Ramen Special! Tonkotsu-ish Ramen, the First Ramen Shop, & Ramen Championships

In this issue, we’re focusing on ramen — a ramen special issue if you will. Where you can learn about a variety of shops to try and even discover the first ramen shop in Japan!

Enjoy Tonkotsu-ish Ramen in Shibuya, Tokyo

Tonkuru is a small tonkotsu-ish ramen shop in the Sasazuka area of Shibuya, Tokyo. I say tonkotsu-ish because normal tonkotsu ramen is a heavier, creamy pork bone broth.

This is lighter. Different. A broth from a mix of ingredients that is unique. And unique is often what you’re after when trying different ramen shops.

Do you want more info about ramen in Japan? There’s a lot to learn, so we put together a fantastic guide to put it all into one place for you.

The soup here is made with pork, chicken, and fish. They strive to make an easy to slurp ramen with minimal seasonings so the customer can focus on the delicate umami.” (RamenAdventures)

Here’s a 360-view of the interior of this teeny-tiny ramen shop. Love the almost home kitchen-like vibe of the place.

+Map pin to Tonkuru +Directions from Sasazuka Station

Find Some of the Best Tonkotsu Ramen in Tokyo

Ichiran and Ippudo are world-famous. Very little is needed to say you should try them. But there has to be more right? There are websites literally dedicated to trying new bowls of ramen all over Japan.

Here you can find 8 picks for the best tonkotsu ramen in Tokyo.

Number 4 in their list, Tokyo Tonkotsu Ramen Bankara, is amazing (as well as the others they share). It is a very hearty bowl of ramen with thick-cut chashu. Absolutely incredible and worth your time/money to try.

In the past decades, Tonkotsu flavour has been the mainstream of the Ramen industry, as it’s the most tasteful and satisfying flavour of Ramen. […] It is said that Tonkotsu Ramen originated in Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu Region…” (JapanWebMagazine)

What was the First Ramen Shop in Japan?

This is both a fun and sad story at the same time. Way back in 1910 the first ramen shop was started in Asakusa (of course Asakusa right?). Yes, ramen is over 100 years old in Japan.

The shop was called Rairaiken. And yes, was… it, unfortunately, closed in 1944. It was the birthplace of shoyu (soy sauce) ramen in Japan.

But there is good news too:

Amazingly, it’s still possible to try the ramen that was served at Japan’s original ramen shop! ‘Rairaiken’ may be closed, but there is another shop called “Shinraiken’ (進来軒) in Chiba that was opened by the apprentice working directly under the owner of Rairai Ken when it closed.” (FavyJP)

+Map pin to Shinraiken in Chiba

There’s Vegan-Friendly Ramen in Tokyo?

Yes. There is a such thing as vegan-friendly ramen. Is that hard to believe, given we live in a world with plant-based meats? 🙂

While a normal ramen broth will have a mixture of chicken, beef, pork, or fish — there are now shops looking to change things up and experiment with new ideas.

If vegan-friendly ramen is something you’re interested in, here is an article sharing 5 vegetarian and vegan-friendly ramen shops in Tokyo.

A typical bowl contains animal and fish-derived ingredients, so diners with dietary restrictions and allergies often find it challenging to get noodles that they can eat. As awareness of veganism and vegetarianism grows in Japan, some restaurants and shops are changing the conventions of ramen.” (MatchaRamen)

Vote in Japan Forward’s Ramen Championships

As strange as it sounds, almost as if it were some sort of e-sport… Japan Forward is holding a reader’s choice ramen championship right now — actually, as of the time of this writing, they’re down to the semi-finals already.

The final four ramen are now duking it out for the playoffs and ultimately who wins the reader’s choice crown of best ramen.

It’s a fun thing to check out and cast your vote if your favorite is still in the running.

September in Japan is the beginning of the ‘autumn of appetite’ (shokuyoku no aki 食欲の秋). In celebration of the season, we present the “JAPAN Forward Reader’s Ramen Championship” bracket. Four ramen from four categories: Kotteri, Spicy, Asari, and Kawari.” (JapanForward)