You can eat a bowl of udon noodles anywhere in Japan, but the bowl of udon noodles in front of me can only be eaten in the Goto Islands. To my layman’s eye, these fresh Goto udon noodles in a bowl ready to be cooked don’t look all that different from other udon noodles – but I know they do.
That’s because I had just visited the Nakamoto noodle factory and witnessed the master noodle makers at work, twisting ever-elongating strings of noodles to break down the gluten. I’ve seen these noodles stretched to an incredible 1.75m hanging on a drying rack. So I know – this bowl of noodles is special. And that’s not the only thing going on on Fukue Island.
Fukue Island is the largest of the Goto Islands, about 100 kilometers off the coast of Kyushu near Nagasaki.The islands are home to one of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are home to a series of churches built by the Japanese Implicit carbonSecret Christians fled to the islands after the shogun outlawed Christianity in 1614. Spend a few days in Fukue, though, and you’ll quickly discover that there’s much more to explore.
Start with those noodles. While dried Goto udon is shipped to the mainland, fresh udon can only be tasted on the islands.The Oddontei restaurant attached to the factory serves noodles jMy Country Waterfall style.Literally “Hell Cooking”, you cook your own noodles in a hot pot and submerge them in water Agodash Sauce. The staff will tell you that it’s the local ingredients in the noodles—spring water, salt and camellia oil that give the noodles their unique smoothness—that make the taste so special.
Camellia oil is one of the special products of the Goto Islands. There are reportedly 19,000 camellia trees on the island, which thrive in the salty air. The seed pods are collected and dried, then cracked to harvest the seeds, which are pressed to produce a miraculous oil that can be used for everything from frying tempura to adding luster to skin and hair.
Local tourism boards are working hard to promote the islands, and they have many angles to offer, from hiking along the Onidake cinder cones to Kagura Shrine performances. These traditional dances are performed in unique costumes; my favorite is a dance in which the dancer impersonates a long-nosed Japanese leprechaun teasing a sleeping lion.
I also fell in love with Takahama Beach. Japan isn’t known for its beaches, but this sheltered bay in Saikai National Park, with its emerald waters lapping the sand, is straight out of a travel brochure.