Inexpensive, convenient, and delicious! Japanese “B-class” gourmet cuisine

Though Tokyo is home to numerous top class restaurants on a level praised by Michelin, Japan overall also features many delicious down-to-earth eateries with inexpensive prices. And, you can also find unique menus incorporating flavors from all over the world that are different from traditional Japanese food. Some people call this kind of casual food culture “B-class gourmet” cuisine in reference to the higher priced “A-class” restaurants. Ramen served at counter seats, grilled “yakitori” chicken kabobs on the way home from work… These foods are the very power source that fuels Japan. Try some of this laid-back, down-to-earth gourmet cuisine and experience the daily vitality of the Japanese people.

“Chukamen” noodles, which came to Japan from China, have flowered in Japan as a unique Japanese food culture. With some people even eating ramen every day, ramen is said to be a Japanese national food. There are different types of ramen for the various regions in Japan, including Hokkaido’s Sapporo ramen, Kyushu’s Hakata ramen, and Tokyo ramen. And you will be surprised by the sheer variety of instant ramen types available at supermarkets and convenience stores.
Many ramen shops are open until late into the night, and some people like to stop by after drinking. The price is within about 600 to 1000 yen for one bowl. Though there are many ramen shops in any Japanese city, even outside of Tokyo, Ikebukuro in Tokyo is famous as a hot spot for ramen.The soup broths can be generally categorized into two types: meat based broths like “tonkotsu” (pork bone broth) and “torigara” (chicken stock broth) and fish based broths like “katsuo bushi” (dried bonito broth) and “niboshi” (dried sardine broth). To these broths, many shops add ingredients like onions and shiitake mushrooms to create their own original flavors. Soups made from tonkotsu broth are cloudy with a rich flavor. In soups made from fish broth, the unique fragrance that comes from fish is infused into the flavor. The soup flavor choices are generally categorized into the three types of soy sauce, salt, and miso. Popular toppings include “chashu” (meat slices), “negi” (Japanese chives), and “menma” (a condiment made from lactate-fermented bamboo shoots.). Another popular item is the “nitamago”, a boiled egg simmered in soy sauce (also called “ajitama”, which means flavored egg). There are many other kinds of toppings available depending on the shop, including “moyashi” (mung bean sprouts), butter, vegetables, “nori” (dried seaweed), kimchi, and a type of “kamaboko” (fish cake slices) with spiral patterns called “naruto maki”. Some shops will serve a “zenbu nose” serving with all the toppings upon request.

In addition, the “tsukemen” style where the soup and noodles come in separate bowls is also popular.

Counter seating is generally the main style of seating at ramen shops. Some shops do not have many seats, and popular shops can have long lines. Sometimes a long wait is necessary depending on the shop and the time of day, but people who really want to enjoy good ramen will wait patiently for that delicious bowl. Many places have their menus attached to the walls. And in some shops you buy a ticket at a ticket vending machine placed at the shop entrance before sitting down. Also, in addition to ramen, some shops serve other items like “gyoza” (fried dumplings) and “chahan” (fried rice) as well.

Shinyokohama Raumen Museum

This is a food theme park located 5 minutes on foot from Shin-Yokohama Station. The entrance fee is 300 yen per person. There are about eight to nine ramen shops, and each shop serves small sized portions so you can stroll around and eat at each shop. Enjoy a rich variety of flavors from all over Japan all in one location. The facilities are set up like a downtown area, and events are also held here.

Phone: 045-471-0503
2-14-21 Shinyokohama Minatokita-ku Yokohama-city Kanagawa
Business hours: Mon – Fri 11:00 a.m. –
Sat, Sun & Holidays 10:30 a.m. –
The entrance cut-off time fluctuates within 21:00 to 23:00.
Open year-round
http://www.raumen.co.jp/ramen/ (English)

Tokyo Ramen Street

This is located in the First Avenue Tokyo Station, at the Yaesu side of Tokyo Station. The first basement floor section houses eight famous Tokyo ramen shops.

1 Basement Floor, South Entrance Yaesu Tokyo Station
(1 Basement Floor, South Street First Avenue Tokyo Station)
Business hours: 11:00 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. (Last order 10:00 p.m.)
* Open hours are different for each shop.
Open year-round

http://www.tokyoeki-1bangai.co.jp/ramenstreet/ (Japanese)

Shinatatsu Ramen Mentatsu Shichininshu

Located one minute on foot from Shinagawa Station, this area houses seven famous ramen shops from all over Japan. You can even purchase souvenir ramen to enjoy at home.

Phone: 03-5475-7020
3-26-20 Takanawa Minato-ku Tokyo
Business hours: 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
* Open hours are different for each shop.

http://www.shinatatsu.com/raumen/index.html (Japanese)

Higashi-Ikebukuro TAI-SHO-KEN

Said to be the founder of the “tsukemen” style of serving soup and noodles in separate bowls, this shop is so popular it often has a long wait. The servings are very big, so if it looks like you might not be able to finish a whole bowl, you can order a slightly smaller portion of noodles.

Phone: 03-3981-9360
2-42-8 Minami-Ikebukuro Toshima-ku Tokyo
Business hours: 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
* Closes when soup supply is finished.
Open year-round
http://www.tai-sho-ken.com/top.html (Japanese)