One of the most popular dishes in Japan is ramen. Originally imported from China, ramen has been significantly alternated over the years and, eventually, Japanese-style ramen became one of the most favored budget meals for Japanese people. No matter the area, ramen shops and restaurants with a very distinctive signage can be spotted almost instantly.

Ramen signage
Japanese people spell “ramen” in both Hiragana and Katakana letters.

Each store or chain has its own unique way of making ramen. It is virtually impossible to find an exact same tasting dish in different locations. This opens up a unique opportunity for travelers to go on a tasting adventure.


Tonkotsu ramen.

Even though the taste varies greatly, the way of ordering ramen is quite consistent. Whether it is a traditional restaurant with waiters taking orders or a shop with a vending machine at the entrance that sells ramen tickets, the menu setup stays the same.

The first thing to pick is the soup base. Most popular types are:

  • Shoyu (Soy sauce) – clear chicken-based broth with soy sauce flavor.
  • Shio (Salt) – clear chicken-based broth seasoned with salt.
  • Miso (Soybean paste) – a thicker soup seasoned with soybean paste, brown in color.
  • Tonkotsu (Pork bone) – a thick creamy soup based on pork bones, often flavored with chicken broth and pork fat.
How to use ramen vending machine: 1. Insert cash. 2. Pick the desired ramen. 3. Press the button on the bottom that says おつり (change). 4. Collect change and order tickets. 5. Give the order tickets to the staff.

Once the choice of broth is made, it’s time to select toppings. The common ones are:

  • Chashu (fatty slices of roasted or braised pork)
  • Menma (preserved bamboo shoots with salty flavor)
  • Negi (leeks or green onions)
  • Moyashi (bean sprouts)
  • Tamago (hard boiled, soft boiled, raw or marinated eggs)
  • Seaweed
  • Kamaboko (slices of steamed fish cake)
Spicy miso ramen with tamago.

If a particular topping is preferred, there’s always an option to add extra to the ramen for a small fee. Waiters usually ask what type of noodles the customer prefers – the choice is between soft, hard and regular. Some ramen places will also offer options for the broth style – less, regular or more flavorful. Many locals like to order a side of rice or goyza (potstickers) with their meal.

Ramen shop tables also have additional sauces and spices available. A mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and hot chili oil goes great with goyza. Hot pepper will be favored by those who like their ramen extra spicy. Some places will have pickled radish or ginger available at the table.

Ramen shop tables
Standard ramen shop setup offers patrons water, extra sauces and napkins.

If you are not sure where to start your ramen adventure, visit Yujo front desk and ask for directions to the best ramen shops around Yokota Air Base.

Enjoy your ramen. Itadakimasu!

Photography credit: Paul Ticas and Viktoriya Fajardo