Near the corner of Waseda Street (早稲田通り) and Meiji Street (明治通り) a ramen shop opened last month. Since then a steady line of about 50 people (even in rain) have waited outside to enter. Sometimes the line grows to more than 100 people. Within eyesight of this establishment are at least 5 other places selling nearly the exact same thing. Within a 5 minute walk are more than 20 other places selling ramen. Yet none of them ever have a line to get in. Ever.
People latch on to popular things all over the world simply because they are popular. In Japan this is taken to a higher level. The popular product rarely seems to be better, less expensive, or unique either.
Two Saturdays ago the weather was great, and we had nothing in particular to do, so we got in the above line to see if Futomendo Ramen was somehow special.
Once we made it to the front of the line there was something like excitement inside me. I was hungrier, too, so that enhanced the experience. It sort of felt like we were about to get on a roller coaster at an amusement park after such a wait.
In the above photo you can see, in the lower-right corner, that they have even posted instructions on how to line up to get in. I’ve seen brand new restaurants post similar instructions in the hope that lines will form even though they never do.
We had so much time to wait in line that Ellie actually had time to walk home and back. She probably could have done so four or five times.
To pass the time we listened to comments made by those walking past us, learned some Japanese, and took pictures of our surroundings.
Once we got in I didn’t take any more pictures. Sorry.
The first character in the name of the place (太麺堂) means “fat.” The name is literally “fat noodle shop.” Customers were supposed to fill out little cards, writing a phrase or sentence using the fat character. For instance, you could write “My dad is fat.” or “These fat noodles are delicious.”
Ellie came up with a clever one all her own. She wrote, in English, “My favorite sumo wrestler is Dragon Fat.” Underneath, I wrote the person she was talking about in kanji–山本山 龍太. The waitress didn’t know anything about sumo, but we had a fun discussion when she picked the card up anyway.
So how was the ramen you ask? It was good. The ramen noodles were fatter than normal, though not as thick as udon. It didn’t warrant the wait, but we had a fun experience anyway. The taste was a bit different than the norm, but I wouldn’t consider it superior to many of the places, without a line, in the neighborhood.