Have you heard the Japanese word 'tachigui?' In Japanese, it means 'standing while eating' and refers to small restaurants and izakayas that don't have chairs to sit down at! 'Hakone Soba' is a tachigui soba restaurant, one of the common types of tachigui restaurants found in Tokyo. Check it out for a tasty bowl of noodles in a hurry!
Hakone Soba: Prime Example of Japanese 'Tachigui' Food Culture
'Tachigui' is a Japanese word that means 'standing while eating' and refers to restaurants that have counters where people can eat a casual and quick meal while standing. One of the popular types of tachigui restaurants is tachigui soba, of which 'Hakone Soba' or 'Hako Soba' is one of the most popular chains found everywhere. Tachigui restaurants like Hako Soba are perfect for busy workers who need to grab a quick breakfast, lunch, or hurried dinner before catching the train home. The menu is simple and the food is cooked quickly, making for a streamlined dining experience. According to the owner of the restaurant in Shinjuku where we visited, many customers are in and out in less than 5 minutes!
How to Order
Just like at a ramen restaurant, meal tickets are purchased from a ticket vending machine just inside the door. Both cash and IC card payments are accepted.
All of the buttons on the vending machine are in Japanese, but luckily, there's a multilingual menu next to the machine with corresponding numbers so that people who don't read Japanese aren't forced to push a button and hope for the best!
Once you buy your tickets, take them to the counter and tell the cook whether you want soba or udon noodles. They'll get right to work making your meal!
Within about a minute, the noodles will be cooked and toppings added to the bowl! It's probably about as fast as fast-food gets, yet much healthier than your typical fast-food meal!
Take the tray and walk to your desired seat (or desired stand, I guess?)
Hakone Soba's Specialty: Kakiage Tempura
Kakiage Soba, ¥420
This is Hakone Soba's signature dish, soba with a large 'kakiage,' which is basically a tempura nest of various veggies including onions, shiso, and carrot slices. It's crispy and has a lovely natural sweetness from the onions that is very satisfying. Oh, and it's just ¥420!
Most of the various soba or udon dishes come with some sort of tempura as a topping. This is one of the 2 large shrimp tempura included with the shrimp udon that we order for just ¥550! For how cheap it is, it definitely doesn't disappoint.
Eating while standing is actually pretty fun. I could definitely see myself becoming a regular customer if I worked in a nearby building! If you're curious to try tachigui soba, or just looking for an extremely cheap meal, I highly recommend trying out Hako Soba!
Hakone soba has locations around Japan, but the one that we visited for this article is close to the west exit of Shinjuku Station. On weekdays, the store opens at 7:30 am and closes at 10:00 pm, so you could even stop by for breakfast or a late-night dinner! On weekends, the restaurant is open from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, so it's better for lunch or an early dinner. Check it out for some super cheap and quick soba or udon next time you're craving noodles!