Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cat Ramen Boss Movie?

Nekko Ramen Taisho = Cat Ramen Boss

I don't know any more than that. I guess it's based on a manga. Maybe I'll check it out. I'm going to go on record and say that all recent Japanese popular movies that have any ties to manga are utter crap. Interesting website though.

I can only think of 2 other ramen related movies.

The first is the truly excellent Tampopo. If you've never seen this movie, watch it.

The other is Ramen Girl, staring Brittany Murphy. I haven't seen it yet.

Are there any other's that I'm missing?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

凪 (Nagi in Shibuya)

I'm sure I've been here before. Oh yeah, Nagi is my favorite spot at the NY Ramen Square in Tachikawa. I hesitated for a second, I was really hoping for something new. But then I realized, stop thinking and just eat!

I'm glad I did. The first thing you will notice here is the booze.

There are sake bottles on the walls, and everyone had a beer in front of them. The atmosphere is one of a typical 飲み屋, the small drinking establishments that cover Tokyo. There's even a happy hour type thing where all the drinks are 400¥. You can order your drink in "set" form. For 800¥, you get your drink and a bowl of menma and grilled pork. Not a bad way to relax after work (or at lunch (or on the weekend)).

The menu is daunting. I think I see something on there that says ラーメンオムレツ... ramen omelet?!? Anyways, I asked if this was the same shop as in Tachikawa, and sure enough they are related. But, I was assured, different taste. I went with the メガとん, megaton, which although it sounds like some sort of transforming robot was a hearty tonkotsu made with fish in the broth.

The noodles are nothing like the thin, firm ones with most tonkotsu ramens. Curly, fairly soft things that grab this amazing soup. On the counter is some sort of mystery spice sauce that gives a nice kick as well.

The real draw here, besides excellent food, is the atmosphere. I could easily sit here with friends for a couple hours, drinking shochu and nibbling on random bites. Is this a ramen izakaya? It could be.

Another thing to watch for, they have a ramen, it's the 4th on the menu, that changes every day. How awesome is that! This may become a regular spot for me on Tuesday nights, since I teach a lesson a couple blocks away.

Here's a youtube video, Nagi is 3rd one in the video:

Official Site Here

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

ばんから (Bankara in Tachikawa)

My new favorite shop in Tachikawa! I've been there 3 weeks in a row but never had my camera.


Bankara is truly excellent.

They have 2 top items on their menu. Today is going to be the tonkotsu soup. The broth is like butter, almost pure white stuff that just coats your taste buds.

There are a couple kinds of pork. The regular slice and then a huge... slab of roasted meat. If you tap it lightly with your chopsticks, it will fall apart into your soup.

Everything on the menu here is great. They even have a few rice side dishes, one with mountain vegetables on top. I'm never quite hungry enough to spend the extra yen for that, but maybe I'll make an exception next time.

From the north exit of Tachikawa station, follow the road to the left along the tracks. It's about 2 minutes.

伊駄天 (Idaten Ramen in Tachikawa)

Looks like Nyami is out and Idaten is in at the NY Ramen Square in Tachikawa. Damn, no more waitress with the homegrown swastika tattoo.


I have no idea what this Kanji means.

And the verdict is... out with the old and in with the new! This was some tasty stuff. The soup was really thick. Usually thick means it's a tonkotsu or miso soup, but this was a shoyu made from chicken and fish.

If you like menma, Idaten had the best menma I've had. Some sort of special house special, they were cut long and stringy.

This shop takes a definite #3 spot at the ramen stadium here.

Oh, and there was a hula show in the middle of all the shops this day. So far, I've seen a hula dance, slot car racing, and a couple live bands here. It's all free (but the slightly overpriced ramen pays for it I guess). Keep that in mind, there is usually something happening at this ramen stadium on Saturdays.

After eating you can stop buy and have an English lesson with me a block away. And yeah, I use this blog in some of my lessons.

不如帰 (Hototogisu in Hatagaya)

I'm back to my Top 30 From Some Random TV Show hunt.


