Thanis Lim

All Rounder Chef and Food Journalist

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Japan Food Guide: The Best Ramen in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka!

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Ramen has quite a cult following amongst foodies and has been on my list in most countries I’ve travelled to. To visit the land where ramen began felt like a pilgrimage and I sought after the best ramen in the most popular cities in Japan. While most are familiar with the Internationally renowed ones like Ichiran, Ippudo and Santouka ramen, I’m after something more. Where are the ramen that the Japanese love to eat? In my Japan trip – I’ve tasted more than 20 bowls of ramen from different places and realized the amount of diversity when it comes to ramen in Japan. Nevertheless, I am writing this guide to help you find the best ramen in the three cities. I will also teach you how to shorten your queues and waiting times to eat at these ramen places. I must warn you – the ramen listed here are so good – you will never be satisfied with ramen in your home country. Here are the must eat ramen from Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka!


Tips when visiting the top ramen places

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The top ramen places will have a queue, regardless of the time or how far out the place is from the city. I’ve learned it the hard way and by passing this knowledge to you – it will definitely help shorten your waiting time. Notice this queue to Menya Itto – there are two long lines on the left and also the right at the end.


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Most of the top ramen places have very limited seats – ranging from 8 to 20 seats – so it is natural to wait about 90 minutes to 120 minutes in the queue. Thankfully most people eat pretty fast in ramen joints and finish within 20 minutes per session.


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As you can see in this picture – this ramen place is actually in the suburbs and its 11pm but the queue is still long and only local Japanese – I queued for about 45 minutes just to have supper – LOL.


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So what’s the tip I can give you? For starters – find out what is the opening hour for both lunch and dinner – notice that some ramen joints vary their opening hours depending on which day. Arrive at least half an hour before the restaurant opens – that way – you have a higher chance to ensure your waiting times are shorter than one hour. I made the mistake of not checking Menya Ittou’s opening hour properly and arrived at 10:30 instead of 10 (assuming they open at 11). The result was a 90 minute queue – if you actually arrived at 10am – you more more likely to wait less than that time. Plan your lunch times around that and you should be fine. So remember this tip – arrive half an hour or more before opening time at the top ramen places! Oh and bring an umbrella with you – chances are you might be under the hot sun or under the drizzling rain and bring something to entertain yourself while waiting for the queue to move!


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For those good ramen that are located within popular Ramen streets – they have one in Tokyo and also in Kyoto – you can just go during low peak hours – usually early in the morning or during tea time and there won’t be a long queue.


Best Ramen in Tokyo


Menya Itto 麺屋 一燈 – the best tsukemen I’ve tasted

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Menya Itto is currently the highest rated ramen shop on Japanese website Tabelog, the website for foodies and achieved a bronze medal for 2017 – and I have to agree with them. Having tried so many ramen in Japan, my favourite has to be from here. Menya Itto is located near Shin Koiwa Station, which can be a bit out of the way from typical tourist spots. My advise is to arrive at least half an hour before opening time and to come on a weekday instead of weekend (they open 10:30 am on weekends and 11 am on weekdays) to ensure your queue is shorter.


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Their ramen broth is a fish based ramen. Their meatballs are specially made in house from good quality chickens and don’t get me started about their charsiu ~~ cooked to perfection probably using sous vide method and you will notice there’s three types of charsiu ~~ make sure you order your ramen or tsukemen with the three special slices of charsiu as its totally worth it!


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Look at that beauty! OMG! #charsiuporn


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Their ramen might be good – but the one that won me over was their rich and thick fish tsukemen. Tokusei noko gyokai tsukemen. 特製濃厚魚介つけ麺. I ordered the most expensive one with three different types of charsiu (pork slices) and the delicious half boiled egg. You basically enjoy this by dipping your noodles on the dipping sauce and slurp it up – DO NOT pour the sauce onto your noodles – that would be the wrong way to enjoy the noodles – dip the noodles and charsiu bit by bit into the dipping sauce and enjoy.


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After you are finished with the noodles, here’s a light broth for you to pour onto the dipping sauce according to the consistency of soup that you like then slurp it all up! Ahhhhh!! Heavenly!


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The good news is that they opened a branch in Bangkok! I would be sure to check them out!


Menya Itto

1-4-17 Higashishinkoiwa, Katsushika, Tokyo Prefecture 124-0023, Japan (near Shin Koiwa Station)

Opening hours:  11am – 3pm, 6pm – 10 pm (weekends they open at 10:30am)


Ginza Kagari Ramen 銀座 篝 – Best Chicken Broth Ramen in Tokyo

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Ginza Kagari is one of the unique ramen that uses chicken broth as the base. What I love about Ginza Kagari is the most flavoursome creamy yet not overly rich broth – you can almost say it’s silky smooth as you slurp it up ~ and the chicken slices are actually super tender that only ONE bite of your teeth is enough to break it into two ~~ the quality of the chicken is superb and the ingredients marry together well to form an enjoyable ramen experience.


