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Unveiling Japan’s Irresistible All-You-Can-Eat Soba Noodle Challenge

The all-you-can-eat soba noodle challenge: A must-try experience in Japan

When it comes to culinary adventure, Japan is a country that never disappoints. From sushi to ramen, Japanese cuisine offers a wide range of delicious dishes to suit every palate. One such unique experience not to be missed is the all-you-can-eat soba noodle challenge, known as wanko soba. This exciting and filling challenge takes place in Morioka, the capital of Iwate Prefecture, and attracts locals and tourists alike.

The origins of Wanko Soba

The origins of wanko soba can be traced back to the mountainous terrain of Iwate Prefecture and the Nanbu area adjacent to the region. In the local dialect, “wanko” refers to a small wooden Japanese soup bowl. Farmers in this area took advantage of the low temperatures and high altitudes to grow soba noodles for sustenance.
A popular theory of the dish’s origin dates back to the 16th century, when Nanbu Toshinao, a territorial lord of the Nanbu clan, encountered soba served in a small bowl in Hanamaki. The locals who served it to him were concerned that it might be too simple for someone of his stature, so they accompanied it with an assortment of fancy side dishes. Nanbu, however, loved the soba and asked for more. This led to the tradition of serving small bowls of freshly boiled soba until guests are satisfied.

The Soba Noodle Challenge Experience

Participating in the Wanko Soba Challenge is an exhilarating experience that tests your appetite and stamina. In Morioka, one of the most famous wanko soba restaurants is Azumaya, which offers both traditional and vegan-friendly options. The challenge is to eat as many bite-sized portions of chewy soba noodles as you can in a given amount of time.
As you sit at the table, waiters quickly bring small red-and-black lacquered wooden bowls filled with soba noodles. The bowls pile up as you savor the nutty flavor of the brown buckwheat noodles. The servers encourage you to eat more with a chant of “Hai jan jan, hai don don.” It’s a lively atmosphere that adds to the excitement of the challenge.
To win the Wanko Soba Challenge, you must eat without stopping; chewing the noodles is optional. It’s a race against time as you try to consume as many bowls as possible. While the soba noodles are the main focus, you may also come across tempting side dishes such as fresh tuna sashimi, boiled minced chicken, and mushrooms served with grated daikon radish simmered in soy sauce. But it’s important to stay focused on your goal and not let these distractions slow your progress.

Record holders and costs

Over the years, the Wanko Soba Challenge has seen some impressive record holders. For example, a man from Osaka managed to devour 500 bowls, demonstrating his remarkable eating skills. However, a woman from Morioka stole the spotlight by consuming up to 570 small bowls, claiming victory for the time being.
Participating in the Wanko Soba Challenge comes at a price. At Azumaya, the average price for the feast ranges from 3,150 to 3,700 Japanese yen, or about $21.18 to $24.88. Considering the unique experience and the amount of soba noodles that can be consumed, it’s a worthwhile investment for food enthusiasts and those seeking an unforgettable culinary adventure.

Bottom Line

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, be sure to include the all-you-can-eat soba noodle challenge, wanko soba, in your itinerary. This exciting experience allows you to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and enjoy the rich flavors of soba noodles. The origins of wanko soba date back centuries, and the tradition of continuously serving small bowls of soba has become an integral part of the region’s culinary heritage.
Participating in the challenge at Azumaya, one of Morioka’s famous wanko soba restaurants, is a unique opportunity to test your appetite and compete against record holders. The lively atmosphere, with servers singing and bowls piling up, adds to the excitement of the event. While the focus is on consuming as many bowls of soba as possible, you may also encounter tempting side dishes that complement the noodles.
Winning the Wanko Soba Challenge requires determination and the ability to eat without stopping. The cost of the feast is reasonable considering the quantity and quality of the soba noodles you will enjoy. It’s an investment in an unforgettable culinary experience that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for Japanese cuisine.
So if you’re ready for a food adventure like no other, don’t miss out on the all-you-can-eat soba noodle challenge in Japan. Immerse yourself in the flavors, traditions, and competitive spirit of wanko soba and create lasting memories as you journey through the vibrant culinary landscape of Japan.


Wanko soba is an all-you-can-eat soba noodle challenge that originated in Japan. The challenge is to eat as many bite-sized servings of chewy soba noodles as you can in a certain amount of time.

Where can I experience the Wanko Soba Challenge?

The Wanko Soba Challenge is mainly held in Morioka, the capital city of Iwate Prefecture in Japan.

What is the origin of wanko soba?

Wanko soba originated in the mountainous terrain of Iwate Prefecture and the neighboring Nanbu area. It was a way for farmers to make a living from the abundance of soba noodles grown in the region.

How much does the Wanko Soba Challenge cost?

The cost of participating in the Wanko Soba Challenge may vary depending on the restaurant. At Azumaya, one of the famous wanko soba restaurants in Morioka, the price ranges from 3,150 to 3,700 Japanese yen, which is approximately $21.18 to $24.88.

Is wanko soba suitable for vegetarians or vegans?

Azumaya, the popular wanko soba restaurant, offers vegan-friendly options and menus printed in English. They offer a variety of broths, including the traditional bonito flake broth, to accommodate different dietary preferences.

Can I take a break during the Wanko Soba Challenge?

To win the Wanko Soba Challenge, you are expected to eat without stopping. However, chewing the noodles is optional, so participants can consume the soba at a faster pace if they choose.

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