Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Japan >
Aug 23, 2009 12:00 PM

Best ramen cities

So I'm a bit of a baby ramen obsessive (I don't claim to know everything or anything, but I love it) and I'm going to be travelling around Japan for 2-4 weeks in Oct/Nov. I have no itinerary and just want to go where I can get the best ramen and other food.

I know different areas of Japan are known for their different variations of ramen. So what cities should I be sure not to miss?

Am salivating already...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Hey Lina, having travelled extensively around Japan 2 cities would spring to mind:
    Fukuoka, for Hakata style tonkostu ramen.. The stuff is a amazing. Be sure to check out some of the Yatai (street Stalls) that serve some of the best examples. Shinpuu is a place that comes recommended.

    Right on the other side of the country is Sapporo, which is also known for great Ramen.. Check out a place called "Keyaki" which does an amazing miso based ramen (miso ramen is the main kind up there..

    Hokkaido in general is amazing for food, especially seafood and try the soup Curry, which is a speciality. There are loads of tiny little restaurants dedicated to selling just soup curry.

    also, if you go there, check out this place. Not been, but it sounds great:

    Then there's tokyo of course.. IN the Tokyo Station complex, there a fairly new 'ramen street' that has 4 or 5 top notch ramen joints. I went there last month for an early lunch straight from getting off the plane from Narita.. Be prepared to queue though!

    The other place you must go to is the Ramen Museum in Yokohama, not far from Shin Yokohama station (about 20 mins from Tokyo by Shinkansen). You'll find 10 or so of Japan's best ramen restaurants under one roof, an you can get mini bowls so you can try a few. Its basicly the world's only (as far as im aware) theme park dedicated to Ramen.

    Obviouly loads of great places all around Tokyo... Jangara, Jiro, Menya Kissou, Rokurinsha, Ivan Ramen, are noted as good ones, but there are literally thousands of places all of which are far superior to anything you can find in London..

    you'd find this resourse very handy, a map showing the 30 best spots voted on a TV show;.

    I guess you've also stumbled across this site?

    if you want any more tips, just holler..

    22 Replies
    1. re: foreignmuck

      Ah foreignmuck, you're always here to answer my ramen questions no matter what continent they pertain to! I have given up on ramen in London at this point. The last bowl I tried had mangetout in it. :(

      I actually went to the ramen museum when I was in Tokyo for the first time last summer. I think that trip was the cause of this ramen obsession. I got there late though so only had time for one bowl before they closed down the restaurants (and I thought they were open until 11). So I am eager to go back and spend a lot more time there.

      I don't know if I will make it to Sapporo as I don't think I will be going that far north, but Fukuoka is perfect because I'm thinking about taking the ferry from there to Busan. So any suggestions you have about Fukuoka would be appreciated (and I've saved that map of Tokyo).

      I'm so excited!

      1. re: Lina

        Have no fear. Eki from Sapporo is the newest addition to the Ramen Museum. It's run by the same people who do Sumire and Junren. Pretty good bowl. They're in area #7 on the upper level of the Museum. Just follow your nose.

        1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

          It was a great bowl. It nearly killed me. I went to the ramen museum and tried a bowl from Eki and one from Ryushanhai--went into it in excruciating detail on my blog

          1. re: Lina

            Yeah, that's definitely not a bowl of Ramen you follow up with another bowl of Ramen.

            1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

              Eki was my final bowl of six over two days at the Museum. Well, I planned to try another, but it pretty much stopped me in my tracks. Fortunately, I had help slurping.


        2. re: Lina

          What time did you go to the Ramen Museum? Their website says they're open until 11pm, with last order at 10:05pm.

          1. re: Robb S

            I remember it as being 9ish, but I'm probably wrong. It took forever to get there and find the place, I didn't realize it wasn't in Tokyo proper when I started the journey there.

          2. re: Lina

            I did the Fukuoka to Busan hydrofoil last December. Busan is a very interesting place to visit and there's plenty of good eating to be done there. Jagalchi fish market is mindblowing in terms of its size and the sea creatures on display. We picked a crab specialist near the main market and had an outstanding multi-course crab meal for about £15 each.

            Fukuoka is an excellent eating city and not just for ramen (see the link below describing a modern izakaya we went to and which is one of my absolute favourite places from my trips to Japan). It's also a nice city to spend time in, chilled out and foreigner friendly. So too the rest of Kyushu, I really enjoyed visiting places like Nagasaki and Kagoshima, the latter was really excellent on the food front, superb black pig shabu shabu amongst other things.


