A guide to ramen in Japan

Let's dive into Ramen (繝ゥ繝シ繝。繝ウ), a beloved noodle soup dish that's taken Japan by storm! Originally from China, Ramen has become a staple in Japanese cuisine, offering a comforting and flavorful dining experience. Whether you're a local looking for a quick and affordable meal or a traveler on a budget, Ramen is the perfect go-to option.

From bustling cities to remote villages, Ramen restaurants, known as ramen-ya, can be found throughout Japan, serving up a diverse array of regional variations. With its affordability and widespread availability, Ramen has earned its place as a favorite dish among food enthusiasts and budget-conscious diners alike. So, next time you're craving a delicious and satisfying meal, why not slurp up a bowl of piping hot Ramen?


1. Popular ramen types

Let's talk Ramen! These flavorful noodle bowls are often classified by their soup base, though you'll find plenty of tasty hybrids too. The primary types of soup include:

Shoyu ramen (soy sauce) Shoyu (soy sauce)

Shoyu Ramen is a classic Ramen that features a clear, brown broth infused with the rich flavor of soy sauce (shoyu). While the base of the soup is typically chicken broth, you might find variations that include other meats like pork, beef, or fish, depending on the local culinary traditions.

Shoyu Ramen is the go-to choice for many Ramen lovers, often served as the default option on menus when a specific soup type isn't specified. With its savory broth and satisfying noodles, Shoyu Ramen is a beloved staple that's sure to hit the spot whenever you're craving a comforting bowl of deliciousness!

Shio ramen (salt) Shio (salt)

Shio Ramen is a delightful Ramen that features a light and clear broth seasoned with salt, offering a refreshing and delicate flavor profile. While chicken broth is the usual base for Shio Ramen, you might also come across versions that incorporate other meats like pork, adding an extra layer of richness to the broth.

Shio Ramen is perfect for those who prefer a lighter and more subtle taste in their noodles. With its simple yet satisfying broth and tender noodles, Shio Ramen is a popular choice among Ramen enthusiasts looking for a comforting and flavorful meal option. Whether you're a Ramen aficionado or new to the game, Shio Ramen is sure to leave you feeling satisfied and craving for more!

Miso ramen (soybean paste) Miso (soybean paste)

Miso Ramen is a savory Ramen that features a thick and flavorful broth infused with soybean paste, known as miso, creating a rich and complex taste sensation. Originating in Hokkaido, where chilly winters called for a heartier soup, Miso Ramen has gained popularity across Japan and can now be found in Ramen joints throughout the country.

With its robust flavor and comforting warmth, Miso Ramen is a favorite among Ramen enthusiasts seeking a satisfying meal. Whether you're braving the winter chill or simply craving a bowl of deliciousness, Miso Ramen is sure to hit the spot and leave you feeling fully satisfied!

Tonkotsu ramen (pork bone) Tonkotsu (pork bone)

Tonkotsu Ramen is a beloved noodle dish that hails from Kyushu and features a rich and creamy broth made by boiling pork bones until they dissolve into a cloudy white concoction. Typically, Tonkotsu Ramen's hearty flavor is further enhanced by adding chicken broth and pork fat, creating a satisfyingly indulgent soup base.

Renowned for its robust taste and comforting warmth, Tonkotsu Ramen is a favorite among Ramen enthusiasts. Whether you're seeking a hearty meal to satisfy your hunger or craving a bowl of flavorful goodness, Tonkotsu Ramen is sure to hit the spot and leave you feeling fully satiated!

2. Noodles in ramen

Ramen noodles

Ramen noodles are wheat-based noodles that are a crucial element of a delicious bowl of Ramen. Typically long and elastic, Ramen noodles come in various types, ranging from thin and straight to thick and wavy, offering a diverse range of textures and flavors.

At Ramen restaurants, also known as ramen-ya, you'll often find options to customize your noodle order. Whether you prefer thin, regular, or thick noodles, or like them cooked to regular or firm doneness, many places let you tailor your Ramen experience to your taste preferences. So, whether you're craving slurp-worthy noodles or seeking out a chewier texture, there's a Ramen noodle style for everyone to enjoy!

3. Ramen Toppings

Ramen toppings are the delicious finishing touches that elevate a bowl of ramen from satisfying to sensational. From savory slices of chashu pork to crunchy bean sprouts and flavorful bamboo shoots, ramen toppings add texture, flavor, and visual appeal to the dish.

Below is a list of toppings that are commonly served with ramen:

Chashu Chashu

Chashu are these fatty slices of roasted or braised pork that are a staple topping in Ramen dishes. In fact, you'll often find one or two slices of Chashu adorning standard bowls of Ramen at most Ramen restaurants, or ramen-ya. For those craving even more porky goodness, many ramen-ya also offer Chashumen, a Ramen dish that includes extra pieces of Chashu for an extra flavorful experience.

