Tokyo Photos & Soba Water Recipe

Photos from Tokyo and a what to do with the water you boil your soba noodles in - soba yu.

Tokyo Photos & Soba Water

I didn't take many photographs on my recent trip to Tokyo - 100, or so? As I was browsing them on the flight home it was clear that a good percentage were of the view from our hotel room thirty floors above Ginza. Spending a week in the sky made me understand why one would want to live in a high-rise, something I've never given much thought before now. The huge windows framed the horizon and cityscape, and the colors, reflections, and mood changed by the minute depending on the weather, time of day, and how the light was progressing. I wanted to share a few snapshots today, and also one of my favorite things to eat in Tokyo. Sip, is actually the better verb. It's something so simple, it doesn't require a recipe, but I suspect few of you have enjoyed it - Soba Yu.

Tokyo PhotosTokyo Photos

I was in Tokyo to finish up a few details related to Near & Far, and for a few meetings with people related to new products for QUITOKEETO. In between, there was time to layer sweaters, coat, and handsocks and wander around neighborhoods like Daikanyama, Omotesandō, Nakameguro, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and others.

I just updated my Tokyo travel list with a few places I loved, new to me, or new to Tokyo since the last time I was there. Thanks to tips from friends (thank you Matt, thank you Julie), we ate extra well, and made new friends.

Tokyo PhotosTokyo PhotosTokyo PhotosTokyo Photos

One morning we rode the train from Tokyo out to the coastal town of Kamakura. We strolled around a bit, and not long after, we came across this (above/below). A man making soba behind a window on a side street not far from the train station. As someone who has yet to master the art of the soba noodle, watching the long, instinctive process of someone masterfully producing the noodles was riveting. We lined up outside, waited our turn, and then wedged our American frames into the small structure for plates of zaru soba - cold soba with shredded nori. The meal was finished with a pot of one of my favorite things - soba-yu. Soba-yu is the water left behind from cooking soba noodles, the water the noodles are boiled in. It is served toward the end of the meal, after one has finished eating their soba noodles. Your pour the soba water directly into the bowl holding your dipping sauce (which should be nearly finished at this point), it combines with the dipping sauce to create a nourishing, seasoned broth. I also love to add whatever else is still lingering around - grated ginger, wasabi, shichimi-togarashi spice, green onions, etc. I'll write slightly more detailed instructions below, but that is the jist of it. It makes me glow from the inside, and (not even kidding about this) leaves me feeling extra-positive. More than anything, this is encouragement to enjoy a cup the next time you make any sort of soba-based recipe.

Tokyo Photos

We also caught the this flea market which happens once or twice a month. I love the care the sellers put into displaying their wares, have a look below. Everything was meticulously priced, and arranged so you could appreciate each item individually :)

Tokyo PhotosTokyo Photos

The view from our hotel the last night.

Tokyo Photos

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Soba Yu

More than a recipe, this is an encouragement, or, even better, a reminder, to enjoy the nourishing cooking water left over after boiling soba noodles. Add it to a cup or bowl along with a good splash of whatever soba dipping sauce is on the table. Alternately, you can season it with a splash of shoyu or soy sauce. Beyond that, I like to add shichimi togarashi spices, a bit of grated ginger and/or wasabi, and whatever slivered scallions might be around.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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hi heidi, amazing views from your room! glad to see you had a good time here even if it was only a short stay. i was surprised and pleased to see you do a post dedicated to soba-yu... it's more about a tradition than a recipe i reckon. soba-yu to me personally is something i enjoy whenever i have fresh soba noodles made from scratch - such a treat. just the other day we ate at a small one-man soba place, and as a dessert he served us a small bowl of soba-yu pudding - the cooking water very lightly sweetened and very softly set with gelatin. we were a bit skeptical but one spoonful and we were converts! we tried it at home with agar-agar and it worked perfectly fine. you know, you learn something new every day.. :)


Such beautiful photos, thank you for sharing. Having only seen soba noodles via YouTube video, I'm incredibly jealous of that experience - they look amazing.

Sarah from Soymilk + Honey

Your photos are positively gorgeous. Transporting. Especially that last one...I remember seeing it come across Instagram. It feels like the last vacation night in a big Asian city, without you even having to say that. That tired, already nostalgic, in-the-moment moment. Beautiful.

Rebecca @ DisplacedHousewife

Ah, soba noodles, my favorite of all noodles. When I make my version of miso soup, I cook the sobas in the same water as the vegetables before adding the miso. Now I know why this miso soba noodle soup is sooo nurturing. Thank you for this most lovely post. Brings me right back to the energy of Japan I love the most.


What a beautiful experience. Thank you for sharing. In all ways.


Thank you for sharing your photos and thoughts! I just bought Super Natural and I love it; a work of art and love!

Nancy Brennan

Can you please give some advice about how you navigate Japan as a vegetarian?

Seattle Veggie

such lovely commentary on the sky & lights & horizon & effects on the day & you. Thank you for the delightful receipe , I can't wait to try it soon. marion at naples.

marion rolandi

Love the photos of the flea market tables- what a different, and beautiful approach! And I appreciate both the travel guide updated notes and the sharing of the 'not even kidding about this' positive food experience. Isn't it wonderful when we're so connected to ourselves that this happens? ;)


You're right, I've never thought to enjoy the cooking water left over from boiling soba. But what an inspiring and nourishing drink. Thanks for sharing your trip with us, always love seeing your photos!

Katie @ Whole Nourishment

Thanks for sharing you wonderful photos! I especially like the soba noodle maker. I once saw them being made and wondered where in the world you get one of those funky knives. It's amazing how fast they cut up the noodles!

Amy @ Parsley In My Teeth

This brings back such memories. I still love the taste of those noodles. My heart and mouth are happy just reading this.


Your journal is absolutely amazing! Are you still in Japan?

Abhishek M

I feel like you just took me to Toyko in an instant. And oh my, is that a pink phone in one of your pictures? I can't imagine what else it could be. The horizon and cityscape pictures are marvelously stunning. I can't even imagine what it would be like to live in a city, let alone a high-rise building. Imagine lugging groceries upstairs? Amazing. Thanks for these photo's.

Laura ~ Raise Your Garden

My highlight of Kamakura (in addition to the Buddha) was the beach full of sea glass and pottery, that I consider treasures and the locals consider garbage. I also was thrilled by the antiques market, where we found pottery and textiles.


hmmm interesting. Here in South India, red rice is cooked much like pasta in plenty of water. The rice is drained and the water is offered, warm and salted as a drink to accompany the meal. Of course you only get these in traditional food restaurants/ remote village homes now-a-days.


Oh, this post brings back memories! While living in Japan soba yu from teuchi soba noodles became my favorite food (and that's saying something). What you wrote rings so true for me -- there's something about it that just gladdens the heart.


I've never heard about soba yu, but I'm going definitely to try it next time :) By the way, I think that eating fresh soba noodles worth a trip to Japan ;)

valentina | sweet kabocha

Such stunning photos Heidi and such a lovely 'recipe', one that is completely new to me having never travelled to Japan. Much love xx

Emma Galloway

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