Hunting down Japan’s best bowl of ramen, or lusting after some soba (buckwheat noodles), can feel like a national pastime, while the hearty bowl of udon often gets overlooked.

Udon is actually older than soba — the oldest of a long list of theories on how the noodle arrived in Japan dates the dish back to the Nara Period (710-94). Whether this is true or not, one thing’s for sure: By the beginning of the Edo Period (1603-1868), udon as we know it had become widespread across the country.

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