Finding Ramen in Tokyo
With the freedom to take in all the flavors of Tokyo, our UNEEK shoes brought a total comfort factor to the streets of Shibuya as we hunted for the best noodles with KEEN Ambassadors Chelsea Yamase and Aki Yamashita.
We think the best travel adventures happen when you leave your itinerary open. For spontaneous fun and new discoveries. Which most definitely includes where to stop for lunch.
And when it comes to finding ramen in Tokyo, it isn’t something you’ll find on a tourist map. It isn’t in a guidebook or on a travel blog. Instead, the best ramen shop is usually the one that you happen to walk into.
In a city with over 21,000 ramen shops (called ramen-ya), hidden gems abound. They’re sandwiched between apartment buildings, tucked behind department stores, and in narrow alleys. That 3-seater counter in a chaotic food market just might be serving the best tantanmen ramen ever made.
The abundance of places to fall in love with ramen is only rivaled by the ways you can order it. There are the four types of ramen: shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), miso (fermented bean paste), and tonkotsu (pork). And what you put on top of it—typically bamboo shoots, char siu (pork), boiled eggs, fish cakes, nori, onions, bean sprouts, corn, butter, wakame, ginger, and mushrooms. It can be hot or cold, eaten with broth or without it. Sometimes, ramen is just noodles dipped in sauce.
Don’t let too many choices spoil the ramen.
If it all sounds a bit overwhelming—well, it kind of is. Especially when you're hungry. We were facing this abundance of choice when we came up with the saying, “Don’t let too many choices spoil the ramen.” (It hasn’t caught on yet.) That’s also when our guide, KEEN Ambassador Aki Yamashita, shared the secret to ordering the best ramen in Tokyo: “osusume.” No, it’s not yet another type of ramen. It means, roughly, “whatever you recommended.” And while this may seem like a choice only for the brave and adventurous, it really isn’t. The payoff is a steamy bowl of goodness to rival any ramen you’ve ever had back home. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
One last thing: You don’t have to slurp your ramen to be polite, but it does help cool the noodles, allowing you to eat more ramen, faster—which is always a good thing.