Soba noodles are one of the Japanese traditional dishes. Soba noodles are basically made from buckwheat flour. Here soba means  buckwheat in Japanese. Japanese usually say simply “soba”, when they refer to soba noodles. Their color is mostly pale white. Soba restaurant serves chilled noodles with dipping sauce or hot soup with noodles in a bowl.

By the way, famous Japanese noodles, Rāmen are made from wheat flour.

Difference between Noren-wake and franchise chain

Among Soba noodles restaurants, you would find several have same brand names. Which mostly comes from Japanese tradition called “Noren-wake”. If we look at the aspect that many sores have the same brand name, you might think Noren-wake resembles franchise chain. But Noren-wake and franchise chain are different systems.

In franchise chain system, the franchiser and franchisee make a contract. According to the contract, franchiser permits franchisees use of the brand name and teaches them method of operation, various know-hows and others. In return franchisees pay royalties to the franchiser.

Whereas in Noren-wake, the restaurant permits owner’s relatives or artisan served long for the restaurant to use the brand name. And same generation process repeats itself.

Three big names of soba restaurants

There are three big brand names of soba needles restaurants with long tradition. They are “Sunaba”, “Sarashina” and “Yabu”.


If we translate, “Sunaba” means sand stockyard, and this brand name comes from the legend that the ancestor of “Sunaba” operated soba restaurant near the sand stockyard for building Ōsaka castle. Then Sunaba soba restaurant moved to Edo (currently Tōkyō).

Sunaba’s soba noodles are pale white and dipping sauce is a little bit sweet. Representative soba restaurants are as follows.

  • Muromachi Sunaba     4-1-13 Nihonbashi-Muromachi Chūō-ku,Tokyo
  • Toranomon Ōsaka-ya Sunaba   1-10-6 Toranomon Minato-ku, Tokyo
  • Minamisenjyu Sunaba       1-27-6 Minamisenjyu Arakawa-ku, Tokyo


“Sarashina” is place name. The legend told that the founder Tahe-e Nunoya came from Sarashina. Sarashina is producing district for soba (buckwheat). When we write in Chinese characters, character “shina” in Sarashina is different from that of district name. The reason of this difference is that “Daimyō” (feudal lord) Hoshina permitted Tahe-e Nunoya to use part of its family name “-shina” as part of soba restaurant name.

The most important feature of “Sarashina” restaurant is that it serves Sarashina soba noodles. The color of Sarashina soba noodles is white and dipping sauce is a little bit sweet. The following are representative Sarashina soba restaurants.

  • Sōhonke Sarashina Horii       3-11-4 Motoazabu Minato-ku, Tokyo
  • Nagasaka Sarashina Nunoya Tahe-e   1-8-7 Azabu-Jyūban Minato-ku, Tokyo


“Yabu” means bamboo grove. This name comes from the fact that the ancestor’s soba restaurant was near the bamboo grove.

Yabu’s soba noodles are greenish and dipping sauce is a little bit salty by Syōyu (soy sauce). Representative Yabu soba restaurants are as follows.

  • Kanda Yabu-soba       2-10 Kanda-Awajichō Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
  • Namiki Yabu-soba     2-11-9 Kaminarimon Taitō-ku, Tokyo