Hototogisu translates to "the lesser cookoo bird". To be more specific Cuculus poliocephalus. Fascinating. So here we are, #8 in Japan according to the list. It's been a few months since I tried anything new from my Top 30 list, mainly because of my mission to eat lots of Tachikawa ramen. Well I'm done in Tachikawa (done eating at new restaraunts, never done with ramen) so it's back to the grand adventure. I only have like 6 or 7 more to go in Tokyo, which shouldn't be much of a task. Plenty of ramen lovers hit multiple places a day, so why is it taking me months?

I think it's the weather. The mad heat of summer and bitter cold of winter make going out a pain. But now it's the 2 or 3 weeks of nice weather between the seasons. Some may call it autumn. Let's eat!

It's in a little alley off from the main shopping street. There was reggae on the stereo and spot lights shining on stainless steel. It's a nice shop.

The recommended bowl was the shoyu ramen. The little bits are carmalized onions. Amazing taste. Imagine a nice French onion soup gets fed to a pig. This pig then has sex with a chicken. The resulting mutant beast is slaughtered and somehow made into ramen.

Definitely unique. On the weekend the master makes a special ramen from some sort of French quail. Unfortunately, I went on a weekday, so there was no obscure ramen to be had. I'll be back though.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Eating Noodles is Fun Fun Fun!

I like eating noodles... cause that's what I like to doooo.

He's totally eating ramen too. Looks like a shoyu broth, but I can't be sure.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

一蘭 (Ichiran in Tachikawa)


Ichiran is an interesting place. You are presented with a very simple ticket ordering machine.

It's pretty much only 1 choice. Ramen. The other buttons are for extra pork or eggs. Get some eggs, they are great here.

But actually, this shop is the most customizable ramen you can have. Before you go in, check the seating chart outside the shop. It lights up when a seat is available. See an open seat, go on in. And zip those lips.

You will first notice that it is totally silent in here. And the seats have dividers, like little tiny cubicles. So sit down in your isolation chamber and get ready for the test.

7 questions... multiple choice. The next 15 minutes of you life depends on this moment.

You can choose all aspects of your ramen. Noodle size, noodle tenderness, soup flavor strength, spice level, garlic, with or without pork, and how oily you want it. Go for the middle choice all the way down if you want to be safe, or mix it up.

Ichiran fares from Kyushu, so expect a bowl of tonkotsu style. A totally average bowl that is. When you get your food, the door in front of you closes and you are in complete oneness with normality. The beige ramen zone.

Also... I was totally crammed in the little booth. The seat doesn't move, so my knees were jammed up against the counter and my ass was hanging halfway off the back. I was holding on to the counter with one hand, eating ramen with the other. At any moment I could have slipped and ended up on the floor in a heap of noodles and pork broth. Not the best way to go... but not the worst either.

Check out this excellent video of Ichiran.

There are Ichiran shops in many places in Tokyo. I'd say it's one of the most popular bowls of Kyushu style you can find. But the cramped seating means I won't go back (even though I did). By the way, I'm 6'4" (192cm) so this isn't really a problem for most people.

They are open late, so it is an acceptable post-drunk-party bowl. But if you want to really enjoy ramen, search out something a bit more special.

のんきや (Nonkiya in Okutama)


On the shores of Lake Okutama in the far west of Tokyo there is ramen. I didn't think there would be many good shops out here. Usually you find a couple soba or udon noodle makers in the mountains, but ramen isn't too common.

But I was wrong. Luckily my Touring Mapple had the 411. Mapple is like the Japanese version of Thomas Brothers maps. They have maps for everywhere in Japan. The Touring Mapple series is designed for motorcycle riders. Hot springs, budget hotels, and of course good cheap food is highlighted. So when I saw Nonkiya Ramen a few kilometers ahead I had to stop.

The ramen was a standard shoyu. But the hadnmade noodles were really excellent. Springy and firm.

The shop overlooks the lake. At one point, a 3 year old girl runs in to the shop screaming "Obasan! Obasan!" Then she ran up to her grandma (my waitress) and gave her a freshly picked clover. Next stop on the little girl's journey was an Anpanman cartoon. She didn't even skip a beat at the lone foreigner in their countryside family noodle shop.

On the way out, I noticed this sign. It says there are 125 ramen shops in Okutama. I'd be better off completely ignoring this. To me it's a challenge. Dozens of ramen otaku, guidebooks in hand, taunting me into more ramen searches.

