Abiko Station in central Abiko City looks like pretty much any other suburban station in northern Chiba Prefecture. You will see concrete and glass buildings and popular chain shops. I suggest you give them a miss and keep your eyes peeled for locally owned places to eat. Walk a little south of the station, and you will find a classic soba shop, Mitaniya Sobadokoro.
The retro wooden signboard above the shop front hints at the old-fashioned soba dishes at Mitaniya Sobadokoro. The shop is impeccably clean, and the staff wears white uniform jackets and kerchiefs on their heads. For Japanese and international visitors alike, it's a great place to enjoy the retro shokudo, or dining hall, atmosphere.
Mitaniya's specialty, as the name indicates, is soba, or buckwheat noodles. These are served hot and cold in lacquer boxes. The soba with tsuyu broth here is some of the best fresh noodles I've had in the region. The servers bring you a red lacquer pot with sobayu, the hot water in which the soba is cooked. This is to finish your meal. You pour a little sobayu into the remaining broth to sip.
In shokudo style, the shop also serves flavorful curry with big slices of pork cutlet over rice. The generous portions will fill you up. It comes with a side of homestyle seasonal pickled vegetables and country-style miso soup. Mitaniya also serves oyakodon, katsudon, and tempura set meals.
On my latest visit, I had a bowl of hot soba in their original dish, hyottoko. It's served with a big round of fu, wheat cake, slices of fishcake, greens, roasted shiitake mushrooms, and greens. The broth is so good, I usually finish my bowl.
The shop is well-loved by local, friendly people. Every time I go, I get chatting with other customers. It's a great spot for a slow experience of good soba and local charm.