Showa Boom here too… “Tokyo Nostalgic Ramen” Exploration | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Showa Boom here too… “Tokyo Nostalgic Ramen” Exploration

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The “Everlasting Cup” that Never Goes Out of Style

It has been more than 100 years since the birth of ramen. Ramen is the most fad-sensitive and ever-evolving of all cuisines. Every year, new trends emerge, new soups and ingredients attract attention, and new ramen is born. Ramen chefs are constantly pursuing new flavors, and ramen freaks follow suit. This cycle has accelerated the evolution of ramen as a cuisine.

On the other hand, there are many ramen stores that have fallen out of favor or failed to catch the tide of the trend and have disappeared. It is said that there are about 30,000 ramen restaurants in Japan, and this number has not changed much over the past decade or so. This means that as many ramen stores have closed as new ones have opened. Of all the cuisines, ramen can be said to be the most difficult to survive in the world.

However, there is one type of ramen that has been loved for many years without being swept away by fads and fashions. There is one type of ramen that is loved no matter what time of year it is, one that has an unchangeable taste. There are flavors that have been passed down from generation to generation in each area. There is the taste of ramen that makes everyone nostalgic, and the appearance of the restaurant. There is no need to think about the ingredients or the production method, just eat the ramen in front of you and think, “This is delicious. That is what “everyday ramen” is all about.

There are “local ramen” in every region of Japan, but because of the wide variety of ramen available, Tokyo’s local ramen has surprisingly not been in the spotlight. Needless to say, however, Tokyo’s local ramen is “shoyu ramen” (soy sauce ramen). It is a clear soy sauce-flavored soup with a hint of niboshi (dried sardines) and shredded noodles. The visual appearance of this ramen, with seaweed and naruto on top, is exactly what anyone would imagine “everyday ramen” to be. This is “Tokyo Nostalgic Ramen.

Rairaiken, the origin of ramen restaurants in Japan (Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum)

Chinese noodles that have remained unchanged for 100 years

There is a store nestled in the back alley of Higashi-Ginza, once known as “Kobiki-cho. Founded in 1926 as a food stall, Manpuku has been in business for nearly 100 years, and has continued to carry on the taste and the curtain for nearly 100 years.

Standing in the kitchen is Hidehisa Kubo, the third generation of the family. The grandson of the founder, Fukujiro Kasahara, Kubo took over the restaurant at the age of 25 after training at a Chinese restaurant while helping out at the restaurant since his childhood.

The Chinese noodle soup at Manpuku is a traditional soy sauce ramen with a light broth. The bowl is neatly lined with a variety of ingredients arranged in red, green, and yellow. The most eye-catching of all is the yellow thinly fried egg cut into triangles. This was the brainchild of the restaurant’s founder, who had a background in Western cuisine. Ingredients are arranged in red, green, and yellow. The chashu pork, naruto, greens, bamboo shoots, and other ingredients remain the same. Mr. Kubo says that he does not want to change them.

While new ramen trends are being born one after another, he has the courage not to change the ramen of a hundred years ago. Even though the method of making ramen and the placement of ingredients are the same, the ingredients and seasonings are different now than they were in the past, and the taste has probably changed, Kubo said. Some of his regular customers have been coming to the restaurant since he was a child. For them, the taste of the ramen cannot be changed. The taste of Mampuku’s chuka-soba is not for Mr. Kubo, but for the people who have loved the restaurant for many years.

Mampuku’s chuka soba is a traditional soy sauce ramen with a light broth. The yellow thinly fried egg cut into triangles, invented by the restaurant’s founder, who came from a Western food background.
Manpuku” 2-13-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Some tastes keep changing in order to stay the same

Some tastes continue to change in order to stay the same. Founded in 1949, shortly after the end of World War II, as a fixed stall in the “black market” in front of Ogikubo Station, “Chuka-Soba Harukiya” is still a popular restaurant with a long line of customers more than 70 years after its establishment. The reason for the long lines is its Chinese noodles.

Harukiya’s Chinese noodle soup is a combination of hot soup with a punch of dried sardines and homemade noodles with a strong presence. It is hard to believe that this ramen was created in the postwar period, but the basic design has been kept intact and updated for the times.

