Hoto is a popular regional dish originating from Yamanashi made by stewing flat udon noodles and vegetables in miso soup. Though hoto is commonly recognized as a variant of udon, locals do not consider it to be an udon dish because the dough is prepared in the style of dumplings rather than noodles.
Wheat farming and the flour culture were brought into Yamanashi prefecture due to shortages in local rice crops. Sericulture had turned lands traditionally reserved for rice crops into silk farms, and flour products like hôtô were invented as a means to counter food shortages which arose from this change in agriculture.
This transition may have begun in Yamanashi's Gunnai region, where rice farming was impossible to begin with due to cold temperature and large amounts of volcanic debris embedded into the soil. Wheat farming spread through the rest of the prefecture and into the neighboring Nagano, Shizuoka, Saitama, and Gunma prefectures, where similar cuisine using flour dough and soup can also be found. For example, a dish called nibôtô, which is identical to hôtô except with a soy sauce-flavored soup, can be found throughout Saitama and Gunma prefectures.
Hoto and Takeda Shingen
Another prevalent theory suggests that hoto was invented by local war hero Takeda Shingen. The redevelopment of industry and commerce after World War II made tourism the prefecture's most profitable enterprise, and the image of Takeda Shingen was used frequently to promote the area's regional products. Locals sought to popularize hoto as a tourist food by advertising it as the meal consumed by Takeda Shingen and his soldiers before each battle. Modern-day tourists can enjoy hôtô in numerous local restaurants and in rather unseemly locations such as coffee shops and ice cream parlors.
A more extreme branch of these advertisements claim that the descendants of the Takeda clan introduced the recipe to the Tokugawa shogunate, who then used it to develop Nagoya's miso-nikomi udon. The validity of this statement remains highly speculative.