            In terms of ramen, wherever you go it's fascinating to get a sense of the regional variations with respect to different broths, noodle shape size thickness elasticity and toppings. From foreign muck's list above, I strongly recommend visiting Ivan Ramen in a western suburb of Tokyo (see my review below). He keeps it secret but I think his broth is a chicken carcass/dry scallop + anchovy hybrid, that surf/turf style seems increasingly popular these days, much lighter than say tonkotsu. I spend time in Nagoya (unsung but a wonderful eating city) where you find a lot of miso-based ramen (same in Sapporo albeit different type of miso) as well as a style called "Taiwan ramen" which is shoyu based broth, topped with fried ground pork + chives + beansprouts and is genuinely spicy. Tsukemen (dipping noodles) are on offer at Ivan Ramen and are also popular in Nagoya, the idea being that the noodles don't get saturated and retain a delightful chewiness.


            1. re: oonth

              actually, Champon in Nagasaki is a variation of Ramen that you must try...
              and sara udon too...(its actully not udon, but crispy noodles covered in saucy stuff.. very chinese style but great..

              And Lina, sorry to interrupt the chow talk (although i think the moderators don't frequent these parts so much) but were you involved in the Magic Waves festival by any chance?

                1. re: foreignmuck

                  Yep good shout for the champon and sara udon. We had a plate of tasty sara udon at a shop in a small indoor market that we came across not far from Nagasaki JR station. It was fun watching it being prepared.

                  Out of interest, what were the eating highlights from your recent Japan trip?

                  1. re: oonth

                    well, i could go on forever, but the out and out highlight was swimming out to a cove just near Otaru in Hokkaido, and diving for Uni and Abalone (Awabi).. It was absolute peak season and these uni were just loaded with umami, from all the seaweed they'd been eating. Just cracking them open on the beach, scooping out and eating on a bit of rice we'd brought. It was an amazing experience eating as much top grade uni as you wanted, straight out of the sea

                    but that aside,
                    Loads of good ramen places -including Keyaki for the second time in Sapporo, a great GIngis Kahn place called ShiroKuma, a great soup curry place which i cant remember the name of.

                    One of the great places recommended to me by a Japanese chef friend in London was a restaurant called 'Shokkan' on Roppongi Dori in Tokyo. Most likely one of the best Japanese meals i've had. Creative, contemporary Japanese cuisine using the best ingredients. the 7000 yen omakase menu included things such as raw veggies with a glorious tomato miso, Grilled unagi, a beautiful crab soup, and lovely Japanese style paella, made with Ikura, mussels and prawns.. absolutely bursting with flavour and i must say very different and IMO superior to anything i've had in Spain.. Basically the Japanese knack of adapting foreign things and making them better! Would def recommend this place. Its quite unknown but an absolute gem...

                    1. re: foreignmuck

                      Great post. Thanks for the Shokkan tip, sounds like my kind of place and with any luck I'll be back in Japan before the end of the year. Interesting to read about the "paella", I have a theory about Japan and Spain having quite a lot in common in terms of what people eat and how they eat, they happen to be 2 of my favourite eating countries on the planet.

                      The uni and awabi diving (and consumption) sounds amazing, for some reason I was under the misconception that the height of uni season is January and February when waters are at their coldest, good to know otherwise. I've only once found Hokkaido uni in London (through the lovely Makiko in Selfridge's Food Hall) but she's left there and set up on her own now. Normally have to make do with the ersatz stuff from Spain, Canada or wherever else, might as well be eating a different creature from the Hokkaido or California equivalent.

                2. re: oonth

                  Hi oonth,

                  Great post, you have me salivating. (^_~) oonth, do you remember the name/address of this Crab Specialist you visited? As well as the Kurobuta Shabu Shabu restaurant in Kagoshima? Doumo! :)

                  1. re: exilekiss

                    Hello exilekiss, sounds like you're planning that 2nd trip to Japan, hopefully you get it off the ground.

                    The shabu shabu restaurant in Kagoshima is called Ajimori, it's a well-known local institution. It was very delicious, the broth was a revelation in terms of depth of flavour without being at all heavy or excessive. The pork is exquisite, it's up there with Spanish pata negra as the best pork I've tasted on the planet. IIRC we had some chicken sashimi as a wee appetiser before the main event, I've become somewhat addicted to chicken sashimi on my last couple of visits to Japan! Another fantastic place we came across in Kagoshima was a basic sushi shop in the wholesale market, I had an excellent bowl of chirashi. The name is Shin Kou Shokudo and the phone number is 099 224 4654. I love fish (and other) markets in Japan and I love coming across places like this.

