NAIST Tea Time "Nagashi Somen" (July 13th 2023)
On July 13th, the Center for International Students and Scholars (CISS) hosted the 21st NAIST Tea Time for the students, faculty and staff of NAIST. Tea Time events, established under the NAIST TGU project plan, are held as part of NAIST's mission to maintain a globally-open campus and offer a wide variety of experiences to our diverse community.
As it gets hot in the summertime, a popular traditional Japanese event is nagashi somen or "flowing somen noodles." For nagashi somen, bamboo, which is mostly hollow, is split in half, sanded to allow water to flow through it and washed. After this, the bamboo is set up at an angle steep enough that noodles will flow down the bamboo with water, but not go to fast. (Otherwise it becomes very difficult to eat them.) Traditionally, smaller bamboo is cut and tied together to make the stands to support the bamboo.
For this Tea Time, we called for students to participate in getting ready for the event, as well as for faculty, staff and students to come and try eating the mobile noodles once everything was set up. An event like this involves much equipment and preparation, and more than ten Japanese and international students came early to help with getting things started. After a few trips carrying things and setting up tents, tables, and chairs, Robert King (UEA, CISS) explained the different steps necessary to prepare the bamboo for the water and the students began with splitting the bamboo in half. They found the work satisfying and enjoyed using the tools that they don't encounter often. King and other staff used a disc grinder to smooth out some areas but, other than this, students took charge of preparations.
Once this bamboo was prepared, student started making stands with smaller bamboo to complete the nagashi somen apparatus. However, this was not as simple as it seemed, and everyone had to work together and communicate as they were working on their own individual areas in order complete the entire bamboo set-up. As students were working they ran into problems and discussed what to do with King and other students. Even though there were some obstacles along the way, the students were able to finally finish and test things and, once this was done, the noodles could be released.
NAIST staff had been preparing noodles, sauce, and toppings for the event, and, once the noodles started flowing everyone lined up to try their hand at grabbing somen with chopsticks. Roughly 60 faculty, staff and students participated so there was a constant line of people waiting for a bite to eat. The entire event lasted for over 3 hours and to make things interesting mini tomatoes and individually packaged jello was sent down the bamboo to test the participants' chopsticks skills.
This Tea Time with Nagashi somen brought together international and Japanese students from different divisions to work together and interact while having fun, making new ties and developing communication skills.