This soba noodle restaurant has more history than most. It started out as a confectionery shop in 1465, and has been serving noodles since circa 1700, around which time it was awarded the role of "purveyors to the imperial household agency", roughly equivalent to the Royal Warrant in the UK. The current shop owner is Ariko Inaoka, the sixteenth generation of her family to run the shop, which now has three branches in addition to the original shop near the Imperial palace. The same well-drawn water from the main location at Kuramaya-cho/Nijo is used at each branch for the making of the noodles.
Soba noodles were brought to Japan from China in the 13th century by a monk called Shoichi-Kokushi. They are made from buckwheat flour, whereas udon noodles are thicker and made from wheat flour. The flour used at Honke Owariya comes from Otoineppu in Hokkaido.
The menu is quite wide, and both udon and soba noodles are offered with various accompaniments. I tried soba noodles with tempura on the side. The noodles had good texture and rested in a broth that could be flavoured with either the sansho pepper or red pepper provided. The tempura, of both mild green chillies and a prawn, was fairly crude by the standards of specialist tempura restaurants but was pleasant enough. It is tricky to score something simple like this but perhaps 12/20 feels right. It was certainly an enjoyable bowl of noodles and was fairly priced. The bill came to ¥3,800 for two (£12 head) including beer to drink. Service was basic but friendly. I have a soft spot for old, established restaurants, and there is pretty much nothing that is older or more established than this.