A big hello to everyone who's found this blog through the Frugal Traveler Matt Gross' recent Tokyo ramen rundown in the New York Times! And for those regular readers who have no idea what I'm talking about, the excellent article can be found here: One Noodle at a Time in Tokyo. Unfortunately, I was out of town when Matt was here researching the article, but my good buddies Brian over at Ramen Adventures and Keizo at Go Ramen did a bang up job making sure he got the most superb slurps possible while touring Tokyo. The world is starting to realize that ramen is so much more than just "noodles in soup", and it's great to see none other than The Gray Lady get her pages splattered with noodle grease.
Like so many of us, I came to know ramen via the instant stuff at the supermarket, but when I first visited Japan as an exchange student I fell in love with ramen all over again. Fast forward a few years and I'm now a graduate student at Columbia writing a dissertation on modern Japanese literature. Before I came to Tokyo this time around, a friend dared me to eat at all the ramen shops that lined the street leading to the library where I do my research. I took up the challenge and began this blog as Waseda Ramen, cataloging my attempts to eat at the 100 or so shops in my neighborhood. The scope expanded, it became a downright obsession, and now I have *almost* as many ramen-related books on my shelf as Japanese literary anthologies. But if my adviser is reading this, don't worry, dissertation chapter two is underway!
Matt's article does a great job discussing the noodles that criss-cross the streets of Tokyo, but the best part of living in the largest megalopolis on Earth is that there's always a new shop to discover! By some estimates, a new ramen shop opens every single day somewhere in metropolitan Tokyo, and my fellow ramen bloggers and I always have our noses out, our mouths open, and our ears perked to listen for the sound of slurping. I don't have the picture-taking prowess of Ramen Adventures, nor can I give an insider perspective like Go Ramen, but with Ramenate! I like to serve up a lot of background, shop history, funny personal stories, ramen-related cultural commentary and criticism along with the noodles.
Enough chit-chat, eh? I thought to celebrate the occasion I'd do a quick rundown of some of my all-time favorite shops and old posts that give some perspectives on the truly amazing depth and breadth of "noodles in soup!" You already know the shops in the article are good, so here are a few more favorites:
For the meanest bowl of miso (classical division): Sapporo Junren
For the meanest bowl of miso (new wave division): Kururi
For the best bowl of porky tonkotsu eaten in a red-light district: Shinjuku Hitotsubo
For a battle with the most infamous bowl in town: Ramen Jiro
For the fatty fat fattiest bowl out of town: Tsubame-Sanjo Ramen
For enough habaneros to make you see stars: Yagura-tei
For a spicy red bowl fit for Genghis Khan: Moko Tanmen Nakamoto
For ramen without a speck of soup in sight: Bubka
For ramen eaten in the glow of late night neon: Nagi Golden Gai
For ramen that will take you on a time slip: Milk Hall Sakaeya
For ramen that helps you get your veggies: Heibon
For a brief history of ramen in Japan: The Yokohama Raumen Museum
For an archaeological expedition to the origin of the noodle: Ramen on the Silk Road
For an account of what it's like to spend one day on the other side of the counter: The Great Tsukemen Festival
I always love hearing about new noodle finds, so post comments and tell me about some of your favorite bowls in Japan, the US, or anywhere in the world! And if you're in town drop me a line to say hi - I may not always be able to make it out (I do have that dissertation to write...) but maybe we can grab a bowl sometime. If you'd like to contact me directly, my email is nshockey at gmail dot com . There are more bowls of ramen than there are soup stains on my clothes...and that's saying something, so don't stop slurping!