This report analyses the Japanese market.
The history of noodle-making machines in Japan began in the early Meiji period (1868-1912), and more than 100 years have already passed since their widespread use began in earnest. In the early days, there were very few for shop use and they started out as factory noodle-making machines. At that time, the main type of noodle-making machine was the roll-type machine, not the hand-type machine as nowadays.
Today, roll-type noodle-making machines are still the main type of factory-use noodle-making machine. Some of the largest factory roll-type noodle-making machines have an hourly production capacity of more than 10 000 servings.
Manufacturers of roll-type noodle-making machines are divided into two groups: those producing mainly large factory-use noodle-making machines (production capacity, 1,000 or more servings per hour) and those producing mainly smaller machines for shops (100 to 500 servings per hour), and the number of noodle-making machine manufacturers has now been considerably eliminated. It is estimated that there are around a dozen manufacturers of large and small noodle-making machines respectively.
Hand-made noodle-making machines emerged after World War II in Kagawa Prefecture, the home of Sanuki udon.
Roll-type noodle-making machines could not produce udon as tasty as handmade udon. Originally, Kagawa Prefecture was the home of Sanuki udon, where handmade udon production flourished, so in order to produce delicious udon, the development of ‘a noodle-making machine that replaced the handmade technique with mechanisation as it was’ was actively pursued.
At its peak, there were five to six manufacturers, but these have now been reduced to about three. Compared with roll-type noodle-making machines, hand-made noodle-making machines were slower to be automated due to the complexity of their mechanisms. However, 38 years ago, the Company had already developed a fully automatic hand-made noodle-making machine, and a fully automatic unmanned line with a large capacity of around 6,000 servings per hour is now possible.
Outside Kagawa Prefecture, the main area for hand-made noodle-making machines is the Kanto region. A few companies remain here today, and noodle-making machine manufacturers remain close to where the noodles originally flourished.
Roll type noodle making machine
Roll-type noodle-making machines emerged in the early Meiji era (1868-1912) and have a history more than twice as long as that of hand-type noodle-making machines. The structure of a roll-type noodle-making machine can be broadly classified into the following three parts
1.The mixer part, which functions to agitate the flour and water.
2.The rolling roll section, which forms the stirred dough into noodle strips and then rolls them to a predetermined thickness.
3.The cutter section, which slits the noodle strip of a predetermined thickness into thin strips and cuts them into predetermined lengths.
The most important feature of roll-type noodle-making machines is that the rolling of the noodle dough is in one direction and, in general, they do not add as much water as manual noodle-making machines, which usually add a minimum of 25-26% water and a maximum of 40%.
Roll-type noodle mills are currently used for the majority of ramen noodle production and some soba noodle production. Roll-type noodle mills are often used for making relatively thin noodles, i.e. ramen and soba, as cutting the noodle line is easier and faster.
Hard noodles with low water content, such as Kyushu ramen, cannot be made without a roll-type noodle-making machine. Therefore, it can be said that roll-type noodle-making machines are suitable for making thin and hard noodles with relatively low water content. This type of noodle is the area in which hand-type noodle-making machines are least suited.
The future direction of both roll-type and hand-type noodle makers is thought to be towards digitalisation and internet access. Roll-type noodle-making machines are expected to move in the direction of being safe, clean and easy to use even for amateurs, while hand-pressed noodle-making machines are expected to move in the direction of far exceeding hand-pressed noodle-making in terms of noodle quality. In the remainder of this article, we will focus on roll-type noodle-making machines and add some further considerations.