                    Re Busan, I can't tell you the name of the place I'm afraid, I didn't note down any info. But there seems to be one street not far from the main indoor fish market where there are a few crab restaurants and we just picked a place which was busy and where I was able to haggle a bit on the price of a king crab from the tank (we had checked crab prices in a local supermarket earlier in the day which was useful in ensuring we didn't get fleeced). On a separate visit to Jagalchi, we had some sashimi in the indoor fish market which was OK nothing special, not sure that I dig Korean style sashimi.

                    1. re: oonth

                      Hi oonth,

                      Thanks for the detailed reply and information. :) I'm still leery about Chicken Sashimi, but after trying Basashi, the should be no problem. :) Thanks again.

              1. re: foreignmuck

                Yo! I'm in Fukuoka now. Any must-sees? Must-eats? I'm just going to wander the streets and see what sort of ramen I can get into me, but if you have any specific suggestions I'd love em.

                1. re: Lina

                  Have you struck (liquid) gold yet? i'd just head to Nakasu or Tenjin at night and look for the yatais (stalls) with the longer queues.... Can be quite a stench though...

                  be sure to try the mentaiko too in fukuoka.. spicy pollock roe. You'll see it everywhere (it's usually red). Amazing on rice as a side dish, and mentaiko spaghetti is a winner..

                  hope you're enjoying the trip..

                  1. re: foreignmuck

                    Can I revise my question? I actually left Fukuoka because it was so dull and the hostel was terrible. So now I'm looking to kill a few days before leaving from Fukuoka so I thought I'd stay around Kyushu-area. Where's the best food? I'm in Nagasaki now and just had some champon. It was good, but no ramen.

                    Anywhere else in Kyushu I should see?

                    I'll post some long-drawn out stories about the ramen I ate in Fukuoka (unreal) in the next few days.

                    1. re: Lina

                      If you have time, and want to try the hot spring bath, from Nagasaki there is Shimabara
                      The speciality is more the "somen" (cold noodle).
                      The town of Kumamoto is famous for the ramen.

                      1. re: Ninisix

                        I've actually just landed in Yufuin where I'm staying at a place with an onsen! Will report back if I find any interesting grub. The dinner at the hostel was excellent, but nothing ramen-related.

                        1. re: Lina

                          Okay, back in Fukuoka for 2 nights. Chasing the dream.

                          Some pics/review of the Ramen Stadium in Fukuoka:
                          and some pics/banter from Ippudo here:

                          I just went to Ichiran today. Am feeling like a beached whale but am biding my time till I can hit the yatai stands and I will also search for some mentaiko. There doesn't seem to be anything to do in Fukuoka besides eat so I guess I will have to settle for that. ;)

              2. mange tout in Ramen? sacrilege!

                I lived in Northern Kyushu for a year, but that was over 12 years ago, and can't remember any specifics. All i remember was the ramen was good everywhere.

                This site has some good suggestions.

                I'd also suggest a 20 min train trip on the Tsubame train to Kurume, which also is famous for Ramen.

                Also, if you want to try Fugu, Shimonoseki is just over the Kanmon Straights on the tip of Honshu . The place is renowned for it, and it will be in season. Personally I think its a bit over rated, but if you want to try it, Shimonoseki is the place. There's also a ferry from there to Busan...

                6 Replies
                1. re: foreignmuck

                  if you go to kurume, don't miss kurume taiho. rich, porky and gritty whereas the ramen in hakata tends towards a lighter, thinner tonkotsu. taiho is famous for "mukashii" or old style ramen, where tonkotsu ramen originated.

                  in hakata, ichiryu is by far the best yatai on the stretch of the nakasu river (where the largest concentration of hakata's famed "ramen carts" line up every night):


                  1. re: rameniac

                    Concur with Rameniac on Ichi Ryu - Simply transcendent. Tons of salarymen in the know waiting for a seat...

                    I spoke my sad broken Japanese to the owners, and it turns out they are actually Chinese (my Mandarin is far better than my Japanese), so I switched to Chinese - The experience got a lot better quickly after that.

                    1. re: J.L.

                      I wanted so badly to like Ichiryu. It had come at the recommendation of locals, friends, and even various websites, but when I got to the yatai over Silver Week last year, something was missing. Maybe it was because I was there at 11:30 pm, dead sober and having eaten motsu nabe about 3 hours earlier. Maybe it's because my gf was having stomach problems and I was making her wait while I ate. Maybe the yatai was so busy over that holiday they were watering their stock. I'm no expert, but whatever it was, it didn't live up to the unbelieveable hype.

