Finally, I can focus on one of my favourite past-time – food! For those who have read Part 1 on the places to visit, here’s Part 2 when I will focus on food and some snacks to buy back.
Chintatsu Soba (珍逹そば)
Do not be fooled by its name. Even though it says soba, this is what we know as ramen. It is simply a naming preference. You can read more about the difference among Shina Soba (支那そば), Chuka Soba (中華そば), and ramen (ラーメン) here. (Sorry only in Japanese) They basically meant the same thing but probably have some historical nuance.
Anyway, this ramen place is actually pretty near Seibu Chichibu Station, but somehow we always skip since we have other priorities. From my previous trip, I made up my mind that this will be the first priority for lunch! So here we are! It took us 30 minutes in the line before our turn to enter the restaurant.
It was hard to imagine how this tastes like from the photo since the bowl is covered with a lot of leeks. I’m not a particular leek lover especially when it’s not cut into thin slices but this is surprisingly so fresh and good! The soup base is soy sauce, and you can add chili oil to add some spice to the soup based on your preference. They also have a miso version of this ramen, which is also very good!
Honke Hara (本家 原)
This soba restaurant has its main branch in the mountains, so we went to the branch that is nearer to Chichibu Shrine.
I recalled when we went for the first time, we were not sure of the portion they will serve and ordered one normal portion (普通盛り) and another big portion (大盛り). It turns out that the normal portion is already like the big portion, and of course the big portion became super big portion (特盛)… LOL!
While you are here, even when you will be stuffed with a lot of soba, remember to order their miso potatoes. Freshly fried and coated with miso sauce. Eat while it’s hot!
Cute characters of Chichibu
You can be assured that there will be cute characters to help market some specialty products in this town too. With their signature miso potato, comes this character called Potekuma-kun.
Miyabian is the soba restaurant we went for the first time recently. It’s quite a walk from Seibu Chichibu station, approximately 10 minutes along the roadside.
100% Japanese soba noodles
Yes, I did a previous write up about visiting a soba restaurant in Tokyo that serves the rare 100% soba noodles. At Miyabian, the chef takes it to another level, serving 3 types of this juwari-soba (十割そば).
I have actually never tasted anything like this before, especially the white soba texture is kind of chewy. I have had this white soba in other prefectures before, they usually don’t have this chewy texture so I’m not sure how the chef has done this.
Basically, the white soba is made from the most inner part of the soba grain, which they call the ichibanko (一番粉) or sarashinako (更科粉). Usually, with 100% soba grain itself, you will find the soba noodles pretty short and easily breakable because there is no wheat in the dough mixture, but this is just incredible. The next soba with a lighter brown comes from the slightly outer part of the grain called nibanko (二番粉) and the darkest one comes from outer part of the grain called sanbanko (三番粉). I find the darkest one actually tastes most like the usual good soba we have.
They also serve the seasonal dish of 2 soba types – one is the same white soba made from ichibanko, and another one is the soba that comes in yuzu flavour. Heavenly fragrant soba if you are a yuzu lover like me.
We also had to steal a peek of the soba soup to see how thick it is… It’s good. The only downside is the soba tsuyu is actually a little too strong and salty for my liking. For such good soba, it’s a pity to dip it in such a strong tsuyu that overwhelms the soba taste so we just dip a little instead of soaking in the tsuyu.
We didn’t have enough space in our tummies to stuff ourselves with more soba, but this is also another featured soba restaurant that serves soba with mountain walnut dipping sauce. We will visit this place for sure next time!
By now, you may notice that those areas that serve good soba usually has a good natural source of water from the mountains or spring water. It’s no surprise Chichibu is the same too. 🙂
Matsumura (甘味食堂 松むら)
This is the place where you can buy really good and cheap sushi for takeaways. We have never tried the eat-in space so I’m not sure how the menu is like. But if you are a fan of inari sushi (sushi wrapped in deep-fried tofu skin), I will recommend to try their inari sushi. There’s nothing super fancy but I like the simple home-made taste and strong sweet flavour of the tofu skin.
