Before visiting our local cinema tonight to see Inglourious Basterds (which was great) we decided to grab a big bowl of udon at our favourite udon place around here, 十萬石 (Juumangoku). They have three restaurants (that we know about) in Nagano prefecture, with our favourite being out in 戸倉 (Togura) - a little too far to go in the time we had. So we settled for the second-best alternative closer by.

I went for my usual-for-winter hot and slightly spicy 肉味噌うどん (miso-flavoured soup with pork and vegetables) and it was delicious, with the udon being chewy as they should be. Comparing it to the udon we've eaten recently, it's quite different, being much more rough and obviously hand-made. I really like this quality though, the unevenness of the noodles makes it delicious.

The important thing -- other than the quality of the wheat-flour -- when it comes to making udon is コシ (koshi). Literally meaning "one's back" (as in putting one's back into it) its true meaning is the firm texture of the udon, coming from the power and effort the maker puts into kneading the udon mixture while creating the noodles. Thus you can tell a bad udon if it becomes soft too quickly after being in the soup a short while.

At 十萬石 with your meal they allow you to help yourself to as much salad (well, cabbage) and tea as you like. (As a side note you'll notice that in the second photo the restaurant's name is written on the side of their mugs.) Our bill for the meal was 1995 yen (about £13).

Last night upon arriving at the restaurant we were met with the very strange sight of dozens of daikon lined up outside. Inside we were then met with boxes upon boxes of daikon. So strange! When we sat down I noticed that on top of the boxes was a written notice to customers (photo four) asking to please freely take as many daikon as you'd like, and they provided plastic carrier bags to take them away in. I guess there is a lot of spare daikon available this year; just a shame I'm not too keen on it myself.

The final photo shows the restaurant from the outside as we were leaving to drive home. One thing I unfortunately wasn't able to take photos of is the interior of the restaurant. All of the branches of 十萬石 are really old traditional Japanese-style buildings, and inside they have vaulted ceilings and are decorated with display cases containing lots of samurai memorabilia such as suits of armour and weaponry. Almost museum-like, and very very interesting.