Cheap, Quick, and Tasty! Tokyoites Beloved Fast Food, Soba noodles.

Which type of fast food do you think has been enjoyed by Tokyoties for some centuries?
Soba noodles have been the favorite fast food of the people from the Edo period to today’s Tokyoites.

2019-04-03   Food & Drinks, Tokyo,


What are Soba noodles?


Soba is a kind of noodle that is made from buckwheat flour. As the buckwheat color is dark, the noodle is usually brown. People eat the noodles with either cold or warm soup. The soup is made of soy sauce and dashi. Dashi is soup stock, and for the Soba noodle its usually derived from bonito fish. Soba noodles are a very common food for Japanese people. We customarily eat them during New Year ’s Eve. See Toshikoshi Soba at

Food stalls during the Edo period

Soba noodles won their popularity at food stalls during the Edo period. Open stalls were a very common place to eat in Edo city. Beloved Japanese food such as Tempura and Sushi were also sold at such stalls.

A replica of an Edo period Soba stall
A replica of an Edo period Soba stall

Why did the food stalls become popular in Edo city? First, many single men gathered around them, mainly construction workers and solo transfer Samurai. Fast food is convenient for single men at all ages. Second, Edo city was considered a very flammable city. The houses were very close to each other and made of wood. Cooking in such a building increases the risk of fire, so Edo people avoided using fire in their homes. Last, citizens were often very impatient. The quick food at the stalls matched their lifestyle. Therefore, Soba noodles have been loved by Tokyoites since the Edo period.

Where to have fast food Soba noodles.

Today’s fast food Soba noodle shops have been handed down from the Edo period Soba food stalls. Soba noodles are a very popular food for Tokyoites, and are almost everywhere in central Tokyo. Inside, or near train station buildings are the most common locations. Some are even located on train platforms.

komoro soba shop
A shop of a major soba restaurant chain in Tokyo

Many fast Soba noodle shops are cheap, quick, and tasty. A bowl or plate of Soba noodles is around 300-400 yen.

Lunch time is extremely busy with salary men in business areas. From my experience, it might be difficult to get an order during lunch time (12-1pm). For your first try, its better to visit before or after this busy time.

Either Metro Ann (Japanese text only) or Yotsuya Masakichi could be one to try, because the shop has English on their menu. The Metro Ann shops are located at some Tokyo Metro underground train stations.

Yotsuya Masakichi's menu
Yotsuya Masakichi’s menu

How do you order at a fast food Soba noodle shop?

Ticket vending machines are located near the entrance at many fast food Soba noodle shops.

a ticket vending machine
a ticket vending machine

First of all, choose cold or warm soup. Hot soup with noodles is called ‘kake’. Cold soup with noodles is called ‘mori’.

Kake (かけ) Soba
Kake (かけ) Soba
Mori (もり) Soba
Mori (もり) Soba

Toppings include tempura, meat, fish, vegetables, and are usually prepared as optional add-ons.

After you get your ticket, bring it to the kitchen counter. The fast food Soba noodle shop is setup for you to ‘help yourself’, much like a food court.

If a bowl or plate of Soba is not enough, you can order a double size serving by buying a ticket called ‘Oomori’ (大盛).

Another choice is the Don rice bowl. It’s a bowl of rice topped with various different foods such as tempura, fried pork, and eggs.

Soba noodles are good with sliced green onions. Shichimi is a good spice for kake, and wasabi goes well with mori. These spices come with the noodle dish and/or are located at your table for free.

Shichimi, red chili pepper with 6 other spices
Shichimi, red chili pepper with 6 other spices
Wasabi and wasabi root
Wasabi and wasabi root

A mug of beer at a fast food Soba noodle shop!

Like to have a mug of beer?
Drinking Japanese draft beer at some fast food soba shops is very affordable.
Hasegawa fast Soba noodle shop is my recommendation. They offer a glass of Ebisu beer for 150 yen! This is approximately one-third the cost of beer at an Izakaya (Japanese style bar). Although the fast food shop is not a place to stay for very long, their night time business is often quieter and calmer than the lunch time rush hour. Please note: the beer needs to be ordered with a soba noodle dish.

Hasegawa (はせ川)

  • Address:13-7-3 Ningyo-cho, Nihonbashi, Chuo-ward, Tokyo
  • Getting there:A 1-minute walk from the Tokyo Metro Hibiya line Ningyo-cho station, A5 exit.
  • Opening hours:Closes at 11pm(last order at 10:30pm)
  • Telephone: 03-3669-4431
  • Website (Japanese text only)

Eating all your meals at restaurants can get expensive during your trip. Buying food from convenience stores is easy, but monotonous. Please try fast food Soba noodles for a great alternative!

You may also like this age-old soba restaurant in Asakusa.

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Writer / Translator

I love travelling and tourists! Where to next? Wherever it is, I hope to find a good onsen (hot spring bath), delicious drinks, and friendly people. I enjoy telling Japanese stories in English, and it fills my life with plenty of learning opportunities!