They are priced at a very reasonable rate, and I think it’s a generous portion for this price. Do try to go in the morning because they may run out of the more popular ones in the afternoon. We saw other local people buying here too so you can tell that it’s not a place only for tourists but definitely well-loved by the local community.
Yasudaya Hinoda branch (安田屋日野田店)
I guess if I didn’t know beforehand that this is the famous place where you can enjoy the pork cutlet bowl in Chichibu, I don’t think I dare to enter. I guess this is also one of the characteristics of the local restaurants in Chichibu, they are so “low profile” and undecorated.
We went in knowing that we already had 2 meals beforehand, so there’s no way we can stuff ourselves further with pork cutlets. Imagine our joy when we see that there is takeaway bento! We will just share one bento to have a taste of this famous waraji katsu-don!
The staff who served us were not Japanese and we had some interesting communication when the lady knew that we were probably going to share one bento, so she offered to cut the pork cutlets (it’s 2 big pieces if you eat there) into smaller pieces for us, and also put in 2 sets of chopsticks and napkins. We love the Japanese way of hospitality as usual… omotenashi!
Chichibu BBQ Ichibankan (秩父焼肉ホルモン一番館)
Apparently, the local people in Chichibu is more used to have pork compared to beef, so it’s natural that their BBQ restaurants serve more pork instead of beef. This is probably the restaurant to go if you are looking for good BBQ for pork offal (or pig organs).
I’m not a person who is good with pork offal BBQ, but I must say they really serve very fresh and rare parts here at very reasonable prices.
They provide huge garbage bags for you to put in your coats/bags in and sealed to minimise the BBQ smell but be prepared to smell like what you eat, since the restaurant is pretty smoky from all the grilling.
Some souvenirs to buy back
If you would like to cook some of the pork cutlets, here’s a famous butcher shop where you can buy their miso marinated pork cutlets.
Back to the Seibu Chichibu station area
In case you are hesitant about going into the local restaurants, there is a food court at the Seibu Chichibu station area where you can try all the local delicacies too.
There is a corner just next to the food court where you can buy local sake and alcohol from this region. They also offer a standing space for you to try some of their signature sake and also some finger food.
Also in the same space, you will find a large variety of foodstuff and local souvenirs to buy. Since there are so many products, they also kindly let us know what are the top 3 products bought by visitors.
No. 1: Chichibu Mochi (ちちぶ餅)
If you are a mochi lover, you can try this very chewy mochi that comes in red bean paste. It will probably go well with some strong green tea since I do find the red bean paste a little sweeter than usual.
No. 2: Shakushina Zuke (しゃくしな漬)
Japan has many different types of pickled vegetables. This is one of my favourite pickled vegetables and I like the “fresher” ones since they are crunchier! The ones they sell here are from the pioneer shop. I will always buy at least one pack back, cut them up into small pieces and keep them in containers to be stored in the refrigerator.
No. 3: Miso marinated pork (豚肉味噌漬)
Basically, this is the miso marinated pork cutlet similar to what the local butcher shop was selling, but this is probably nicely packaged and more portable. Unfortunately, this is the one I always give it a miss since I don’t think we can cook it well. 😛
That’s all for the food coverage of Chichibu.
Check on the opening days/hours
A quick word of advice is to check in advance on the days in which the places you want to visit may be closed in the week. Based on past experiences, most museums or national/city related institutions are likely to be closed on Mondays, while restaurants or cafes are usually closed on Tuesdays or Wednesdays depending on the owners’ preferences. Also, we encountered a few times when the owner will have unintended last-minute closure on the day we visited. There are also places where they have shorter opening hours, so in case you really want to visit a certain cafe/restaurant/spot, do check the opening days/hours!
Thanks for reading!
Because we only travel to the areas accessible by train or foot, there is a limit on what we can cover. But if you drive around the area, there are a few popular hot spring spots too and of course, the good food that comes with the traditional ryokan stays. Probably that will be our next attempt for more new discoveries in this beautiful town!