Slurping Up Japanese Soul Food at the Tokyo Ramen Show
Japanese ramen has a fevered following all over the world. Many chefs from the USA and Europe have a cult-like devotion for all things ramen. Getting to try the best of the best ramen shops is a dream for any foodie visitors these days. That is precisely what makes the annual Tokyo Ramen Show a must-see, or should I say must-taste.
[caption id="attachment_1611" align="aligncenter" width="995"] Tokyo Ramen Show 2015[/caption]
You still have time to head over to this year's event. From now until November 3rd visitors can taste offerings from dozens of ramen shops highlighting different regional and creative styles.
The Ramen Show is paradise for the super fan, and a great experience for the newbie as well. You can get a real a sense of scope, style, tradition and innovation in the world of ramen all in one location. I love the celebration of "New-Old-Style" at this festive event.
[caption id="attachment_1630" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] "New Old Style" Ramen[/caption]
The Ramen Show does not offer a lot of English in the marketing materials or onsite, but it doesn’t matter a bit when you get there. The process is straightforward: Once you are perusing the many different ramen stalls, the staff are more than willing to try out their English with you, and they are passionate about what they do. They will go the extra mile to help you make your choice!
I loved my time at the 2015 Ramen Show and I have some useful tips and tricks on how to get around, what to try, some etiquette hints, advice and a bit of ramen-porn to share (plus, of course, The Ramen Mascot!)
[caption id="attachment_1613" align="aligncenter" width="869"] Tokyo Ramen Mascot[/caption]
This year the show runs for a super-long 12 days, the longest since the event started in 2009. This extended schedule offers a wider showcase, so the organizers divided it into two time periods. From October 23rd to the 28th there were 20 featured varieties, and then from October 29th to November 3rd there are 20 more. The event promotes tourism and Japanese food culture through ramen. And since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, partial proceeds were set aside for reconstruction help in Tohoku. Ramen, the proclaimed “Japanese Soul Food" can bring people together in so many ways.
[caption id="attachment_1615" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Great Service at the Ramen Show[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1614" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Japanese Soul Food[/caption]
Another new feature this year was a kind of "meet your ramen soul mate” event. The organizers sponsored (in Japanese only) a sort-of speed-dating option for ramen lovers. You had a chance to meet single people who shared your noodle passion, in this way making sure your future spouse loves the iconic pork-noodle-bowl as much as you do! We heard this was a popular evening so it's something to keep in mind for next year. Being married, I skipped this and just headed out on a regular day.
[caption id="attachment_1616" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Japanese Culture Through Ramen[/caption]
I recommend going early. I was there at 10:45 am and avoided all the long lines. Though honestly, I think even a long line would be well worth it.
[caption id="attachment_1619" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Deep broth with pork cheeks, pork belly, bamboo, and a perfectly soft-boiled egg.[/caption]
HOW TO: When you arrive at the park, stop by the ticket booth or use the ticket machines to purchase an 850 yen ticket. Each ticket = one bowl of ramen. Also, pick up the program just behind the ticket area.
Browse the area, enjoy the live music, check out some ramen souvenir stands. Then make your way to the long line of ramen stalls.
I recommend checking out all of them before you make your choice (this will be the hardest part). When you order at your chosen spot you will give them your ticket. You can also add on extras for a small charge (100-300 Yen). You pay for extras directly at the stalls. Drinks are sold separately in the line of stalls near the eating tents.
[caption id="attachment_1628" align="aligncenter" width="768"] Popular Choice at the Ramen Show[/caption]
Head over to the tents and tables to enjoy your selection with all the ramen fans. Look out for special tables marked with signs for older patrons and people with mobility issues. Be courteous and leave those easy access seats open for those who need them.
I was happy to see such a great group of men, women and families. Everyone loves ramen! When you are done, clear your table. Go to the trash booth in the central area near the eating tents, pour any leftover broth into the large barrels (unless you are like me, and there was nothing left at the bottom of the bowl). Then an attendant will take your chopsticks and the empty bowl for proper disposal. If you go in a group, maybe each person could try a different style and share around. The portions are full size, so if you want to try more than one be sure to come hungry!
Body and Soul is larger than your average jazz joint, and apparently has really good food. This venue has an easy to follow website where you can see the details of each of their live performances before you plan your visit. They have a few locations, so be sure to check that out. On their website, they mention that they are one of the first jazz clubs that ever opened when jazz fist came to Japan! That is defiantly worth checking out! I chose this venue largely due to another reason; it has a similar title to my favorite poem in the whole entire world, A Dialogue Between the Soul and Body by Andrew Marvell. If you have some time, give it a read, I’m sure it won’t disappoint!