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[Hidden Wonders of Japan] Song, Dance, and Somen Noodles at Omiwa Shrine in Nara

Somen Noodles are a perfect summer dish, and as the peak season quietly passes on, manufacturers in Nara are praying for the coming season.



Miwa Somen Kake Uta" (song for Miwa somen noodles) dance performed at the thanksgiving festival ceremony at Omiwa Shrine, Nara Prefecture, on August 30, 2022. (©Sankei)

Sakurai City in Nara Prefecture, is known for Miwa somen, a particular variety of the thin noodles that are a perfect summer dish. 

It's only fitting that the city’s Omiwa Shrine welcome noodle manufacturers and vendors for a ceremony of thanksgiving on August 30, after the summer season sales peak has quieted down. 

Dancers at the shrine performed the "Miwa Somen Kake Uta,” a dance and song that demonstrates somen making, to pray for the future good fortune of the industry. 

Why Celebrate Somen?

Miwa Somen production is believed to have  started about 1,300 years ago at Omiwa Jinja, the oldest shrine in Japan, to bring relief to people suffering from famine and the plague. This variety of noodle is traditionally handmade by kneading raw ingredients such as wheat flour, salt and water, and then processing it into strips by applying pressure and stretching the dough.

On the day of the ceremony, about 20 members of a society dedicated to preserving the Miwa Somen Kake Uta'' ceremonial tradition were there. Each was dressed in a kasuri kimono – woven with separately dyed fibers to create patterns and images in the fabric. Their costumes were completed with contrasting sashes and red aprons. 

The dancers kneaded the flour, stretched it out and dried white yarn (meant to resemble the thin somen noodles) in the sun. 

"Miwa Somen Kake Uta" (song for Miwa somen noodles) performed at Omiwa Shrine on August 30, 2022. (Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture, (©Sankei)

Keeping Up Traditions

Michiko Nakao, 82, chairs the society. She said, "We danced and prayed that we would be able to make delicious somen noodles again next year."

Yukio Konishi, 72, who is chairman of the Nara Prefecture Miwa Somen Industrial Cooperative Association, commented that "Blessed with good weather, this year's performance was strong.” 

With the soaring costs of fuel and raw material such as wheat flour, however, Konishi believed that they will have to raise prices by more than 10% next year. “But  I will do my best to keep it as low as possible," he added.


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(Read the related article in Japanese at this link). 

Author: The Sankei Shimbun 

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