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Ramen Ichiran – Part 2

We first visited Ramen Ichiran on our trip to Japan in March of 2007. After a walk around Ueno Park, we stumbled upon the place on a cool day. Ichiran was almost empty, even though it typically has a line out the door. I suppose it doesn’t usually have a line out the door since it is open 24 hours a day, but it frequently does when it is normal ramen eating time.

The top picture features Ryan, back at the same place three years and several months later, much taller and hungrier this go around.

Most ramen places in Japan have seating only at a counter with enough chairs for four to ten people. Some of the larger establishments may have a few tables in addition to the counter seats. Ramen Ichiran in Ueno is the largest ramen shop I have been to with seating for a whopping 37 people.

After paying at the machine for your ramen, you queue up for a seat to open. A seat, on the above chart, can be red, yellow, green, or blue. When you sit down the seat turns green. When you order it turns yellow, when your ramen arrives it turns red, and when you leave it turns blue for the next customer.

You don’t get to see your server or cook. This is the only place I can think of in Japan where this happens. You fill out a form stating how spicy you want your ramen, how cooked you want the noodles, etc. Next, you push a button and a hand mysteriously appears, grabs your ramen ticket and order details you have written, and disappears once again. Finally, a ramen bowl appears in front of you just as ordered. You see no faces of the employees. You are in a cubicle of sorts so you won’t see your fellow customers either (unless you fold back half the wall between you and the person you came with).

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. いただきます。

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