Eat a bowl of chuka-soba

Feeling hungry in Wakayama?

Well, don’t go a-hunting for ramen. Ask for directions to the nearest chuka-soba eatery instead.

In Wakayama, the locals refer to the popular noodle staple as chuka-soba, which means Chinese soba. Well, hardly surprising, as the origins of ramen have been hotly debated and some believe that the noodle dish was brought from China into the Land of the Rising Sun.

Every region in Japan has its own version of ramen, and here in Wakayama chuka-soba is often served with a darker, richer pork broth.

Grab any tourist map and chances are you will find directions to a multitude of recommended chuka-soba shops.

So while the good husband and I were in Wakayama, we hunted down Arochi Marutaka Chukasoba, a small shop on Tomodacho which is easily identified by its yellow exterior and a large cartoon of its founder.

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It is said that Arochi Marutaka Chukasoba was founded 60 years ago as a small, outdoor stall and its tasty broth of pork bone and soy sauce earned it a loyal following.

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Arochi Marutaka Chukasoba’s chuka-soba is truly worth all the praises that have been heaped upon it. The broth is rich and so addictive, while the noodles are done just right. The usual ingredients – chashu (slices of roasted pork), menma (bamboo shoots and kamaboko (fish cake) – are tasty too.

We enjoyed it so much that we drained our bowls.

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Each bowl of chuka-soba costs 600 yen. Order a plate of pan-fried gyoza (300 yen) to go with your noodles – they are done very well here too!

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Arochi Marutaka Chukasoba opens from 5.30pm to 3.30am.

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Say meow to this train station master

Cats are fabulous creatures. They’ve got style and pride, and are too cool to grovel for attention, unlike man’s best friend. Plus, they refuse to be bought by food and cheap treats.

And in a little Japanese town in Wakayama Prefecture, one particular cool cat has almost single-handedly brought her hometown and its once deserted train station to international tourism stardom.

Please meet Tama the Cat.

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The good husband and I first came to know about Tama the Cat, the Super Station Master of Kishi Station in Kinokawa City, Wakayama Prefecture, several years ago. Right away we knew we had to make the pilgrimage there one day and be among all those tourists and cat lovers who had flocked to the tiny Kishi Station to say konnichiwa to Tama.

Kishi Station itself has become quite an attraction. Shaped like a kitty’s head emerging stealthily from the ground, the train station houses a cosy cafe, a souvenir shop selling some very adorable things, and countless photos of the beloved feline and her apprentices (yep, the Super Station Master must pass on her baton some day!).

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To get to Kishi Station, one must take a train from JR Wakayama station. And it is a very cute train! Depending on the schedule, the route to Kishi Station is served by either Ichigo Densha (Strawberry Train) or Tama Densha (Tama Train). Each train is furnished according to its theme.

We hopped on the Ichigo Densha towards Kishi Station, and had much joy taking photos of everything!

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Unfortunately, we did not get to see Tama, as she is off duty every Monday, Saturday and Sunday. Silly us were there on a Saturday. Still, it wasn’t a wasted trip, as we got to lay eyes on Nitama, the cat who is next in line to replace Tama one day. :)

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Nitama has some balls, I say, to be sleeping on the job!

Furthermore, the souvenir shop was a wonder to explore and we bought many things for ourselves and children of our friends.

On our return trip to Wakayama City, we took Tama Densha. Needless to say, this is actually the more popular option of the two. The train in decked out in enough Tama images to bring a Tama fan to orgasm.

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Oh, trust the Japanese to come up with the cutest things that will even melt a grown-up’s heart!

The husband and I had such a wonderful time travelling on both trains and at Kishi Station. Although there aren’t many touristy things to do in Kinokawa City, besides picking fresh strawberries at a nearby farm (hence Ichigo Densha), the trip is very worth it. Just remember to drop by when Tama is on duty!