Monday, October 1, 2012

Ramen Meccas: Kitakata in Fukushima

喜多方

A few hundred kilometers north of Tokyo, on the west side of Fukushima, is Kitakata. A rather sleepy place, it is none-the-less one of the most famous spots for ramen in Japan. The location, a fertile valley fed by countless natural springs, is a haven for rice production. And what better food for a hard-working rice farmer?

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By motorcycle is the way to go! Nearby Bandai-san has some of the most spectacular riding in the country. (on a random non-ramen note, this isn't my KTM 690smc, but a loaner bike from some friends. My 690smc was stolen over the summer while I was off at work. Horrible. More info over here on another site.)

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Your first stop should be the station. Inside, you can grab a free ramen map. Nice!

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I will be talking about the four shops I visited soon. Kitakata ramen is very simple. Flattened noodles with a bit of a curl in a deep shoyu broth. Usually pork and niboshi based, though chicken makes an appearance at a few popular shops. Toppings are as standard as it gets; a piece of pork, a sprinkle of scallions, and some fishcake.

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There are dozens of great shops within walking distance of the station. One of these, ラーメン館, isn't a ramen shop, but more of an info / gift center.

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Breakfast? Ramen.
Dinner date with a pretty lady? Ramen.
Lunch in the rice paddy? Ramen.
Hospital food? Ramen.
Food with alcohol? Ramen.
Business meeting? Ramen.

The perfect gift to take home with you? Ramen.

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Other than ramen, there are a few sake breweries in town that have tasting rooms. If I wasn't on a motorcycle, it would have been nice to have a bowl for breakfast, have some sake, have another bowl, then finish with some more sake.

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Here is a nice interactive map for those planning a trip.