Ain’t no noodle party like a Shimane noodle party.

A fun and common Japanese summer tradition is nagashi somen, in which people pluck chilled noodles from a bamboo water slide called a “toi” and eat them. Especially when done in the scenic backdrop of rural Japan, its a very quaint and fun activity.

▼ Some kindergarten kids giving nagashi somen a go.

However, 2020 has once again made all good things come to an end, and the communal dining aspect of nagashi somen is obviously problematic in a pandemic. There are alternatives like home nagashi somen kits, but they just aren’t the same without the ambiance.

▼ Even our own tradition of river nagashi somen has become risky.

Taikodani Inari Shrine in Shimane Prefecture, however, is hoping to keep the spirit of nagashi somen alive by modifying their annual noodle run to fit the times. This year saw the first “look but don’t eat” nagashi somen event. 

That might not sound so fun, and the organizers expected as much, so they also added a special treat for the roughly 30 kids who stopped by. Colorful capsules containing candy could be found in addition to their noodles floating down the toi constructed from about 100 stalks of bamboo along the shrine’s famous 300-meter (984-foot) line of torii gates.

▼ An HD look at Taikodani Inari’s nagashi somen route, but without the slides.

Kids are given special catchers to avoid direct hand contact, and with a little skill and luck they can scoop up some sweets. Due to an overall drop in tourism to region, there wasn’t a whole lot of scooping going on anyway, but they certainly made the best of their situation.

Reaction from elsewhere in Japan was mixed. Some disliked this departure from a well-established tradition, while others felt the shrine could have done more.

“I don’t see the point in this.”
“There should be a huge fat guy at the end of the slide just gobbling up all the untouched noodles.”
“If they made colored noodles, I think the kids would like that.”
“They could somehow hook up a camera so people could watch in VR.”
“That’s stupid.”
“Seems depressing to just watch food float by and not be able to eat it.”
“Maybe it would work if everyone took turns with their own chopsticks.”
“That’s just not nagashi somen.”
“It would be cool if they made the noodles go through some kind of Rube Goldberg machine.”

Judging by these comments, it’s hard to please both the crowd that wants to keep nagashi somen exactly the same and the ones who want to kick start it into a virtual reality extravaganza. 

But getting what we want hasn’t really been the spirit of 2020, rather Taikodani Inari Shrine, along with everyone else, is just trying to make do as we all float helplessly down this long bamboo shoot called life.

Source: NHK News Web,
Images: ©SoraNews24
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