Duck under the drapes and step through the sliding door for a real taste of traditional Japan.
This is Tomoeya, the wooden, archaic-looking exterior of which makes you immediately understand why it is oft cited as the oldest restaurant in Kasukabe – by locals who are not exactly that young themselves!
Just inside the main door, you will come across a classic image of Showa Japan, a host of wooden tables and chairs on which customers viciously slurp various forms of inexpensive soba, against the backdrop of an effervescent and noisy kitchen, pierced by the squawks of the ageing manageress and the gruff instructions of her husband. Take a right-turn after the till-point, and you have the option of sitting at a low-rise table on tatami-flooring, in a traditional Japanese room packed with rustic-looking wooden beams. Take off your shoes before entering, and take in the view from the large window which overlooks a tiny Japanese rock garden. The Edo-style drapes covering the nearby restroom entrance add a further sense of tradition to this unique dining experience.
Waitresses kindly offer a small cup of mugi tea while you peruse the three-page long menu (Japanese only), which seems to contain every variant of soba imaginable! The food itself is pretty good, and usually tastes better with a heavy dousing in the soup which is provided for you. Particularly recommended is the Ten-zaru set, a selection of the crispiest tempura delightfully positioned alongside some fresh nori-kake soba (that’s soba with salty strips of laver on top, for the uninitiated). The food comes with an equally delicious quail egg, with added spectacle coming from the scissor-shaped egg cracker.
The kamo-nanban (duck and leek) soba also comes highly recommended at 1365 yen, while the curry nanban looks an absolute snip at 840 yen. For those who love their eggs, there’s tamago-toji, also at 840 yen. Soft drinks and beer can be ordered for extra charge.
Tomoeya is, in short, a fascinating way to spend your lunch. And for those who are after an especially serene eating experience, a visit after 1pm should do the trick. Tomoeya’s merry cohort of loyal customers disbands pretty rapidly after 1245!
Tomeoya is only a six-minute walk from Kasukabe’s main shopping center, Lala Garden, and a 12-minute walk from the main Hachiman Shrine, should you be looking to combine lunch with something else!