We visited this place in November 2019, prior to Covid-19. Do check for pandemic-related updates and precautions before making your visit.
Other than a bustling town square and vibrant port, Nagahama, Shiga is also home to a wholesome and delectable local delicacy – yaki-saba somen. But even if you have not heard of this delightful dish prior to visiting Nagahama, you would definitely pick up on its distinct aroma walking past Yokarou 翼果楼, one of two eateries that specialise in it this quaint castle town.
The origin of yaki-saba somen is actually quite a heartwarming one. Back when women were married off to farmers living a long distance from their familial home, parents would send packages of preserved mackerel, yaki-saba, to their daughters. A traditional way of enjoying this food made with love, would be to serve hearty cuts of it over thin noodles known as somen. And thus, yaki-saba somen was born.
While changing times have heralded other forms of parental love, the deliciousness of yaki-saba somen has remained a constant. And a popular spot to try this local delicacy of Nagahama is none other than Yokaru!
Wildly popular with visitors, Yokarou sees snaking queues forming outside its front doors throughout the day, with famous personalities such as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and One Piece author Eiichiro Oda once stopping by to sample its signature dish. Fret not if you find yourself at the end of one such queue, as it moves relatively fast with diners moving in and out of the eatery. Though, you’ll probably have to stave off some major tummy rumbles from catching a whiff of those aromatic noodles every so often!
Like most traditional Japanese eateries, dining is done entirely on tatami mats, under the glow of some cozy overhead lights. If you’re lucky, though, you might just score the lone table by a window facing into a small garden.
While Yokarou’s claim to fame is its yaki-saba somen, you can also try yaki-saba in the form of Yaki-saba Zushi. Pressed into sushi rice, this palatable delicacy is available as a side dish to the somen, or as its own main dish. Order a Saba Kaido with Yakisaba Sushi Set (¥1,850) to savour both styles of eating yaki-saba!
The Yakisaba Somen (¥950) is generously portioned and wholesome in taste. The strong flavours of the yaki-saba are well-balanced with the subtle notes of the somen, which are easy to slurp up. It’s a truly rustic dish that does bring to mind heartwarming meals with family.
If you’re in Nagahama, make time for a meal at Yokarou to try this time-honoured delicacy. You won’t regret it!
Address: 7-8 Motohamacho, Nagahama, Shiga 526-0059
Nearest Train Station: Nagahama Station
Opening Hours: 10.30am – 5pm daily