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They have both ramen and tsukemen but I highly recommend their soup ramen ~ mmmm soooo delicious!


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I was lost and couldn’t find it initially on Google Maps and got there 15 minutes before opening – this gave me a 90 minute wait under the hot sun! LOL!


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You can request for extra toppings like extra roast beef or roast pork ~~ *drools*


Ginza Kagari

4-4-1 Ginza Chuo Tokyo (Near Ginza Station)

Opening Hours: 11am – 3:30pm, 5:30pm – 10:30pm


Ichiran Ramen 一蘭

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You might be surprised to see Ichiran here – but Ichiran happens to be my favourite bowl of ramen for those that ramen chains have many branches around Japan and internationally. Despite not highly rated by the Japanese websites, they are always crowded with tourists and I don’t blame them – Ichiran does serve a decent bowl of ramen! If you go during off peak times, the queues are actually not so long – maybe only about 15 minutes wait. Their broth is not too salty and has just the right balanced flavour amongst these ramen chains. There are plenty of branches so just google the ones nearest to you.


Ichiran Ramen

https://en.ichiran.com/shop/area-tokyo.html For a list of locations around Japan with opening hours!


Rokurinsha 六厘舎

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The famous Ramen Street is located at Tokyo Station Basement 1 (towards Yaesu South Exit) which showcases famous ramen from across Japan. The one that is the most famous (naturally with the longest queues) are from Rokurinsha, famous for their Tsukemen, with some claiming its the best they’ve ever tasted. My tip is to come here at 7:30am in the morning, when you are transiting on JR or on the way to the airport, there’s minimal queue around this time as compared to peak times of one hour or more.


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Rokunrinsha specializes in Tsukemen, dipping noodles, the dipping sauce is a thick broth mixture made from pork and fish, you dip the noodles and enjoy slurping them up from the dipping sauce.


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The noodles texture are really good and you can actually see dots of the grains on the noodles. Just like Menya Itto, you will have the option of pouring broth onto the dipping sauce so you can slurp it all up at the end – apparently there’s one with yuzu on it to give it an enhanced fragrance so be sure to go for that. I personally prefer Menya Itto but if you are not willing to travel to Shin Koiwa to queue for the best, then Rokurinsha will be enough to satisfy your tastebuds.


Rokurinsha

Tokyo Ramen Street, Tokyo Station B1 near Yaesu South Exit.

Opening Hours: 7:30–10AM, 10:30AM–11PM

Note: there’s a Haneda Airport branch as well that opens for 24 hours. Do look it up


Best Ramen in Kyoto


Menya Gokkei 麺屋 極鶏

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Menya Gokkei was rated best ramen of 2016 in Tabelog for Kyoto and deservingly so. Located at the famous Ichijoji Ramen Street area, near Ichijoji station. When you are at the queue, they will give you a piece of paper indicating what time to come back, so you can walk around the neighbourhood and don’t have to line up – be sure to keep the piece of paper with you. Gokkei’s ramen is a very thick chicken broth that is so thick that the spoon would float on it – kinda feels like having chicken gravy ramen – my wife did detect a hint of chicken livers which could be the secret to the thickness and flavour. Mmmm ~~


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You can choose original. garlic, spicy or with fish powder – I tried the original while my wife tried the one with the fish powder and both are good – since the original thick broth base is simply awesome! This is really a flavour explosion in your mouth and will definitely leave you feeling super full after enjoying this bowl. I would personally prefer Ginza Kagari’s version as it has a silkier mouth feel but some might prefer Menya Gokkei’s version of chicken ramen!


Menya Gokkei

29-7 Ichijoji Nishitojikawaracho Sakyo-ku Kyoto Kyoto (near Ichijoji Station)

Opening hours: 11:30am – 10:00pm


Seabura No Kami セアブラノ神 伏見剛力

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Seabura No Kami serves Seabura chaccha style ramen where melted pork fat is sprinkled on top of the ramen and you will see small pieces stay afloat (as seen in the picture) to enhance the flavor of the soup. This is quite a flavoursome soup yet not too oily to taste.


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My wife decided to try their dry version of noodles tossed in sauce (Abura Soba) and it was absolutely delicious, perhaps even better than their original Seabura chaccha ramen!


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Seabura No Kami is conveniently located just opposite Fushimi Station and I have to say – this station is near quite a few good ramen places so I’ll introduce two more of my favourite near this station that is really good!