Okutama is the end of Tokyo. The train stops and you can't go further. How they are able to have a published book about ramen in this area is beyond me.

But this just hammers in the point. Ramen is a never ending thing in this country. Your next bowl may be on the ground floor of your apartment building, or hidden in the mountains.

Ramen at the Sumo Stadium

A simple bowl of shoyu ramen at the Ryogoku Sumo stadium. Not recommended. If you are going to the Sumo match, get your food at one of the many restaurants run by retired wrestlers in the nearby area.

Monday, October 13, 2008

いちや (Ichiya Ramen in Tachikawa)


This one is your standard Tokyo style ramen. The soup is a shoyu - soy sauce - base made with chicken and fish. A normal amount of abura, those floating particles af fat that help people live to be over 100. I'm convinced that's the secret. Recently I read some parts of a book where the author says to never drink water, because it dries you out. I'm getting off track, but yeah, normal shoyu stuff here.

The problem with shoyu ramen is that the really really good ones are only slightly better than the really really cheap ones. A massive bowl of shoyu ramen can be had for as little as 190 yen, that's less than 2 bucks, in some places. I guess my palate isn't refined enough to tell the subtle differences.


There it is, all the shops at Tachikawa's NY Ramen Square. I'll go ahead and say that the 2 Kyushu shops, Nagi and Samurai, are the best. With Nagi taking a slight lead because they had some unique toppings to add to the ramen.

If you're ever in Tahcikawa on the weekend, hit me up, I'll be eating some noodles at lunch time.

純連 (Jyunren Ramen in Tachikawa)

純連 from Sapporo

Standard miso ramen. I've grown to dislike miso ramen a little but lately. It's got that salty miso flavor that is like gold when you first start eating, but by the time you slurp your last noodle, you realize it was just rolled up tinfoil spray painted with gold model paint. If you are a fan of the miso, this was the only one at NY Ramen Square, so enjoy. The soup is made with seafood and mountain vegetables, giving it a slightly more unique flavor.

蔵人 (Kurodo Ramen in Chino)


Chino is about 200km northwest of Tokyo. It's very countryside. You've been warned.

Kurodo Ramen in Chino, Japan.

A massive miso tonkotsu ramen with about half a pound of grilled pork.

And some gyoza on the side.

Amazing place, but you'll need a car to get here. It's in a traditional Japanese warehouse, and the ramen is served in old Japanese metal pots. The soup is a half and half deal with one side heavy on the tonkotsu and the other heavy on the miso.

I got the biggest bowl they had, but actually I'd recommend against it. If you get a more regular size, and finish the noodles, you can get a serving of sizzling meat fried rice to dump in. The rice soaks up the left over soup and is usually pretty amazing.

Rock on Chino!

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You can get to Chino from Shinjuku station in Tokyo in about 2 hours on the super express train, but it will cost you about 5000 yen. On the other hand, just take the Chuo line local all the way for less than 3000, but it will set you back about 4 hours. Your choice.

凪 (Nagi Ramen in Tachikawa)

凪, nagi, means calm, as in the calm before the storm.

4 down, 2 to go at the NY Ramen Square in Tachikawa. Today was Nagi Ramen. Best of the bunch so far.
  • The most animated staff. Very loud.
  • The best pork. Stewed in something, it was robust and perfect.
A tonkotsu ramen from Kyushu. Please study the instructions for ordering and eating at Nagi Ramen.

Step 3 says something about アニマル パンチ - animaru panchi... animal punch. I've got no idea.

The weekends at Tachikawa NY Ramen Square always have some random event going on. Today was some sort of slot car racing festival. Little children looked on as model car otaku feverishly assembled their tiny tiny cars.

Nagi was indeed the calm before the storm.

Ripe 'n' Dry Hokkaido Ramen (?)

Wilderness Nature Hokkaido brand Ripe 'n' Dry Soy Sauce Ramen.


"We want to design our way of life northern land Hokkaido. Seize the wind, and you will find it you are looking for. We would play in a forest and would catch the fish in a brook.

There are wilderness on the earth. There are wilderness on the earth. So we have to keep on protecting. Close your eyes and feel the sound. See, you can hear the voice from nature."


