Learn how to make “hoto” while dancing? New hands-on noodle making classes at “Odoru♪Hoto Gakko”
“Hoto” is a local specialty of Yamanashi Prefecture, which is believed to be a dish that Takeda Shingen* also loved eating.
“Hoto is nutritious and tasty, and it uses lots of vegetables. I want many more people to enjoy this great dish more regularly…” That’s what Ms. Masayo Mukawa, who later opened “Hoto Gakko”, had thought. With that passion, she then started working to promote “hoto” across Japan and she also hoped to make people smile and happy through the activity. This month, we’re going to introduce “Hoto Gakko” that Ms. Mukawa aka “Principal on a roll” established.
*Takeda Shingen … One of the most famous military leaders in Japan, who ruled Kai Province (today’s Yamanashi Prefecture) in Sengoku Period.
Odoru♪Hoto Gakko (Dance♪Hoto School)
Odoru♪Hoto Gakko’s hands-on noodle making classes are run by Edoya Shoten, a shop established in 1832 that sells handmade goma dofu (sesame tofu). Aiming to provide an enjoyable hoto making experience for their customers, they incorporate dancing into their classes as part of the noodle making process. Their unique classes caught the attention of the media and they’re also popular amongst foreigners.
Noodle-making classes that stick in your memory
Edoya Shoten is located in Fuefuki City, Yamanashi Prefecture. At this location, “Dance♪Hoto School” offers enjoyable hands-on classes where you can learn how to make authentic hoto while “dancing”. They offer three different courses, which are “3 hour class”, “2 hour class” and “1 hour class”. In their 3 hour class, you start from making a flour blend and then noodles from scratch. In their 2 hour class, you’re given a ball of dough for the noodles and start from there. In their 1 hour class, you’re given their house-made noodles and start from cooking the noodles in the soup. You can select which class to take depending on what you want to learn and experience.
“What does ’Dance♪’ mean? Does that mean the noodles dance or do people from the shop dance or do we dance? We have many customers who wonder like that”, says Hoto Gakko’s principal, Ms. Masayo Mukawa aka “Principal on a roll”.
Ms. Mukawa in bright colors with a bright smile explains to us happily.
“For the process of kneading the dough, we step on the dough instead of using our hands. That way noodles become chewier and anyone can make delicious noodles. In that process, we step on the dough dancing to music with everyone.”
This idea comes from Ms. Mukawa’s belief that you can turn anything into a fun activity with a bit of creativity. As you see in its name, it is what’s unique about “Odoru♪Hoto Gakko”.
“For the customers from overseas, we play music of Bon odori* (Bon dance) or songs that are popular locally at the time… Also for Japanese customers, we select different songs to play for different age groups. When we have grandpas and grandmas in our class, there are times when they get into dancing a bit too much and forget about stepping on the dough. But when something like that happens, we jokingly say things like ‘You have to move your feeeeeet!’, which makes everyone laugh and we all enjoy the activity.”
*Bon odori … a style of dance performed in summer time during Obon, which is a Japanese Buddhist custom to commemorate their ancestors. It is believed that the spirits of their ancestors come back home during Obon.
Creative ways to attract many visitors
Ms. Mukawa had thought that she wanted to start something new at Edoya, which led her to open the Hoto Gakko.
“Edoya is a shop that has been in business for a very long time. But it wasn’t like a place where lots of tourists came and visited since it’s located in the area where the mountain is blocking the view of Mt. Fuji and there aren’t any onsen (hot spring) facilities or accommodations nearby. We didn’t have the power and resources to disseminate the charms of our local area but we wanted people from other prefectures and overseas to come visit here. Then I came up with the idea of hoto noodle making classes.”
In addition, hoto is becoming less common these days as a meal to have at home amongst the locals so she’d also wanted the locals to enjoy having hoto again.
“When planning to open the school, I thought I wanted to have ‘something special and unique’ in the classes. So six years ago, I visited ‘Nakano Udon Gakko’ (Nakano Wheat-noodle School) in Kagawa Prefecture, where they incorporate dancing into noodle making classes, to observe and learn about their classes and setup. I then got a permission from them and opened this school here.”
There are many places where you can experience noodle making across Japan. However Hoto Gakko is the only place in the country where you can enjoy hoto noodle making while dancing.
In order to make the experience more memorable and enjoyable for their customers, they hold an entrance ceremony and a graduation ceremony in their class. They created the school philosophy as well as the school song with their original lyrics, and they also give out student handbooks. Their creativity shines in the details of Japanese schools they have incorporated in their classes.
They give out hats called “anti-aging hats” that work as name tags to their customers before the class starts. Those hats are made by the members of “Edoya Shoten Monju no Kai”, who is a group of local grandmas who have always loved Edoya. Ms. Mukawa has asked those locals who’ve been fond of Edoya for a long time to make those hats in hopes that “they feel that they can stay healthy and do what they enjoy no matter how old they get and realize what they do supports the local community”.
What she wants to convey through “hoto making” experience
Hoto used to be considered as a special meal to fill you up in times of rice shortage. Today hoto still is a well-balanced and nutritious dish.
“With people leading busy lives these days, it can’t be helped that they just go to a convenience store or a family restaurant for meals. But I feel it’s important to create an opportunity to cook and eat at home even if just once a week.”
Odoru♪Hoto Gakko’s motto is “Fun and delicious!” Apart from learning about the charms of hoto, Ms. Mukawa tells us what she hopes for their customers to take from this experience.
“Through this ‘school’, I want our customers to not only have fun and enjoy having hoto, but also feel happy. You can turn anything into a fun activity with creativity. I’d feel over the moon if we could help our customers gain energy and drive to go back to their everyday life the next day with s smile on their face through this hoto making experience.”
Every student has a big smile on their face going home after the class. The “principal on a roll”, who knows how to have fun, gives us a hint on how we can enjoy not only making hoto but also every day of our lives. Why not visit here and experience the noodle making that satisfies your palate and makes you feel happy?
＼Let’s enroll in Odoru♪Hoto Gakko ／
Store： Odoru♪Hoto Gakko
Address： 272-1 Yatsushirocho Narabara, Fuefuki city
Opening hours： 9:00～18:00
※Odoru♪Hoto Gakko will accept a reservation from 8 people.