Like anything worth enjoying, Udon, the savory Japanese noodle-centric soup, cannot be served without a splash of controversy. Consider the origin of the dish, which is most often credited to Buddhist priests who traveled from Japan to China while on a spiritual quest. Though they didn’t find Nirvana, they apparently found udon, which is close enough owing to its tasty fat, wheat-based noodles that can be up to a quarter inch thick (anything more and you’re in dumpling territory).

A monk named Kūkai (the founder Shingon, one of the major branches of Japanese Buddhism who is also credited for inventing the kana portions of the Japanese system of writing) is said to have first encountered the dish in China during the 9th century and brought it home to the Sanuki Province. Denizens of Hakata-ku, a ward in Fukuoka City, however, claim their guy Enni, a Rinzai Zen monk, brought back an udon recipe from China 400 years later than Kūkai. According to Google maps (which, I've sinced learned is hilariously wrong on this point), these too locations are only are a whopping 41 minutes walk apart.* If this were true (which it is not), it would mean that the Sanuki Province withheld the secret of Udon form its neighbors for nearly half a millennium. Shame on you, Sanuki Province. Udon, with its soy-based broth, drizzle of mirin, aromatic scallions and array of possible toppings (perhaps a bit of tempera?) is one of the fringe benefits of life. Sanuki Province might heed the ancient proverb, “He who travels for love finds a thousand miles not longer than one.” Remember that the next time you balk at traveling 2.4 miles to deliver some damn soup.

  • According to an expat pal, the "Sanuki area of Shikoku and Hakata are in totally different parts of Japan. Maybe five hours (much of that on the Bullet Train), unless you want to get on a plane." So, apologies to Saniuki Province!

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