Soba is a traditional Japanese noodle made from buck wheat.
It became very popular among the common people in the Edo period (1603-1867). Nowadays, it is usually sold as dried noodles at super markets.
Most buck wheat used to make it is produced in Hokkaido, which is northern Japan. However, Shinshu (Nagano prefecture) is very famous for the quality of soba making.
The traditional way of making soba is by hand. The handmade one is called teuchi-soba. The process to make teuchi has four different processes; mixing, pressing, rolling, and cutting. Many soba restaurants displays the chefs making noodles in front of the customers.
There are cold and hot one. Zaru-soba is a cold noodles served on a bamboo basket. The proper way to eat zaru is to dip the noodles in a soy source based soup. The hot one is called kake-soba which is offered in a bowl with warm soup.
Soba is not only served at restaurants, but you can also find many small noodle shops, mostly in train stations, where people stand and eat soba, which is called tachigui-sobaya (“tachi” means stand, “gui” means eat, and “ya” means shop). Businessmen who want to eat lunch quickly prefer to eat at these small tachigui-sobaya.
Toshikoshi-soba is a traditional way of cerebrating the coming of new year by eating soba on new years eve. Toshikoshi means crossing over years. Eating the noodles is to bring good fortune, and renounce the bad things happened in the previous year. The origin of toshikoshi-soba dates back to the Edo period, and is told that the long noodles represents longevity.