Wanko-soba or bite-size buckwheat noodle/わんこそば

This article can be read in about 4 minutes.

Wanko-soba or bite-size buckwheat noodle served with a bowl is a popular local specialty in Iwate prefecture.
Wanko literally means a bowl according to a dialect, while soba means buckwheat noodle.

How to eat it?

Once bite-size buckwheat noodle bowls are ready, (1) 
the customer has to remove the lid. (2)
Hold the bowl up so that the staff can serve buckwheat noodle into the bowl.(3)
Once the customer had finished the bowls, the staff piles up these empty bowls next to the customer.(4)
Put the lid back on the customer’s bowl to signal the end of the meal.(5)

During the meal, the staff will keep encouraging the customer to eat  by saying “Hai Jan Jan”, meaning “more and more”. 
The staff makes sure that he put noodles in the bowls as fast as he can before the customer can put the lid back on the bowl. 
It looks like a battle between the customer and the staff.


An average number of bowls that a man can eat is between 70 to 90, while a woman can finish between 30 to 50 bowls.
In general, 10 to 15 bowls of buckwheat noodles are enough for one person.

There are two annual competitions. 
One is held on 11th of February. 
Bowls of 10g buckwheat noodle are served within 5 minutes. 
The best record is 258 bowls which ie equivalent to about 26 regular plates.
Another one is held in November.  
In this competition, bowls have 15g buckwheat noodles and will be served within 15 minutes. 
The man’s record was 632 bowls, while the woman’s record was 411 bowls.


Around 400 years ago, a Samurai leader who ruled Iwate area visited Hanamaki castle and asked for some meals.
A cook served bite-size buckwheat noodle with some fresh vegetables and fish in Japanese lacquer ware. 
He worried that commoner’s cuisine like buckwheat noodles might not be pleased with his master.
Contrary to his worries, his master loved it and asked for more bowls of noodles. 
Since then, this style become popular.

“Hiraizumi” style where  a customer can put noodle into her bowl by herself.

How about you? 
How many bowls of buckwheat noodles  can  you finish?



Good day, I am the founder of Aurora Trip Nippon. Also, I am a Certified National Guide, Certified Tour Conductor, Certified General Travel Service Supervisor, as well as a Kimono Consultant.
I love Japan. So, you could ask us anything about Japan.

We're happy if you follow us. We'll inform our webpage's update through SNS!
We're happy if you follow us. We'll inform our webpage's update through SNS!
Aurora Trip Nippon

Comment You may leave a comment or image below.

  1. AvatarJulie says:

    What is the prize for winning the competition? A year’s supply of noodles?

    • MikiMiki says:

      Thank you for your comment, Julie san
      A year’s supply of noodles sounds nice.^^/
      And a few boxes of local specialties from sponsored companies.
      Also 5 minutes handicap for the next competition. hahaha…