Seabura No Kami

Fukakusa Shibata Yashikicho Fushimi-ku Kyoto Kyoto (Just opposite Fushimi Station)

Opening Hours: 11:30 am – 3:00pm, 6:00pm – 11:00pm


Ramen Takuniya ラーメン たぬき屋

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I found out about Takuniya while I was searching for where to eat for supper and this was a splendid find near Fushimi Station. Despite coming late at night – there was a queue which is a sure fire sign of knowing this place is good! Takuniya has a strong Chinese influence and serves Chinese ramen which has a light fragrant soy broth with soba but what’s good here is actually their delicious pork bone ramen that has been slow cooked till a thick broth with tender pork slices.


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I ordered the Mara Soba, which is like kolomee tossed with the thickend sauce and these delicious pork slices. Omg! The pork is seriously tooo good and goes so well with the noodles! It might not be as sophisticated as Itto or Kagari but the meat is down to earth delicious – comfort food at its best!


Ramen Takuniya

11-9 Fukakusa Fukenotsubocho Fushimi-ku Kyoto Kyoto (near Fushimi Station)

Opening Hours: 11:30AM–2:30PM, 6–10PM (closed on Thursdays)


Ramensou Chikyu Kibo de Kangaero ラーメン荘 地球規模で考えろ

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This Ramen place has a long queue even at 11pm and it has quite a long name as well. As you can see the broth is rather rich and it is loaded with lots of stewed pork!


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With such a queue even at 11pm, you know you are at the right place. A half an hour’s wait for me as the people who ate here seemed to eat really fast!


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I caught a glimpse of their stewed pork, waiting to be sliced into chunks and enjoyed with their pork bone broth ramen. I think the portions really big and anyone would struggle to finish but flavours are spot on!


Ramensou Chikyu Kibo de Kangaero

1153-9 Shumokumachi Fushimi-ku Kyoto Kyoto (near Fushimi Station)

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 11AM–3PM, 6PM–12AM, Closed on Monday, Sunday 11AM–3PM, 5PM–10PM


Ramen Toudai 東大 京都店 (Kyoto Station – Ramen Street)

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On the 10th floor of Isetan at Kyoto Station JR – you will find Kyoto’s very own ramen street! After trying a few places and also with help from Japanese websites, Ramen Toudai is our favourite here and deserves a spot here for being conveniently located as well as downright delicious!


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The style of ramen here is Tokushima style ramen which is a pork bone-shoyu soup base and boned pork rib stewed "sukiyaki" style. There’s unlimited eggs for you to enjoy (pasteurized so you can eat them raw!) Add the raw eggs (no limit) to the hot soup and stir.. or take the pork slices and mix with the raw eggs to enjoy just like sukiyaki style.


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Look at the slices of pork belly and also stewed pork ~~ all hot and ready to be mix with egg yolks to enjoy sukiyaki style ~~


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Or just pop the eggs into the hot soup and mix well to enrich the broth even further ~~ *DROOLS*


Ramen Toudai

Ramen Street, 10th Floor Isetan JR Kyoto Station

Opening Hours: 11:00AM – 10:00PM


Kyoto Takabashi Honke Daiichi Asahi 本家 第一旭 たかばし本店

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Located near Kyoto Station, Honke Daiichi Asahi opens up till 2am in the morning making it an excellent place for supper near Kyoto station – you can see from the picture that there’s a long queue even in late hours at 10pm.


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This place serves quite a different ramen to the typical rich ramen you are accustomed to. The ramen is a light shoyu ramen served with slices of charsiu ~~


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You might say that it has quite a Chinese influence to their soup and the noodles are kinda like thin soba noodles ~~


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Order some Gyoza and Kimchi to enjoy with the noodles and I’ll say the kimchi is quite nice. If you are the type who prefers the rich broth ramens, you won’t enjoy this ramen as much but the light shoyu broth has a very good soy fragrant and this is a refreshing change from the rich salty ramen in Japan. My wife actually quite enjoyed the ramen here while I’ll prefer the richer ones.


Kyoto Takabashi Honke Daiichi Asahi

845 Higashishiokoji Mukaihatacho Shimogyo-ku Kyoto Kyoto (near Kyoto Station)

Opening Hours: 5am – 2am Closed Thursdays


Best Ramens in Osaka


Muteppou 無鉄砲 大阪店

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Muteppou is one of those seriously rich and thick tonkotsu ramen you can find around Osaka. While it was difficult for me to find a ramen that is definitive to Osaka and challenge Tokyo and Kyoto, I tried quite a few ramen places in Osaka, including some introduced by bloggers, only to be deeply disappointed – luckily for me – the saving grace was Muteppou which serves a rich gravy like consistency tonkotsu broth that will make you go wow!


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I was lucky to arrive 20 minutes before opening time and there’s only a short queue. When they opened, there was quite a long queue behind me, coming early paid off! The queue is not surprising given that Muteppou highly rated and featured in many magazines and talk shows! Interesting note: Muteppou actually was the inspiration that led to Mori Higashida opening up the famous ramen joint Gumsharra in Sydney!