                      I was disappointed perhaps because it had been built up as insurpassable, the pinnacle of tonkotsu and I found it lacking. Maybe it needs another shot, but I was so down after that we went immediately to Taiho and chatted up the owner and his super chatty obachan workers/wife over a bowl.

                        1. re: Scharn

                          Yup, that's the place. Doesn't look like they're all that popular on RamenDB either, but I had heard nothing but raves before going there, and the few Fukuoka locals I talked to (one college buddy, one guy at our hotel, one friend of the gf) all mentioned the same place. I have experience with places that are better in name than they are in taste from growing up in LA (Pink's Hot Dogs, for example), but I was a little surprised at Ichiryu.

                          That said, though, I do want to try them again, perhaps earlier in the night and on a much emptier stomach. Maybe it'll change the way I feel about it.

                          1. re: MeAndroo

                            The days of eating transcendent ramen in a yatai are going the way of the pink pay phones.

                2. As mentioned already, Fukuoka and Sapporo are the most obvious choices. I would also add Kumamoto and Onomichi as well for a little variation, yet still ramen-obsessed smaller communities. Even less obvious is Hiroshima for their Hiroshima style tsukemen.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: E Eto

                    i have yet to meet a bowl of kumamoto ramen that has really impressed me. mostly, the noodles they use tend to be more spaghetti-like than those in hakata, and the soup is milder. though if you like browned garlic in your tonkotsu, that's what the style is kind of known for.

                    kumamoto is great though for basashi (horse). if you're only in kumamoto for one night, i'd probably skip the ramen for that lol.

                    1. re: rameniac

                      The Komurasaki shop at the Yokohama Ramen Museum serves a righteous bowl of Kumamoto style tonkotsu. Yeah totally garlic infused and milky white like a fine seul lang tang. Although the noodles are spaghetti-like, I enjoyed the difference. They wind up getting out the same chewiness and body as the other noodles, so it isn't a big difference ultimately.

                      1. re: Steve

                        i think by virtue of being larger and softer than hakata noodles, kumamoto-men tend to fill up the bowl and overwhelm the tonkotsu. to each his own tho.

                        1. re: rameniac

                          I only had the one bowl, so I can't make any claims other than I was surprised I loved it so much.

                  2. It's worth mentioning that just about all of the ramen styles mentioned in this thread can also be found in some reasonably delicious form in Tokyo, with a little research. (You'll probably be waiting on line more than you will be searching on the web....) I'm certainly not trying to dissuade you from traveling around the country if you are so inclined - but it really isn't necessary to do so in order to be able to experience all the different types of ramen that are available.

                    Obviously there are some other things in Japanese cuisine such as fish, vegetables, cooking styles etc. for which this logic doesn't hold true - for which you arguably do have to go the relevant part of the country to really experience it. But I don't think ramen is one of them.

                    I'm not necessarily saying that this applies to the OP, but some people want to be able to say "I had Hakata ramen in Hakata" or some such, after they return from their trip to Japan. That's fine - that's their call, their time, their money. But taking Kitakata ramen as an example, you have only to go to Menya Shichisai in Saginomiya (20 min ride from Shinjuku) to get what is arguably one of the best Kitakata ramens in the country.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: kamiosaki

                      It's a good point and I do plan to go to the ramen museum a few times to try all of them! But I wasn't asking so I could go out ramen point-gathering. I just recently made plans to go travelling for 6-12 months and I'm leaving in 6 weeks. So very short notice! I really wanted to travel around Japan but didn't have any specific destinations in mind other than the obvious ones, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima. So I thought I could let my stomach guide me. :)

                      1. re: Lina

                        Travel and Ramen, for me, 2 of the worlds greatest things.. :-)

                      2. re: kamiosaki

                        Incidentally, I'd argue that the finest Kitakata ramens in the country are probably not in Kitakata. I stopped there for an afternoon a couple years ago on the way back from somewhere else, carefully planned a walking tour, and got through 3 or 4 shared bowls without finding anything worth mentioning. The thing I really remember is the absolutely decrepit state of the town, but even that seems normal now that I've been to a lot of depressed Japanese country towns.
                        Anyway, If you're going to or coming from Tohoku and were thinking about Kitakata, don't.

                      3. The original comment has been removed