice’, depicted in brush and ink on natural Japanese linen here on the Tawaraya noren curtain. ‘Ya’ means store, or shop.

Tawaraya Storefront ‘Menu’
Tawaraya Meibutsu Nihon (Two Noodle) Udon  たわらや名物二本うどん
This shows the other dishes available, having them all pinned to the traditional woodwork is rather unfortunate, not very ‘Nishijin’, too in your face.

Tawaraya ‘Two Noodle’ Udon – Served
Tawaraya Meibutsu Nihon (Two Noodle) Udon  たわらや名物二本うどん
The small plate on the lower right is grated ginger. You add as much as you like. For me, half was enough. I drank all my dashi, which you really aren’t supposed to do because of all the salt content. But, it was excellent!

Tawaraya ‘Two Noodle’ Udon
Tawaraya Meibutsu Nihon (Two Noodle) Udon  たわらや名物二本うどん

Tawaraya ‘Two Noodle’ Udon
Tawaraya Meibutsu Nihon (Two Noodle) Udon  たわらや名物二本うどん

Tawaraya Machiya Interior
Tawaraya Meibutsu Nihon (Two Noodle) Udon  たわらや名物二本うどん
This little room, off of the genkan entryway is for show and dipicts what a traditional Nishijin machiya room looks like.

Tawaraya Machiya Interior
Tawaraya Meibutsu Nihon (Two Noodle) Udon  たわらや名物二本うどん
Sorry, I didn’t have my usual camera today and was unable to get good photos of the interior.

Tawaraya Machiya Storefront
Tawaraya Meibutsu Nihon (Two Noodle) Udon  たわらや名物二本うどん
On the right side of Tawaraya is a small shrine where pregnant women come to pray for a safe delivery. If you are traveling in Japan, and pregenant, you can do lunch at Tawaraya and pray for a safe delivery! What a deal!

English and Service
Tawaraya たわらや
English service: No English menu, but the menu does have photos. You can just point. The staff is friendly and reports that foreign guests frequent the restaurant as it is right down the street from Kitano Tenmagu Shrine.
tel: 075-463-4974
Kyoto-shi Kamigyo-ku Onmae-dori Imakoji-sagaru Bakuro-cho 918 (京都市上京区御前通今小路下ル馬喰町918)
hours 11am-4pm (closed Tuesday)

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7 Responses to “Kyoto Nishijin Shinise: Tawaraya Meibutsu Udon”

  1. That certainly is different… Is the texture like sanuki udon?

  2. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Marc, Well, from my experience Sanuki udon is rather hard (koshi ga aru). In Kyoto, noodles are generally soft. These monstrous noodles were quite mochi-like, I thought. So did my friend. (もちもちとした) So, I think they were unlike Sanuki style udon.

    I think that you should definitely do your ‘No Recipes’ original version of monster udon!

  3. FFichiban says:

    Oh that is very interesting! I don’t think I could keep going on two strands of udon tho even if they are super thick hee hee but hmmm would very much like to check it out

  4. Peko Peko says:

    Hello FFichiban, It was more substantial than I expected, however, if you are in need of a big meal, than I would not recommend Tawaraya’s Nihon Udon. Their other sets are the usual size though. If you are a traveling foodie, you can always lunch here, then get a bite or two at some snacky or wagashi place to keep you going until dinner.

  5. FFichiban says:

    Hee hee yeah my trips to Japan always somehow end up with 3-4 lunches a day and multiple dinners as well unless its a really big meal. Therefore I gain like 20kgs on each trip haha XD

  6. Peko Peko says:

    Wow, 3-4 lunches a day and multiple dinners sounds pretty luxurious! But I guess if you love real Japanese food, you don’t want to miss out.

  7. Nils von Barth says:

    Thanks for the tip – just dropped by today! It was nice enough, but it’s not worth a trip.

    The udon was ok, but felt gimmicky and not terribly special (it doesn’t hold a candle to Tsunamichi 綱道 by Karasuma-Kitaoji, say).

    Taking your suggestion that the noodles alone were a bit small, I got a set – the fat nihon udon plus a donburi – in this case with kitsune don (since tofu is a big thing around Kitano Tenmangū), which was quite good, and meant the meal was filling (also included hiyayakko (cold tofu)).

    The machiya is very nicely restored though, and the floor is very nice, as is the display by the entrance. There’s also a small pottery store. That said, the seating is Western (chairs at tables), not on tatami – the building and side rooms are nice, but the actual dining is not a traditional feel by any means.

    The other dishes looked tasty enough – the tempura udon (with normal udon) looked tasty, and there were several plates of sweets (kanmi).

    In sum, it’s a nice place for a quick bite, and v. convenient for Kitano Tenmangū if you’re already in the area, but it’s not worth going out of your way for (neither for food nor decor), and there are lots of other options in the area – the north-south street on the east side of Kitano Tenmangū, Kamishichiken 上七軒 (one of Kyoto’s 5 Hanamichi = Geisha districts; the diagonal street just east of the shrine), and, a little south, the huge shopping arcade on Ichijo-dori 一条通 商店街.

    BTW, I visited in February – the main event of Kitano Tenmangū is the plum festival (Feb 25th – coincidentally (?) the day you posted this), which explains the plum blossoms (I believe) in the pot in the display area.

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