10 Things you Should Know Before Eating Ramen in Japan

If you’re traveling alone and feeling hungry ramen is probably the best choice for a satisfying meal. It’s arguably one of the most famous Japanese dishes and there are several well-known Tokyo ramen restaurants closeby to the Tadaima Japan Shinjuku Ryokan. Whether it’s your first time to try ramen, or whether you are a ramen veteran, you should definitely add one (or more) ramen meals to your itinerary. Here are 10 things you should know before you start slurping down those noodles.

2020-09-23   Life and Manners in Japan, Travel Tips,

10 things to know

1.It is said that ramen was brought from China around 150 years ago during the Meiji era. However, the dish only became well-established about a 100 years ago, at the start of the Showa era. Originally, ramen used to be called Chinese Soba. The name “ramen” only came into use during the 1950s.

2.Wheat noodles form the main ingredient. They are served in a hot tasty broth with some additional ingredients. There are four basic flavourings of the broth: soy sauce (“shoyu”), miso, salt (“shio”) and pork bone (“tonkotsu”). The best ramen restaurants will only specialise in one or two of these.

3.Popular ramen shops may have a line out in front but since it’s a dish that can be made and eaten relatively quickly, the line moves quickly and you’ll soon be seated. Similarly, you should avoid taking too much time while eating, and leave soon after you’re done. If you come in a group, be prepared to sit separately.

4.You will need to purchase your meal in advance from a ticket machine. Popular choices are sometimes highlighted but can ask for a recommendation by saying “osusume wa nan desuka?” Most dishes come with “chashu” (braised pork), “negi” (chopped onion), and “menma” (seasoned bamboo shoots). A popular additional ingredient is a marinated soft-boiled egg (“hanjuku ajitsuke tamago”).

5.Some places will ask you additional questions about your order for example how firm you like the noodles, or how oily you like the soup. Unless you have specific preferences, you can answer these questions by saying “futsu (meaning usual).

A clear soup salt-based ramen with chashu topping

6.If you are worried about getting spots on your clothes, sometimes aprons are available. If you don’t see any, try asking for one by saying “epuron, arimasuka?” If you’re worried about your hair getting in the way, some places may also have a hairband or “hea gomu”.

7.First, use the provided spoon to taste the soup – this is the most important aspect of a ramen dish and will help you towards the appreciation of the whole dish. Next try some noodles. It is acceptable to slurp to cool them off and avoid burning the your palate. Ramen must be eaten hot, and quickly, so that the noodles don’t get soggy.

8.There are a number of condiments, like pepper and Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese 7 spice blend), and also extra toppings such as “moyashi” (bean sprouts) and garlic (“ninniku”) on the counter, so feel free to use them if you want to jazz up the taste of your food.

9.It isn’t necessary to finish all the soup but you should eat all the noodles and toppings. Some places will let you order extra noodles for a small fee, if you are still hungry. To get a refill ask for a “kaedama”. You can also get some more soup (usually free) by saying “supu wari onegaishimasu” .

10.When you’re finished, place your empty bowl on the counter, and say “gochiso sama deshita” before leaving. This means “thank you for the delicious meal!”

A few recommendations and our favorite places

During your trip, make sure to try different types of ramen, as well as regional variations in the cities you visit. You should also try a couple of ramen spin-offs, such as tsukemen” (dipping noodles), and “abura soba” (a very tasty soupless ramen). Check out the Japan Guide ramen page for more information about the dish and the  ramen adventures website for descriptions of more restaurants. If you are short on time, or don’t know where to start, you could also visit the highly recommended Ramen Museum in Shin-Yokohama, where you can sample small bowls of different kinds of ramen.

 Here are a few recommended places in the Yotsuya area:


The recommended choice (top left) is marked with the speech bubble

For smartphone users, please click the link below to go to the Tadaima Japan website which includes additional location details:

 10 things you should know before eating ramen in Japan

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Writer / Translator

I’ve been in Japan for over 10 years although it feels shorter because I am constantly discovering new things and new places. Sometimes it can be hard to get the full Japanese experience because of cultural differences and linguistic barriers. For that reason, I want to share what I have learned in order to enhance your experience in Japan. Having said that, figuring out stuff on your own can also be fun. In any case, I hope you can find here whatever you need in order to make your stay a success.