Akabana means "red flower" and refers to the characteristic color of the buckwheat flowers used to make soba in northern Hyôgo Prefecture, formerly Tajima Province, which are red rather than the usual white.
The term soba refers to both the buckwheat plant and the spaghetti-like noodles made from the flour. The sweet taste and fragrance of akabana soba distinguish it from ordinary soba. In addition, because of its texture, it does not require any thickening agents. For this reason, it is also called jyuwari ("100%") soba by the locals, as it needs no other ingredients.
Until 1945, akabana, which is harvested around October or November, was the most widely grown variety of buckwheat in the area. According to popular knowledge, red buckwheat originated in the Himalayas. Tajima Province sits on the Sea of Japan, so the seeds may have been transported here by trade ships.
The akabana buckwheat’s viscosity and texture are highly valued in local cooking, as is its pronounced umami taste. An association of local producers has recently been set up to promote this cultivar, which is now rare due to the widespread cultivation of commercial buckwheat varieties. An ancient cultivation technique called "slash and burn," which was common during the Jômon period from around 10,000 BC to 300 BC, was revived in 2015. When applied on a small scale, this technique is a sustainable agricultural practice and is being re-evaluated. The resulting ash can be used as a natural fertilizer and at the same time keeps pests away.