The two elderly gents on duty at the Akasaka branch of Hako Soba are as workman-like as their clientele – mainly construction workers in their distinctive blue grey fatigues and comfortable shoes. The decor also is practical – standing tables in the middle with counters and stools lining the walls. Not that this place is exclusively for blue collar workers – different branches and different times of day see a much wider range of customers.
The ordering system is the common automatic food ticket vending machine that will be familiar to anyone that frequents cheap soba joints. The disadvantage for those of you who don’t speak Japanese, is that at this particular store (which is only about a year or two old) the buttons of the machine are enscribed only with kana and kanji. If you go for the cheapest option on the machine, you can be pretty sure that it’s either kake soba or kitsune soba – two of the most basic dishes. The rest of the menu consists of soba shop standards with a variety of soba and tempura combos. They also offer curries and tempura donburi and sets combining a bowl of soba with rice. As is common in cheapo noodle places, you can substitute udon for soba in any of the noodle dishes.
I went for the Chikuwaten Soba for 340yen – chikuwa is a long tube of fishcake. It was served up in about 2 minutes and it was piping hot. Tongue scorchingly hot in fact. The noodles themselves were a little soft for my liking. Also the condiments are rather limited – just shichimi and water.
Hako Soba (or Hakone Soba as it says in Japanese) is a chain of soba noodle shops located in or near stations along the Odakyu Line. Recently, it has opened some franchise stores in central Tokyo – including the Akasaka branch and stores in Akihabara and Shinbashi. As you can see in the picture of the Seijogakuenmae branch above, the more suburban stores are a little more restaurant-like.