Menma Menma

Menma are preserved bamboo shoots with a salty flavor, adding a delicious and unique taste to Ramen dishes. Whether thinly sliced or finely chopped, Menma is a popular topping that adds texture and depth to your bowl of noodles.

Moyashi Moyashi

Moyashi are crunchy bean sprouts, whether raw or cooked, bring a delightful sweetness and texture to your Ramen bowl. A versatile topping, Moyashi is a common addition to all types of Ramen, adding a refreshing crunch that complements the savory broth and noodles.

Tamago Tamago

Tamago are hard boiled, soft boiled, raw, or marinated, eggs that are a beloved Ramen topping. From the rich and creamy yolk of a soft boiled egg to the flavorful marinade of a seasoned one, Tamago brings a burst of flavor and texture to your Ramen experience.

Seaweed Seaweed

Whether it's the tender wakame or the crispy nori, seaweed adds a unique flavor and texture to every bowl of Ramen. From its savory taste to its nutritional benefits, seaweed is a popular topping that enhances the overall dining experience.

Kamaboko Kamaboko

Kamaboko are slices of steamed fish cake that are a popular addition to many bowls of Ramen. One of the most well-known types of kamaboko is naruto, also known as narutomaki, featuring a distinctive sawtooth edge and a striking pink spiral design.

Corn Corn

Corn is a popular topping that adds a touch of sweetness to your bowl of Ramen. Paired with creamy butter, canned corn is commonly found on miso or shio Ramen varieties, enhancing their flavors with a delightful burst of sweetness and texture.

Butter Butter

Butter is a game-changer when it comes to Ramen toppings, adding a rich and creamy flavor that takes your bowl to a whole new level. Whether it's miso or shio Ramen, a generous pat of butter melts into the broth, creating a velvety texture and enhancing the overall taste experience.

4.Ramen side dishes

Ramen side dishes

Let's talk about the delicious sides you can enjoy alongside your Ramen! While Ramen is already a satisfying meal on its own, many Ramen restaurants, or ramen-ya, offer a variety of tasty side dishes to complement their noodles. One popular option you'll find almost everywhere is gyoza, flavorful Chinese-style dumplings that are pan-fried to perfection and served with a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar, and spicy rayu (chili oil).

To make your Ramen experience even more enjoyable, some shops offer set deals that include Ramen, gyoza, and even other dishes like fried rice or drinks. These combo sets often come at a slightly discounted price compared to ordering each item separately, making them a great choice for those looking to enjoy a complete and satisfying meal without breaking the bank. So, whether you're craving noodles, dumplings, or a little bit of everything, Ramen restaurants have got you covered!

5. Where to find ramen

Where to find ramen in Japan

When it comes to enjoying delicious Ramen, specialized Ramen restaurants, known as ramen-ya, are your best bet! You'll find these cozy eateries dotted around bustling locations like train stations, entertainment districts, and busy streets. Ramen-ya typically offer sit-down dining experiences, complete with counters and tables, though smaller spots might have just a single counter. In high-traffic areas, some ramen-ya might even provide standing counter space for quick bites.

If you're looking for a wider dining selection, you'll often find Ramen featured on the menus of other eateries like izakaya, family restaurants, and food stalls. Plus, you can grab a hot bowl of Ramen any time of day or night at convenience stores or even from vending machines. With Ramen readily available in various dining settings, satisfying your craving for this comforting dish is always within reach!

6. How to eat ramen properly

How to eat ramen

Let's talk Ramen etiquette! When digging into your bowl of Ramen, you'll typically use chopsticks, which are usually provided at your table. Many Ramen restaurants also offer Chinese-style spoons for savoring small toppings and sipping the flavorful broth. Don't hesitate to lift up the bowl and slurp the soup directly窶琶t's all part of the Ramen experience!

Keep in mind that Ramen noodles can lose their texture quickly, so it's best to enjoy them right away after they're served. As you slurp up those noodles, don't be shy about making some noise窶琶t's actually encouraged in Japan! The slurping not only enhances the flavors but also helps cool down the hot noodles as they hit your palate. And remember, it's perfectly fine to leave some soup behind in the bowl at the end of your meal. While it's not necessary to finish every last drop, polishing off your bowl is a great way to show appreciation to the chef!

7. Ramen regional varieties

Let's dive into the world of regional Ramen varieties! These tasty bowls of goodness have gained such popularity that you can now find them all across Japan. Some of the most famous regional styles include:

Asahikawa Ramen (Hokkaido) Asahikawa Ramen (Hokkaido)

Get ready to slurp up some deliciousness with Asahikawa Ramen! Coming straight from the heart of Hokkaido, these bowls are packed with flavor. Featuring a shoyu-based soup with a touch of oiliness, they're famous for their thin, wavy noodles.

You'll often find them topped with a mouthwatering mix of green onions, chashu (pork slices), menma (fermented bamboo shoots), and a perfectly cooked egg. Whether you're exploring Asahikawa or just craving a taste of Hokkaido, you won't have to look far to find a cozy ramen joint serving up this local favorite.

