Ramen, soba and udon are the trinity of Japan’s noodles, though it can sometimes feel as if the last one on that list is underappreciated. Ramen has followed sushi down the path of global domination — no doubt helped by instant ramen’s popularity — and buckwheat soba noodles can swing from low to high, cooked by both no-frills neighborhood joints and haute cusine establishments. So where does this leave udon, a simple white noodle made with flour, salt and water?

If the recently published Michelin guide is a bellwether, udon appreciation is on the rise — although I expect it’s more a case of Michelin catching up with, rather than leading the herd. Kyoto and Osaka, between them, have 10 udon restaurants listed in the 2016 Kansai guide, and all are new additions. The exotic-sounding Aozora Blue, in the staunchly white-collar district of Honmachi in Osaka, is one of those additions.

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