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You can actually select how rich and thick your broth is and I selected MEDIUM ~~ but look at how thick that soup is ~~ almost gravy like consistency ~~ when you slurp your noodles you can feel the texture of the soup! Oh my god! Heaven in every slurp!


Muteppou

1-5-21 Ebisuhonmachi Naniwa-ku Osaka Osaka (near Imamiyaebisu Station)

Opening Hours: 11AM–3PM, 6–11PM Closed on Mondays



Menya Jouroku 麺屋 丈六

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I have to say I write this part with deep regret that I did not managed to try out Menya Jouroku, which was voted in Tabelog as best ramen in Osaka n 2016, as I went twice and they were closed due to some emergency (from what I tried to decipher with my limited language skills). It would be a shame not to include them so if you do visit Osaka, please try out this ramen on my behalf.


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Both pictures were taken from their Facebook page and from what I read, they serve Higashi-Osaka Takaido ramen, a light shoyu chicken broth ramen, it must be quite a good shoyu ramen to have won best ramen as voted by the Japanese for Osaka!


Menya Jouroku

Nanbasennichimae Chuo-ku Osaka Osaka (Near Namba Station)

https://www.facebook.com/menyajouroku Look up their Facebook page for opening hours before you visit.


Special Bonus: Soba and Udon Noodles


Okakita 岡北

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While my trip in Japan has been a crazy ramen hunt – I did find a very good place to enjoy very good udon and soba around Kyoto and Osaka. One such place was Okakita around Higashiyama Station. The soba and udon noodles here are on a class of its own. They have been open for over 70 years and the first generation spent 17 years to perfect the broth and also the texture of their soba and udon.


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The dipping sauce is the best amongst all I’ve tried in Japan and the texture is splendid as well. My wife who usually doesn’t go for seconds surprised me by saying she wanted to order another one of these delicious soba noodles. I dare say this is one of the best soba noodles you can find in Kyoto!


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The texture of the udon is so silky and delicious while their soup is packed with a lovely delicate flavour ~~ really enjoyable and doesn’t lose to ramens at all.


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The Claypot keeps the broth nice and hot ~~~mmm ~~ sooo good!


Okakita

34 Okazaki Minamigoshocho Sakyo-ku Kyoto Kyoto (near Higashiyama Station)

Opening Hours: 11AM–8PM (closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays)


Dotonbori Imai 道頓堀 今井 本店

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Nestled at the very popular Dotonburi, surrounded by lots of other restaurants, I was surprised to see this famous Dotonburi Imai, famous for hand made soba and udon, to not attract long queues! Perhaps because I went around 3pm - non peak hours. The place has a comfortable ambience and serves quite an interesting array of soba and udon dishes. We ordered this special soba noodles served in bamboo!


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I ordered their duck udon soup and really enjoyed the light flavours of the soup though the duck to me was slightly chewy but delicious nonetheless. I’ll say the textures might not be as good as Okakita in Kyoto but its a good place in Dotonburi Osaka to get away from the busy crowds and sit down to enjoy a good bowl of udon or slurp some cold soba noodles in dipping sauce!


Dotonburi Imai

1-7-22 Dotonbori Chuo-ku Osaka Osaka (near Osaka Namba station)

Opening hours: 11AM–10PM (closed on Wednesdays)


Yamato Curry Udon 大和

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Yamato opens as early as 5am in the morning at Kizu market (where you can buy cheaper sashimi and fruits than the tourist crowded Kuromon Market) but you will see a queue already! This place is famous for delicious curry udon and soba! You might need to wait 30 minutes to an hour to eat here!


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Being a fan of curry and also udon~~ of course I would try out this place!


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The portions here are HUGE! If you order the ones I did – you will have Tempura and also sliced beef with your curry udon ~~ that’s their Number 1 top seller and I must say it’s damn worth it!


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There’s actually scallop tempura! OMG OMG OMG!


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Their prawns are huge as well ~ which is understandable given that this restaurant is located within a fish market ~ giving them fresh supply of prawns ~~


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Look at the thin slices of wagyu beef with your udon curry ~~ seriously tenderliciously good!


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I can’t believe I am having this at 6am in the morning ~~ such a heavy meal but its good to come here before you go sight seeing as they open early!


Yamato Curry Udon

2-2-8 Shikitsuhigashi Naniwa-ku Osaka Osaka (near Daikokucho station)

Opening hours: 5:00AM – 2:00 PM Closes on National Holidays, Kizu Market Holidays and occasional Wednesdays


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I hope you enjoyed my ramen food guide as well as the bonus Udon and Soba guide and that it will help you embark on your ramen pilgrimage to the three main cities in Japan! You can follow my Instagram posts on #ThanisJapan for my other food and travel tips for Japan!


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