The Word Works

Consuming Japan

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And the winner is...Somen!

Published By: John on 09/25/06
Categories: Hit Products Marketing

When summer’ heat drags on for days, we like eating somen (thin wheat noodles). Once we do we want more, but at the supermarket both somen and somen sauce are sold out. In the noodles world of noodles,  there is no doubt about it, somen is a winner! (From Michi Shioya’s Value Research Bulletin Board, No. 103)
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What about hiyamugi (iced noodles)?

In the noodle section of the supermarket, we find shelves well-stocked with soba (buckwheat noodles), udon (thick wheat noodles), and somen. But hiyamugi are barely visible. If we don’t look hard, we won’t find them. They have no hardcore supporters. Noone who wants them no matter what. In the noddles world, they are losers.

Hiyamugi  and somen: what’s the difference?

I don’t know the precise definition, but hiyamugi are usually thicker than somen, which are very thin. We might speculate that the thinner somen go down more easily in the heat of summer. But, no, that’s not it. Famous examples of somen from many parts of Japan are as thick as udon.

Udon  are winners, too.


Udon are a little thicker than hiyamugi. But the hit movie UDON has strengthened udon‘s presence. The biggest reason is Sanuki Udon,  which plays a starring role in the film. Its fame has put other local varieties of udon in the spotlight, too. Many have long histories, and numerous udon shops are renowned for unique tastes. The sheer number of examples throughout Japan is awesome. Thus, once you have tasted Sanuki Udon, enjoyed the rich taste and been startled by how inexpensive it is, you find yourself wanting to try the udon from other places as well.


Soba, udon, somen, hiyamugi, ramen


In contrast to other types of noodles,  hiyamugi has hardly any supporters. When we think of ramen, for example, we think of Sapporo, Hakodate, Onomichi, Wakayama or Tokyo, all places that have given birth to distinctive varieties of ramen. (After Tokyo, Ehime Prefecture appears to have the most ramen shops.) Soba has local varieties everywhere. That makes it easy for for anyone to don a soba maker’s uniform, pretend to to make his own soba and present himself as a soba expert. No wonder soba is so popular.

In contrast, no one can pose as a hiyamugi expert. Localities in which the hiyamugi is famous are rare. It’s hard to make up stories about the special flour, the handmade, freshmade, or fresh from the pot qualities of hiyamugi.

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