Sapporo Ramen (Hokkaido) Sapporo Ramen (Hokkaido)

When it comes to satisfying ramen cravings, Sapporo Ramen is in a league of its own! Known for its thick and hearty miso broth, this variety of ramen is a flavor explosion. With fat, robust noodles as its base, it's often topped with Hokkaido favorites like creamy butter and sweet corn.

These bowls of goodness have gained nationwide fame, making miso ramen a must-try at any ramen-ya you visit. So, if you're looking to warm up with a comforting bowl of noodles, Sapporo Ramen is sure to hit the spot!

Kitakata Ramen (Fukushima) Kitakata Ramen (Fukushima)

Kitakata Ramen, hailing from Fukushima Prefecture, is a delight for ramen enthusiasts. Its light yet flavorful shoyu soup, infused with pork bones, chicken stock, and dried sardines, creates a unique taste profile. Complementing the broth are wide, flat noodles, renowned for their chewy texture and wavy appearance, making every slurp an experience to savor.

Topped with green onions, menma, and generous servings of chashu, Kitakata Ramen offers a satisfying blend of flavors and textures. Whether you're a ramen connoisseur or just craving a hearty bowl of noodles, this regional specialty promises a delightful culinary adventure that you won't soon forget!

Tokyo Ramen (Tokyo) Tokyo Ramen (Tokyo)

When it comes to ramen, Tokyo Ramen stands out as a classic choice loved by many. Boasting medium-thick, wavy noodles bathed in a savory shoyu soup infused with dashi fish stock, it offers a delightful burst of flavors with every slurp. Whether you're in Tokyo or elsewhere in Japan, you'll find this iconic dish served at numerous ramen joints, showcasing its widespread popularity and timeless appeal.

Renowned for its comforting taste and satisfying texture, Tokyo Ramen has become synonymous with the quintessential shoyu ramen experience. With its hearty broth and toothsome noodles, it's a go-to option for ramen enthusiasts seeking a taste of tradition and authenticity.

Onomichi Ramen (Hiroshima) Onomichi Ramen (Hiroshima)

Onomichi Ramen offers a delightful twist to the classic noodle dish, boasting a shoyu soup infused with dashi fish stock, sourced from the abundant seafood of the Seto Inland Sea. This unique blend of flavors gives Onomichi Ramen its distinctive taste, capturing the essence of the region's culinary heritage. Complemented by thin, straight noodles that offer a satisfying chewiness, this ramen variation is often topped with an array of delectable ingredients, including green onions, chashu, menma, and a touch of pork lard for an extra burst of flavor.

With its flavorful broth and perfectly cooked noodles, Onomichi Ramen is a favorite among ramen aficionados seeking a taste of authentic Japanese cuisine. Whether you're in Onomichi or elsewhere, you can savor this regional delicacy, showcasing the rich seafood bounty and culinary craftsmanship of the Seto Inland Sea area.

Hakata Ramen (Fukuoka) Hakata Ramen (Fukuoka)

Hakata Ramen is renowned for its thin noodles swimming in a rich, creamy tonkotsu soup, often garnished with savory chashu slices. Originally a specialty of Fukuoka's bustling food stalls, Hakata Ramen has gained widespread popularity and can now be savored at ramen shops across Japan.

With its hearty broth and tender noodles, Hakata Ramen offers a comforting and satisfying dining experience. Whether you're in Fukuoka or exploring other parts of Japan, be sure to treat yourself to a bowl of this beloved ramen variety, cherished by locals and visitors alike for its delicious flavors and comforting appeal.

Okinawa Soba (Okinawa) Okinawa Soba (Okinawa)

Okinawa Soba, despite the name, resembles ramen more than soba. Featuring thick, wavy noodles in a flavorful shio soup base, this dish is garnished with toppings like green onions, kamaboko, and fresh ginger. For a heartier option, try Soki Soba, which includes soft broiled pork among its toppings, although there are other delicious variations to explore as well.

Whether you're in Okinawa or elsewhere, Okinawa Soba offers a unique and satisfying culinary experience, blending the flavors of the region with the comfort of a warm noodle soup. Don't miss the chance to enjoy this beloved dish, cherished by locals and visitors alike for its distinctive taste and comforting appeal.

8. Instant ramen

Instant ramen

Let's talk about Ramen you can enjoy right at home! Instant Ramen comes in handy cups and packets, available at supermarkets and convenience stores. Just add hot water, and you've got yourself a quick and tasty meal, especially convenient for travelers with access to hot water pots in hotel rooms.

If you're up for a little more prep, fresh Ramen kits and toppings are also available at Japanese grocery stores. While they require a bit of cooking time, these kits offer a step up in flavor and quality compared to instant options. Boil the noodles, mix in the concentrated soup base, add your favorite toppings, and voila! You've got yourself a delicious bowl of restaurant-quality Ramen right in your own kitchen.