Joge Walking Tours and Udon

December is a cold and difficult month in the mountains. However, when the world is frozen and hard the best thing to do is find warmth in food and friends.

On this visit I was happy to meet with Taru-chan Udon’s Taruyoshi -san and Hiromoto -san (pictured above) and enjoyed a tour given by Joge local guide Nakashita-san.

Before meeting the lovely ladies of Taru-chan Udon, I began my day by stopping by the heated offices of the local Joge Museum to check on any local events. Ms. Morimoto was kind enough to let me know a small tour was visiting and invited me to join.

In fact, I soon learned that Joge has many experienced guides available to give tours in both Japanese and English.

Also, a short tour only costs a flat 2,000 yen for 1 to 10 people! This flat rate is the same for private or a small group, at such an affordable price it is a “must do” activity for anyone planning a trip to Joge.

The tour begins at the famous Okinaza Theatre. Then guests are treated to a 2 hour* walking tour through Joge’s historic main street on which an experienced Joge local guide will be happy to explain the detailed history of many buildings and shops. On the way, there are chances to get an interesting one of a kind souvenir from Suehiro Sake Brewery Museum and Joge Gallery Café.

*tour length can be adjusted upon request, but about 2 hours is recommended*

If you are interested in planning a trip to Joge please reserve a tour before arrival. It can be planned for a time that is most convenient for you. Large groups of over 10 are also possible, but tour rates may vary.  Please use the contact emails at the end of this article for more information.


After the tour, I was all warmed up from walking and decided to look for lunch on the main road. With a spring in my step I made my way up toward Joge town’s Yano Onsen. A rather far hike on foot (about 30 minutes!), but with the help of a taxi (easily found at Joge Station), an affordable rental bike, or an EV car, the trip becomes only 5-10 minutes.

Although Yano Onsen was once a hot spring bath, unfortunately it is no longer open. However, a noodle shop called Taru-chan Udon just across the street from the closed hot spring is still making delicious hot foods to fight off the winter chill!

The building is easy to find because of the large sign out front, facing the road.

Inside, the shop has a pleasant atmosphere with a variety of handcrafted goods hanging from the walls and ceiling, very stylish!

There is enough space for a small to medium sized group and beautiful natural light floods the room from large central windows looking out on a scenic mountain view. In the afternoon, it gives the place a calming golden glow.

The menu has a nice selection of traditional soups with noodles which includes meat and no meat options. The staff greeted me with warm smiles beneath their masks and when asked for their recommendation they answered, “of course, Taru-chan udon”*


*udon is a traditional thick noodle made from wheat flour, it is often used in soups*

For only 500 Yen the udon set also came with an onigiri, or Japanese rice ball, pickled radish, two small side dishes and a cup of hot tea. Check out the picture below:

Starting with the side dishes, the small white dish holds a light sweet salad of leeks, squid, white miso, oil and sugar. Above this in the small pink dish we have savory Japanese pumpkin, broccoli, bamboo shoots and chestnuts. The rice ball was lightly seasoned with nori, or Japanese dried seaweed, and sesame seeds, and it was so fresh it was still warm when it was served. I recommend eating this alongside the yellow pickled radish provided the light saltiness pairs well with the strong flavor of pickled vegetables.

Next, on to the house special udon soup, served hot enough that you can still see the steam rising in the picture! Floating luxuriously on the udon noodle and light broth base are green onions, nori, naruto, a pink Japanese fish cake, and fresh shitake mushrooms. The taste was, to borrow the growingly popular Japanese term, umami, an internationally recognized fifth taste that conveys fullness of flavor and savory tones.

After enjoying this finely prepared meal, the owner and staff were kind enough to answer some questions about the shop.


They explained that the shop changed names and owners about 6 years ago. The current name of the shop, Taru-chan, I soon learned came from the current owner Ms. Taruyoshi who dropped the end of her name, “yoshi” and added the cute Japanese honorific “chan” used for girls. It gives the shop name a light and relaxed connotation, as if going to visit a close friend for lunch.

When asked about the hot springs they admitted it was a shame to see them closed, but they were happy to stay open for the joy of making great food and supporting the local community. They also added that keeping the shop and preparing food is fun and as long as everyone is enjoying it why not keep doing it for as long as they can.

Along with the food and ingredients that come from local sources, the crafts hung about the room for decoration were also made by local artists for the joy of making something beautiful.

From the many different crafts available I liked an adorable floral hair clip the most, which Sage is modeling below.

I had a wonderful time speaking with the women of Taru-chan Udon and would highly recommend anyone in need of some cheer to visit their shop. I must say I was surprised to discover that even without a hot spring, it is possible to warm your heart with the kindness and passion of the people of Joge and Yano Onsen.


For more details in planning a visit or guided tour, please feel free to contact either email below:

jogecho001@gmail.com for Japanese

thometeach@gmail.com for English

Until next time, stay warm!

Meet the Writer and Editor

Matt Thome and Sage Panter have lived in Hiroshima Prefecture since 2018. The first year they arrived was spent in Joge. They are both in love with Japanese traditional culture and trying new things.  Together they work in the fields of English education, peace activism, and international tourism to help promote a kinder, and more adventurous, international world.

























Matt Thome(マット=トーミ)とSage Panter(セイジ=パーンタ)