The postwar era of poverty has given way to an era of abundant commodities and an era of food satiety. As people’s tastes and preferences change, in order for the food to remain as delicious as it was in the past, it must continue to change with the times. And we must stay one step ahead of our customers’ palates. That is what Mr. Itsuo Imamura, the founder of Harukiya, believed.

And he continues to hold true to this belief today. The thickness of the noodles changes with the seasons, and the dried sardines used are always examined and replaced with better ones. The flavor of the noodles changes with the seasons and with the times, and is improved little by little at a level that customers do not even notice the changes. The taste of the noodles is always changing in order to stay the same. This is the reason why Harukiya has remained a top-runner for so many years.

Harukiya’s Chinese noodle soup is a combination of hot soup with a punch of dried sardines and homemade noodles with a strong presence. The flavor of the soup is improved little by little according to the seasons and times, at a level that customers do not even notice the changes.
Chinese Soba Harukiya” 1-4-6 Kami-ogi, Suginami-ku, Tokyo

The Challenge of Recreating a Cup of Ramen No One Has Ever Heard of

The existence of “Rairaiken” is indispensable in the history of Tokyo ramen. It was founded in 1910, more than 110 years ago. Rairaiken was the first ramen restaurant in Japan to offer ramen as its main product, and can be called the starting point of ramen stores in Japan. After closing, reviving, and relocating due to the war, the restaurant closed its doors in 1976 due to a lack of successors.

In 2020, such a famous store in the history of ramen made a shocking comeback. Asakusa Rairaiken,” which recreates the taste of ramen from that time, has opened a branch in the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, known as Japan’s first food theme park. The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum has been researching “Rairaiken” as part of its study of Japanese ramen culture. As a result of 30 years of research, including interviews with the late Ichiro Ozaki, the third generation owner of “Rairaiken,” the museum was able to elucidate the ramen cooking methods of the time and the flour used for the noodles. The plan was to present the results of the research and recreate the taste of the original ramen and offer it to the public. With the cooperation of descendants of the late Kanichi Ozaki, founder of “Rairaiken,” the restaurant was revived as an actual store within the facility.

The ramen of “Rairaiken” is, so to speak, the “original taste” of ramen in Japan. It would be very meaningful to recreate that taste, but it would be nearly impossible to reproduce the ramen of 110 years ago in the modern world, when the ingredients and food conditions were completely different. Moreover, no one has ever eaten ramen from that time period. What is the origin of ramen in Japan? The popular ramen restaurant “Shina Sobaya” was entrusted with this difficult and important mission.

The noodles are made from wheat that has the same genetic material as the wheat used at that time, and the brine is also made close to the formula used at that time, recreating the noodles of that time using the green bamboo method used when the restaurant was first established. For the chashu pork, the restaurant has identified the strain of pork distributed at the time, and uses domestic pork crossed with Berkshire pork, and instead of the “boiled pork” that is the mainstream today, it is made into “roasted pork” based on the production method used at the time. The soup is a clear broth of chicken and pork with dried sardines, and is made by the same soy sauce manufacturer as at the time of its establishment. Rai Raiken’s ramen, which can be called the origin of ramen in Japan, has been successfully reproduced and is still accepted by many people today, 110 years later.

The ramen of “Rairaiken” is, so to speak, the “original taste” of Japanese ramen. In 2020, such a famous ramen restaurant will make a shocking comeback!
Asakusa Rairaiken” Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, 2-14-21 Shin-Yokohama, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture

There may be pleasure in tasting cutting-edge ramen, but there is also the pleasure of nostalgic ramen. However, when you eat nostalgic ramen, you can jump through time like a time machine. You can still enjoy the ramen that Japanese people loved a hundred years ago and that has watched Japan’s postwar revival. Nostalgic ramen has been a part of our daily lives as Japanese people.

  • Interview, text, and photographs Rikiya Yamaji

    Food journalist and ramen critic. Author of "Yahoo! News Personal" / Author of "Tokyo Nostalgic Ramen" and other books / Active in various media such as TV, magazines, and websites, while loving "food where you can see the face of the creator" and thinking about "why the food is delicious.

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