The island of Shikoku is the smallest and most rural of Japan's four major islands. A famous pilgrimage spot, it boasts one of Japan's most 'Instagrammed' beaches and is also home of the udon noodle. The island is so fiercely proud of the chewy, buckwheat noodle that they now have a hotel dedicated to it.
In Japan there are three type of noodle staples: ramen, soba and udon. The origin of the udon noodle is a little contested but some people believe that a travelling Buddhist monk introduced udon noodles to Shikoku from China during the Heian Era (794-1185). Kagawa Prefecture in the Shikoku region is famous for serving a particularly tasty take on udon. Called “Sanuki udon”, it's extremely popular with locals and tourists. As such, the region has close to 800 udon restaurants, as well as the newly opened Udon House, the city's first "noodle hotel."
Located in Miyoto (which has 100 udon restaurants), the hotel is a converted "akiya" (vacant house) which was restored into a hotel by two Japanese entrepreneurs, Hima Fitura and Kanako Harada. The aim of Udon House is to pass the art of udon noodle making on to a new generation, as well as encouraging visitors to the region and opening up its proud culture and history to a wider audience.
On a typical two-day stay in Udon House, guests can take an udon cookery class, learn about fermentation, visit a local farmer, join a breakfast tour of local udon restaurants and even take up canoeing or stand-up paddleboarding nearby in the Seto Inland Sea. Furuta is also the founder of Peace Kitchen, a Japanese food project that brings communities together through cooking classes and interactive dining experiences, so he understands the power of food to connect people.
Not only is Shikoku famous for udon noodles, it's also the site of Japan's most famous pilgrimage; the 88 Temple Pilgrimage and Japan's newest Instagram sensation, Chichibuga beach. According to local media, the beach - which was often overlooked by international visitors - became 'Instafamous' when the Miyoto tourism authority ran an online photography competition in 2016. Soon images of the beach's stunning sunsets appeared on social media, turning it into a social media sensation and prompting a new wave of visitors to witness its photogenic charms in real life.
For a holiday filled with cooking, eating, kayaking and epic sunsets see Udon House's website for booking and programme information.