I go with the hostel staff’s recommendation. A 10 minute walk away down the neon lit streets in Tokyo. The area is a bit out the centre and so more quiet and less frantic than a lot of other places in Tokyo. I go in the restaurant and am welcomed by a loud “Irasshaimase” Meaning ‘Welcome’ or ‘Come on in’.
I say ‘Ichi-mei desu’. I am 1 person. I can not be anything else.
The waitress replies Douzo – please come in.
I go to sit down but then the waitress says something in Japanese that I don’t understand but is gesturing towards a vending machine in the corner of the restaurant. I had actually forgotten you order by putting your money into the machine and selecting what you want from the menu via buttons describing; big/small bowl of ramen, Miso based, Soya sauce based, Tonkotsu (Pork Base). Then were are loads of other buttons I’m never sure what they are but for extra toppings like, scallions, extra slices of chashu (pork cutlet), pickled egg etc.
I get the large bowl of miso ramen and a side of gyoza. The machine spews out 2 tickets and I go and take a seat. Typical of most ramen places its a long bar where you can see the ‘Masutaa’ preparing the food. A couple is sat next to me, they are half way through their ramen then exchange bowls, wanting to experience each other’s. The girl who was fine with her’s, is laughing at her boyfriend who is sweating profusely because the ramen he just started eating is so spicy. I am chuckling away on the inside but wait quietly watching the Masutaa at work.
A few minutes later and my ramen arrives. ‘Itadakimasu’ – Thanks for the food.
The soup base looks thick and flavourful. There is a chunky slice of chashu on top with the seaweed and a delicious looking egg (shame he won’t be getting eaten). Then something I don’t quite recognise at the far end of the bowl (top in the picture). This is the first thing I taste. Small cubes of pork melt in my mouth and then I can feel the marrow hit my tongue. This would normally freak me out and be really off-putting, but before I can react, it is melting away giving off an intense but delicious and rich porky flavour.
I try the soup whilst fishing out some noodles with my chopsticks. As is becoming more popular in Japan the noodles are flat and thicker than what I can remember eating. The soup base has so much body and character. It’s thick, verging on a little too thick. But its so insanely tasty that I carry on guzzling down the soup and noodles. I take a short break to appreciate the taste sensation.
The gyoza comes in a light broth, which means they don’t have their usual crispy texture I love but the taste is great. I Finish the ramen enjoying the chashu and seaweed between slurping down the noodles ( a sign of respect and enjoyment in Japan).
I finish my ramen and with a ‘Gochisousama-deshita’ – Thank you for the meal, I begin to make my way home. I step outside and take a deep breathe. A familiar yet exciting feeling comes over me thanks mostly to my first bowl of ramen.
This is it, I am in Japan!