Taste-testing Nagano’s Soba Shimbun.

These days, the vast majority of people get their news from digital sources, and with SoraNew24 being an online publication, we’ll be the last ones to complain about that. Still, even we sometimes get nostalgic for the old-fashioned ways of doing things, so the other day we purchased some print media news.

However, the medium it was printed on wasn’t newsprint or glossy magazine stock, but noodles.

With soba (buckwheat) noodles being the representative cuisine of Nagano Prefecture, local newspaper Shinano Mainichi Shimbun came up with the idea of creating Soba Shimbun (“Soba Newspaper”) noodles, with sentences written right on the noodles.

Since there’s likely to be some time lag between when people buy the noodles and when they eat them, the focus of the Soba Shimbun isn’t up-to-the-minute breaking news. Instead, Soba Shimbun’s writing shines a light on the best parts of Nagano’s culture and lifestyle, giving residents a sense of pride and encouraging people from outside the prefecture to come visit and see it for themselves.

Because Japanese print newspapers often have their text arranged in vertical columns (with the characters read from top to bottom, and then the columns from right to left), the long, thin shape of the soba noodles really does make them look like a newspaper when you lay them down next to each other.

Not every noodle in the Soba Shimbun has writing on it. In our two-person pack, there were ten text noodles, included randomly from a pool of about 50 different possibilities that teach readers Nagano tidbits such as:

“According to a research study, Nagano people spend the longest time on average for their at-home meals. So you could say Nagano families get along with each other the best.”
“Nagano drivers are the most likely to stop at crosswalks.”
“People in Nagano love animals, and we even have the world’s only for-monkeys hot spring.”
“Nagano is a relaxing place, but we’re also Japan’s largest producer of spicy wasabi.”
“Nagano Prefecture has the third highest percentage of residents who volunteered as part of natural disaster relief programs.”
“Nagano Prefecture has the highest number of places where the Milky Way can be easily seen. So it’s an effective place to make your Tanabata wish…probably.”

You’ll need to do your reading before you do your cooking, though, as the noodles’ text disappears as they boil.

Still, we had food for thought while we had our food, and the noodles were excellent. Like we mentioned above, soba is Nagano’s culinary claim to fame, and these were delicious, with just the right touch of chewiness without being doughy.

▼ Soba is a year-round food that can be enjoyed either hot or cold, with the cold version eaten by dipping the noodles into a separate bowl of broth before each bite.

Though it’s a Nagano product, you don’t need to go all the way to Nagano to find Soba Shimbun, as we picked up our pack at Ginza Nagano, a shop in downtown Tokyo’s Ginza neighborhood that showcases items from the prefecture. After reading our soba newspaper, though, we’re thinking a trip to Nagano is definitely in order.

Related: Ginza Nagano, Soba Shimbun official website
Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]