Wayang (puppet) show celebrating the Islamic New Year in Yogyakarta.
Feet on the dance floor kneading udon dough.
Yogyakartans enjoy the wayang show from their ubiquitous motor bikes.
My bag of udon dough.
Yogyakartans enjoy the wayang show from their ubiquitous motor bikes.
Revoltingly intemerate entertainment!
Yogyakartans enjoy the wayang show from their ubiquitous motor bikes.
My own udon, cooked and ready to eat.

In Japan, noodles seem to go well with everything, even electronic dance music. That was the premise of a very unusual event I attended yesterday morning: Techno Udon! The event combined two very Japanese traditions: Udon noodles are a kind of thick, wheat-based noodle that you can find sold somewhere on almost every block in Tokyo. It’s the perfect fast food, but fresh udon boutiques also attract udon connoisseur who prefer to savor the dish cold (which apparently better preserves their texture). On the other hand, Tokyo is also famous for digital arts and music which certainly includes dance music, although that’s not typically the scene I focus on in my research.

I arrived at Cay, a fancy restaurant/club in the posh shopping district of Minato around 10 am on Saturday. At the door, along with my ticket and a token for a drink, I was handed a double-bagged ball of dough about the size of a tennis ball. At first I wasn’t really feeling the music. After all, it was Saturday and my morning coffee hadn’t even kicked in yet! The dance floor quickly won me over though. The music was great, and the Japanese twenty-somethings who had gotten up early on a weekend morning for this revoltingly intemerate entertainment were clearly having a great time! As lunchtime approach the dance floor filled.

The ball of udon dough was too small for me to keep both my feet on it, so “kneading it” turned out to consist mostly of jumping on it until it was squished into a very thin pancake. Annoyingly, I would then have to open both plastic bags, scrape the sticky dough off the sides of the bag, ball it up again, and repeat. After over an hour of this the dough had worked up a great deal of elasticity and was able to support my entire body weight like a kind of bizarre, edible insole.

By 11:30 the dough and I were both tired. I took my bag to the kitchen and received a number. After a long wait my bowl of udon came back garnished with a little nori and scallions. The noodles were very chewy, likely due to the thorough kneading they had received. A Japanese man asked if he could take my picture with my bowl of noodles, likely because I was the only obvious foreigner in attendance. I’m never inconspicuous here.

Techno Udon is apparently an annual event, and this year it expanded from Tokyo to Kyoto as well. If you’re in Japan, see if you can attend!

Leave a comment