麺屋侍 (Samurai Ramen in Tachikawa)


My weekly foray into the Tachikawa NY Ramen Square took me to Samurai Ramen. Very similar to Shodo Ramen in Kawagoe. Skinny straight noodles and super creamy soup. There are some giant pots of spicy pickle to put in the ramen if you want. Be careful here.

They will ask you how you want your noodles.

固め (katame - firm), 普通 (futsu, normal), 柔かめ (yawarakame, soft) are your standard answers.

Good stuff, but seriously be careful with the spicy pickles.

にゃみ (Nyami in Tachikawa)


A standard しょゆう (soy sauce) bowl of ramen at Nyami. There was a medium amount of あぶら (suspended fat globules) in the soup. あぶら sounds really bad in theory, but it's great. Little rice grain sized bits of pork fat. You don't feel them, they just blend in with the soup. Toppings were standard fare. Bean sprouts, about 2 tiny pieces of cabbage, pork and an egg. Sounds like Ramen Jiro. I made the mistake of ordering 大盛り, the large serving, which came with 400g of noodles instead of 200g.

Ordering too much has been a recurring theme lately. Remember, on the ticket machines, the standard, normal size ramen is usually on the upper left.

One of the waitresses had a swastika tattoo on her arm. She didn't look like a Shinto priestess or a Neo-Nazi, and it was obviously done in someones bathroom with a safety pin and magic marker. Curious...

2 down, 4 to go at the Tachikawa NY Ramen Square.

味噌一 (Misoichi in Ogikubo)


This is スタミナ (stamina) ramen. What does "stamina" mean when applied to ramen? It means every topping they have. A couple kinds of seaweed, sprouts, corn, pork, onions, and butter is what I recall off the top of my head. Butter and corn pair very well with miso ramen. For about 3 bites. Then it's just too rich.

A few months ago, before I moved out of my old residence in Ogikubo, a 味噌一 (Misoichi) opened a couple minutes away. There are a few locations in the western part of Tokyo, check the map on their website. The Ogikubo one is about a 15 minute walk from the station. The one in Koenji looks like it's right next to the station. Go to the one in Koenji. Koenji is fun. Ogikubo isn't.

It's a great shop, the standard bowl is full of vegetables, no pork. It's nice, it gives you the impression that you are eating healthy. I'm talking about the standard bowl, not the スタミナ one. The stamina bowl just hurts.

Due Italian (Italian Ramen in Tachikawa)

It looked really awesome. I thought it was going to be a normal ramen, covered with cherry tomatoes. Doesn't that sound kind of good? Well, this wasn't...bad... but it wasn't anywhere near awesome. I was the only one in the crowded restaurant who ordered this, so that's saying something.

A break between classes meant that I had to try out the NY Ramen Square in Tachikawa. All the magic of what I assume New York is like, plus overpriced ramen from famous shops. I heard that Ippudo has a shop in Manhattan that charges about $13 for a bowl, so I guess the overpriced factor is for authenticity.

Yeah, I know about a month ago I said that ramen theme parks are lame.

What I ate was cold ramen noodles in a cold tomato soup with a couple dozen cheery tomatoes on top. There was a little basil on it as well. It cost 950 yen. The noodles gripped the sauce really well, but they were super tough. Normally, this is a good thing, but I was wearing work clothes and had to eat really, really slow. Extra slow because the texture of the noodles made them like a slingshot of tomato sauce aimed at my light purple dress shirt.

Wine would have been nice. It was on the menu, but for some reason I didn't want to drink before going back to work. This is ironic, because one of my standard conversation topics with my adult students is booze.

Back to ramen. I'll try some other places here over the next month or so, since I work in Tachikawa every Saturday now. This ramen stadium is a happening place.

"I can has ramens now?"

If you want to go to NY Ramen Square in Tachikawa, take the JR Chuo line from Shinjuku to Tachikawa. You don't have to even go onto the street, there is a bridge from the station to the Area building. Exit on the south side and you will see Area in front of you. Go up to the 3rd floor. There is no admission charge, and ramen is around 950 yen at most shops for the special versions with all the good toppings. Enjoy, and let me know if you go on a Saturday!