It's fair to say Ippei Hayashimoto is not your typical noodle master. He wears his hair long, listens to Tom Waits and Neil Young as he works in his kitchen, and when he rolls up his sleeves, he reveals copious tattoo work.

If he looks more like a surfer dude, that's because he was — and still is — one. But these days he is better known as one of the top soba artisans on the Shonan coast, south of Tokyo.

At weekends, people drive down from Yokohama and even from the metropolis, often waiting in line to eat the te-uchi (handmade) buckwheat noodles he serves at his humble, idiosyncratic restaurant, Bonzo, in Kamakura. In the years when Michelin's Tokyo Guide included the Shonan area, Bonzo was awarded a coveted star three years running.