Hubby loves ramen. It was what he was most excited about for our trip to Japan last year. You can get ramen where we live, but it’s just not the same. His goal was to have a different bowl of ramen for every day we were there and rate them all (using his “arbitrary rating scale” that he applies to his bathroom reviews and our taste test reviews). At some of the places, I had a bowl too, but I didn’t want THAT much ramen, so I either had gyoza instead or just sat by and recorded his reactions.
It wasn’t possible to get one bowl every single day so some days, he doubled up, having two bowls in one day but each of the 15 bowls were from 15 different places.
This is now way after the fact so I hope I have all the info…
As soon as we hit Tokyo on our very first night, although we were exhausted from the flight and time change, we wanted to get started. On our first trip in 2010, we stayed the bulk of our time at a hotel right next to Tokyo Tower and travelled back and forth to Hamamatsucho station. On the way, we spotted a ramen restaurant and it ended up being Hubby’s favourite of the whole trip. Since it was late when we arrived this time and a lot of things were closing already, we decided to stick close by to where we were staying this time (our hotel was closer to Tamachi Station) and go somewhere close. I’m sure there were probably a ton of ramen places right by our hotel but the Daimon/Hamamatsucho area was still within walking distance and we thought we’d start off with his previous favourite. He had a bowl of chashumen. I chose to just sample his but kind of wish I had got my own, in hindsight. It was delicious.
We have NO clue what it’s called since the signage is all in kanji, but we refer to it as “Boots” since the workers all wear rubber boots (although this is common at a lot of ramen places).
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 9.5
He had no ramen on day 2, so on day 3, he had two bowls. Both were at restaurants in Tokyo Station Ramen Street, an hour-ish or so apart. The first one was called Hirugao. The restaurant itself was nice. It had warm, somewhat fancy décor. I had a bowl of tonkotsu and Hubby had chashumen.
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 8.25
The second bowl for day 3 was at another Tokyo Station Ramen Street restaurant called Tonari. It was a lot more bare and sparse-looking than the previous one. It was only about 100 feet away, down the hall. It was also the most cramped eatery I had ever been to and really loud. We didn’t take note of what kind he ordered and I can’t tell from the picture anymore. There is no pork and it’s not that milky looking. Probably just some sort of house broth.
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 7.75
We finished up day 4 in Harajuku. I was disappointed in the turn of events for myself, having missed the YouTube Hanami party, so I figured I would make Hubby happy instead by stopping at a ramen place. It’s pretty close to Harajuku Station, just around the corner on Omotesando (right past the new, very crowded Garrett Popcorn) called Kyushu Jangara Ramen. It’s speciality is a marinated pork topping (as well as the usual pork). They seem to cater to a younger crowd too with bright colours and loud music.
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 8
After another long day of sightseeing and shopping, we ended day 5 with more ramen. We were in Akihabara and Hubby figured out, with the help of a store map, that the entire top floor of Yodobashi Camera is all restaurants. The map actually wasn’t that helpful because we couldn’t find it on our own after wandering around the floor several times. We popped into a random place and asked the girl there if she knew where the ramen restaurant was. No clue. Eventually we stumbled across an information lady and she walked us over. (Japanese customer service is awesome.) It’s called Kohmen. We sat at the bar while Hubby enjoyed his tonkotsu ramen and I had some gyoza.
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 9
Long before I started planning for this trip (maybe even back to when I was planning the first one), I had known about this ramen themed museum in Yokohama. Last time, Hubby had not yet discovered his love of ramen and we didn’t do any side trips outside of Tokyo or Kyoto. This time however, after seeing many, many vlogs and even a few TV show episodes highlighting it, I knew the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum was a must-do. It’s basically a typical museum on the ground floor with an adjoining (non-ramen related) souvenier shop and then two basement floors of ramen restaurants specializing in regional variations from around the country. (Read more about it from Day 6.) Hubby had high aspirations for multiple ramen bowl samplings while we were there. However, exhaustion and a full stomach capped him at two.
The first was from a place called Najime-Tei, located on the B2 level in the left-hand corner (farthest from the entrance stairs). Hubby got tonkotsu and I got chashumen. I was kind of weirded out by the scum that was gathering on the surface as it cooled so I didn’t eat all of it.
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 7.5
The second bowl from Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum was from Shinasoba-ya, located on B1 just to the right of the stairs.
I wasn’t hungry enough for another bowl so I just had almond jelly while Hubby ate his first bowl of shoyu ramen of the trip.
