Noodles are a national favorite in Japan and nearly every area of the country boasts its own regional version. Morioka, however, has not one but three traditional noodle dishes, which coexist amicably in Iwate Prefecture’s capital city. Known collectively as the “Morioka sandaimen” (“three great noodles of Morioka”), each dish features a noodle with distinct cultural roots: wanko soba from Japan, jajamen from China and reimen from North Korea.

One reason behind Morioka’s particular affinity for noodles is the climate. “Rice did not grow well in cooler conditions, so in areas with cooler summers, other grains, such as wheat and buckwheat — which were resistant to the cold — were grown as staple foods instead,” says culinary researcher Keiko Nagasaka, who teaches in the department of life science at Morioka Junior College (affiliated with Iwate Prefectural University).

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