Seeking Spice in Japan 1: Kanda Matsuya Soba, Tokyo


Soba, with a trend-like influence in a place that opened in 1884 and looks the part. In a good way.

The nearest metro station is Awajicho, but you can just as well – and maybe more interestingly – walk to Kanda Matsuya from Akihabara station. That, of course, will lead you through a part of Tokyo that you have probably heard about, and that is interesting to see, anyways.

Akihabara is well known for the many electronics stores located there, beginning right at Akihabara Station.

And so, things become all the more interesting as you have walked these roads of lots of traffic, many stores, modern electronics and consumerism… and then you get to Kanda Matsuya, and it’s straight out of some historical photograph.

Kanda Matsukya, Tokyo
Kanda Matsukya, Tokyo

Low, two-storey building, wooden façade.

As they open, they hang up the customary ‘curtain’ across the entrance.

You walk in, are greeted and shown to a place for you (or your group of people). (Okay, I arrived when there were few people there yet, so didn’t have to wait.)

As a recognizably foreign visitor, the English version of the menu is gladly delivered. It doesn’t tell you much, actually (no details), but enough to know the names of the dishes on offer and the major ingredient, if there is a special major ingredient – such as chicken in the Kashiwananban that I felt like having.

The standard among dishes would be kake soba (hot soba noodles in broth) or cold zaru soba.

Here, the major “spiciness” comes only from slices of negi (Welsh onion); I seem to remember that shichimi was available (and you can see one version of the typical container for that at the edge of the photo below), maybe also sansho (Japanese pepper), but they felt less appropriate here:

The noodles were pretty mild in taste, as good soba tends to be, the broth similarly light, with a distinct note of citrus that made for a very interesting combination of dashi-typical umami and a slight acidity that I had not tasted before.

It might have been from yuzu, which has recently become quite a trend in many a place, but Japan actually has more varieties of citrus than that to offer (and going by the slice of citrus visible in the broth, it was probably not yuzu but ponzu or suribachi…)

With a bit of chicken meat, it was all a satisfying small meal that whet my appetite for more, and a combination of aromas that would prove a good appetizer for what was to come.

Kashiwananban at Kanda Matsuya: Soba noodles in broth with pieces of chicken meat

Basic Information

Kanda Matsuya
(In Japanese: 神田まつや )

Price range: 1000-2000 (3000) JPY

Open Mo-Fr 11:00 am – 8:00 pm, Sat 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
Closed on Sunday and holidays

Few seats, so expect a wait if you don’t arrive at a non-busy time; no reservations.

Cash only.

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