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 8
Intermission Ramen 7.5 ~ As if Hubby wasn’t getting his fill of ramen during our stay, he also discovered the wonder that is Cup Noodle. Of course, we have instant cup noodles in Canada, but you can only buy ‘flavoured’ ones here (beef, chicken, etc.). You can buy flavoured Cup Noodle at any kobini (convenience store) in Japan (although we did not see chicken even once) and seafood seemed to be popular, but what Hubby found and quickly grew attached to was the ‘original’ flavour. We don’t have it at home and we both miss it. It’s not a certain taste after some other food. It’s its own thing. He went through a lot of them, mostly for breakfast. Konbini have hot water heaters (much like the one I bought and brought back home with me and can no longer live without) that you can use on the premises or you can use the kettle likely provided in your hotel room, as he did.
There was no ramen on day 7. Hubby’s 8th bowl was at the end of day 8, again in Akihabara. I had no idea what the restaurant is called but it’s located on Chuo dori in Akihabara just to the right of Trader and across from Don Quijote & Tsukumo.
I was thrilled because they had my favourite Japanese side dish item on the menu – korokke (fried potato cakes). I had one and some gyoza while he ate his chasumen.
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 8.65
On day 9, we packed up and moved over to Kyoto for a few days. We had lunch in the Porta shopping area of Kyoto Station at a restaurant called Kanjin-do Kumagoro. The décor was… amusing. It was somewhat confusing with artistic lighting fixtures and a wooden bear sculpture wearing an Aztec-looking poncho.
I decided I was going to try tsukemen (separate noodles and concentrated dipping sauce rather than in soup – really popular now) since Hubby didn’t want to. I thought we should at least have one of each type of ramen included in the 15. …I wasn’t a fan though. He tasted it and he wasn’t either.
Hubby had a fried rice/gyoza/ramen set – regular house broth and pork.
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 7.85 (It went down .05 after the video was done.)
Day 10 ended in Kyoto Yodobashi Camera, across the street from the station. Set up the same as the one in Akihabara, the top floor was restaurants. The place we went to was called Chabuton. It’s famous or run by a famous guy or something. I’m not entirely sure.
Anyway, I had gyoza and Hubby had his first ever bowl of miso ramen.
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 7.9
I knew of the many izakaya and other restaurants under the tracks around Yurakucho station so, at the end of day 11, we decided to wander around there and get Hubby his 11th bowl of ramen. We almost went to 2 different places first but ended up at a place I THINK called Kitakata. (I know Kitakata is the name of a city somewhere else and is famous for a specific style of ramen – so I don’t know if this place is called Kitakata or just serves that style… Sorry, I found out as much as I could online way after the fact.) Anyway, if you are facing the big Bic Camera outside Yurakucho Station, it will be just behind you on the righthand side of the street (right under the tracks).
Once you go in the doors, you walk up a few stairs into the eating area. The décor is interesting. The walls had an old storehouse-style “sea cucumber” lattice pattern and are adorned with primitive looking masks. It’s cool how you can see the curve of the train track archways in the ceiling. They really do use every inch of usable space.
Hubby had a bowl of chashumen, which had the most pork pieces as topping we had ever seen, and I… had gyoza.
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 8.75
We ended day 12 at back at Tokyo Station Ramen Street. There was only enough time and energy left for only one bowl. This time, the place we tried out was called Ore-Shiki Jun. The decor was as nice as the first Ramen Street place. We both had our owl bowls – tonkotsu for Hubby and chasumen for me. I also had gyoza, which were extremely oily but still pretty good.
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 8
On day 13, we travelled to Nikko and were too busy going from temple to shrine to various other sites, so there was no ramen on day 13, but on day 14, we were at Nikko Edomura (Edo Wonderland) and ate lunch there. It’s an old-Japan theme park so it was cool to have a hot bowl in the styled eatery of 200 year ago. Many of the food places there have traditional things to eat but I believe where we stopped in was the only place that serves ramen. (It’s next door to the watch tower.) I had soba while Hubby ate his chashumen.
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 8.3
Haneda Airport is great. You could spend the whole day there and not even have to go anywhere. It’s a destination in itself. Unlike Narita Airport, all the cool stuff is before the security gates. We did have all our luggage with us though (since the Air Canada desk didn’t open until later) so I didn’t go in with Hubby while he ate his lunch so I could watch the mound of suitcases we had that wouldn’t fit inside (and I ate separately from him somewhere else later on). So without me, he ate at Setagaya, another famous restaurant. They played a video on a loop on a screen outside that touted its attributes, including locations in places like New York City.
Hubby had shoyu ramen. (It’s hard to hear him in the video. He really liked the noodles.)
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 8.25
Hubby’s second bowl of ramen for the day and his final 15th different bowl, thus completing his challenge, was from a “fast food” eatery on the other side of security at the departures gates, called Hokkaido Kitchen. It’s located between Gates 108 & 109 in the international departures area of Haneda Airport. He was surprised at how good it was – even better than the ramen we get back at home. It wasn’t that long since I had eaten so I just sat and watched while he enjoyed his shoyu – the last bowl of REAL ramen in Japan for who knows how long…
Hubby’s Arbitrary Rating: 8.15