Friday, January 29, 2010

The New York Times


Welcome New York Times readers! Nope, that's not me in the above photo, but none other than the Frugal Traveler, Matt Gross. Matt emailed me sometime last year about lending him a hand with an article he was writing, and I jumped at the chance. If there's one thing I love as much as eating ramen, it's introducing people to great ramen shops in Tokyo.


Well, the article is out online, and in the upcoming January 31st print edition of the NY Times. I expect a bit more traffic here, so I'll drop a little Q&A. Photos are all from the time that Matt and photographer Basil Childers were out in Tokyo with me.


Why Ramen?
As an American who went to college, I ate my share of 10 for a dollar instant noodles. Not a pleasant memory. When I came to Japan almost 4 years ago, I had the real deal. Handmade noodles, broth that is simmered for days, secret ingredients; this is good stuff. Not only is it good food, but there is a whole "culture" behind it in Japan, with hour long lines, TV shows, and hype for days. I caught the bug, began eating at 3 or 4 new shops a week, and started this site.


What's up with this blog?
Eating ramen and taking photos are two passions of mine. Back in October of 2008 I started writing up each ramen shop I went to. I was unemployed at the time, and with tons of free time on my hands (and not a lot of cash for expensive meals) I started eating a lot of ramen. Ramen is actually considered a hobby by some people in Japan. I'm one of those people.


I'm coming to Tokyo, where should I eat ramen? What's the best shop?
That is the number one question I get. Matt and I went to most of my favorite shops, so you can refer to his NY Times article here. But honestly, just browse through some of my posts and look at the pictures. I'm no wordsmith, but luckily if ramen looks great, it usually tastes great. Some of my favorites at the moment are:

Ganko for the experience.
Gogyo for a fun, trendy experience.
Tetsu if you want to wait in a huge line that is totally worth it.
Ivan Ramen for the best noodles around.
is my favorite undiscovered spot... for now!

If you want some other perspectives, check out my buddies and fellow Tokyo ramen lovers Nate's site or Keizo's site at


Did you really lose weight eating ramen?
I've lost about 45kg while living in Japan. Yeah, I went from 260lbs to around 170lbs in a couple years. Seriously, cut out sugar, especially refined corn syrup, and you will be on your way to your goal. Just replace sweets with ramen!

Are you bald?
I have a healthy head of curly hair, thank you very much! I just keep it shaved so it doesn't fall into my bowls of noodles.


I want to come live / work / travel in Japan, help me!
Fell free to email me at macduckston at gmail dot com with any non-ramen related inquiries. I know a bit about teaching English and riding motorcycles.


Are you going to open a ramen shop or something?
For the time being I'm happy just eating. Check out Keizo's blog to see what life for a ramen shop worker is like. You never know though...


How can I help your ramen adventures (dot com)?
Suggest shops to me! Every shop that someone recommends gets marked in my Tokyo street atlas and visited at some point.

Have a bowl with me! If you're in Tokyo, I would love to get a bowl of ramen with you, as long as I can fit it into my crazy work schedule. You don't mind long lines, do you?

Comment with your own ramen adventures! Hanging with celebs at Ippudo in New York? Shoulder to shoulder with yakuza gangsters at some little shop in countryside Japan? Concocting your own ramen recipe? Let everyone know!

Thanks again for visiting. You can subscribe over on the left. Oh, Matt just posted the article to twitter, I'd better post this!


Unknown said...

Hey Brian,

Check it out!
The story is out......

Here is the video...

You are on!!!

Keizo Shimamoto said...

dude you rock!! great shit man. i regret not being able to hang out with you guys that night. fuck yeah! ramen on the rise!!

edjusted said...


Unknown said...

Hi there, I saw the article on NYTimes. My boyfriend and I are going to Japan in April. I've been to Tokyo numerous times before and can speak some Japanese, but I used to only follow concerts and indie gigs, unfortunately I didn't pay much attention to the ramen.

Which places would be the best to try (without waiting too long in line) in Shinjuku/Shibuya/Meguro/Gotanda strech of the Yamanote line? Thanks!! :)

Unknown said...

Congrats on being mentioned in NYT

Alice Laurel Driver said...

New life plan: come eat ramen with you! I just wrote about eating Ramen in New York with my brother. We are both foodies, and I have a blog that is about nomadic wanderings and food.

Shadowcook said...


I enjoyed your article so much that I began to devise a plan to visit Japan. Now that I've done a tiny bit of research, I have two questions concerning traveling alone
(I travel by myself very often) and when to visit Japan.

So, first question: how easy would it be for an intrepid 54 year old woman unable to speak Japanese to stay in Tokyo and wander around looking for ramen shops?

Second question: is it true that Dec 25-Jan 1 is the worst time to visit Japan because it's the busiest travel season of the year in Japan? If I stayed in Tokyo, would that make a difference?

Feel free to lump my questions in with others if you're going to tackle all the questions you've been getting since yesterday's article.


Graneledone said...

Just found you through the NYT article! I love ramen! I don't get quite the diversity as you do living in VA but I love looking at your photos so keep up the good work-I'll be checking back!

Gilles Poitras said...

Very cool.

A friend who lived in Japan many years ago sent me the link to the NYT article. I just happened to have sat down with a bowl of kimchi ramen to check my email when I got the message.

It may be a few years when I am next in Tokyo, but I shall drop you a line. Would love to slurp some in your presence.

PudgyM29 said...

Shadowcook; As someone male who didn't go to Tokyo until I was 49½, I made a clutch of errors that first trip. Including sleeping through my stop on the Hibiya Line and discovering there were no further trains going back the other way. Yes, I walked with a rudimentary map back to the hotel where I staying (and I blew curfew too).
But it really isn't that difficult. I did find a ramen shop in Shinjuku (Musashi) while trying to find an Indian restaurant. One key rule clicked in my head at the precise moment: If you see a line of locals out the door, it's probably a good place.
I still really don't know what flavor ramen I had. But it was only ¥850, and I was full for seven hours.
It is challenging. I keenly recommend the Tokyo Metropolitan Atlas [ISBN 4-398-20103-3] to try and get an idea of where are addresses in metropolitan Tokyo.
There are areas of Tokyo with clusters of English-speakers. You'll also find English-language publications there. Meguro (the epicenter for ramen in Tokyo) is an English-speaking locale.
You may also check my regular bookmark page (↑) for an entire rubric of 'Japan' links. {I nag MSiE® users.}
I'm working to go to Japan the last week of March. I just have a feeling that Japan Air Lines is going to do something extraordinary with its trans-Pacific airfares to put people on its planes.

MJG said...

he said you looked like a noodle yourself! brilliant ;)