There are many excellent places to get soba in Japan.
However, very few places have the historical charm and heritage of Matsuya Kanda, a family-owned soba restaurant that has been running since 1884 (!). Matsuya Kanda is located within walking distance of Akihabara, the famous electronics area in Tokyo. It’s the perfect place to catch a casual, inexpensive, yet very tasty lunch of freshly made soba noodles after wandering around Akihabara and nearby Kappabashi Dori (Kitchen Street) for a a couple hours.
Matsuya Kanda resides in a traditional Japanese building designed in the Taisho architectural style. A great earthquake destroyed the original building, so a new one was built in 1924 and has survived to this day.
The interior is timeless, consisting of distressed wooden beams, dark wooden tables, and woven straw (or bamboo?) stools. Tables are largely communal as guests slurp their noodles next to strangers.
Soba is the star of the restaurant, of course, but they do offer other appetizers, such as teriyaki chicken. We found it to be fine, but nothing particularly special. It’s a nice option to add if you want some protein. Otherwise, I would focus on the soba.
The best part about Matsuya Kanda is that they make all of their soba by hand using traditional methods. A noodle maker kneads the dough, rolls it out flat, and cuts soba noodles regularly throughout the day. As a result, the soba you are having is very, very fresh.
Because the noodles are so fresh, it’s worth trying not to doctor them up too much with a ton of toppings or sauce.
The purest way to enjoy the noodles is to have them cold with a simple soy based dipping sauce. I prefer cold soba noodles because I find the texture to be superior when they are cold.
After you finish your soba, take the pot filled with hot soba broth to dilute the dipping sauce (once you’re finished with it). Sip on the savory broth for a warm, simple ending to a lovely meal.
If you still have energy, you can go back to Ahihabara for more shopping, or head on over to one of my favorite places to get gorgeous Japanese dishware for very reasonable prices, Kappabashi Dori (Kitchen Street).
Matsuya Kanda – General Information
Lunch costs between 1000 – 2000 yen (roughly $10 – $20 USD), and dinner costs between 1000 – 3000 yen ($10 – $30 USD). They offer beer and wine, and don’t allow smoking inside. There is often a line, so show up early. We showed up about 15 minutes before opening and were able to easily get into the first seating. Their hours are 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m. (Sunday 12-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.).
Important – payment is cash only! The closest JR line stop is Kanda on the Yamanote Line. You can also get off at Awajicho on the Marunouchi subway line.