I’m Tetsu! I’m a member of Tokyo Otaku Mode and I love ramen! It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it is a staple that sustains and supports Japan’s restaurant industry today. It’s that popular. Originally brought over from China, it has undergone various changes to suit the Japanese palate and now, it is a completely different dish.
Today, I’m going to share 9 super delicious kinds of ramen with you based on how they taste. They range from the basic to the new and novel, because who knows, you might find yourself hungry and in Tokyo one day! Anyway, shall we embark on our Tokyo Ramen tour? My stomach’s already growling. I can’t wait anymore!
Here are the 9 finest ramen types you MUST try if you come to Tokyo!
1. Soy Sauce Ramen
As the name suggests, soy sauce ramen is called as such because of the soy sauce that is added to the soup. As this is the most traditional style, some places just call it “Chuuka Soba” (literally, “Chinese noodles”). Among all the styles of ramen, soy sauce ramen has the longest history and it is most certainly a staple!
Ramen lovers from all over Japan make pilgrimages to Takano for this one bowl of ramen! While the soup is made from a simple seafood broth that you can’t get sick of, their noodles are made in-house and contain zero additives. What’s more! They were first listed under the Bib Gourmand category of the 2015 Michelin Guide, then consecutively for the next 4 years until 2018! Seriously, check this one out. You won’t regret it!
Takano’s beautifully clear soup smells amazing, and it’s so gentle on the palate! Two pieces of roasted seaweed! Four (!) thick slices of roasted pork, and god, they’re so tender! Toppings like bamboo shoots and spring onions are a’plenty too. You gotta try the perfectly al dente noodles together with the soup. They’re so smooth that they just slide down your throat. Once you have one bite, you won’t be able to stop. Whenever I have a bowl of Takano’s ramen, I never leave a single drop of soup behind. Oh yes, did I mention that there’s also a train straight to here from Asakusa? You have to try it!
2-15-10 Nakanobu, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo
1 minute walk from Ebara-Nakanobu Station (Tokyu Ikegami Line)
9 minute walk from Nakanobu Station, Exit A3 (Toei Asakusa Line)
8 minute walk from Togoshi-koen Station, South Exit (Tokyu Oimachi Line)
11:30 am to 2:30 pm
Closed every Wednesday.
※Might close earlier depending on when the soup runs out.
2. Tonkotsu Ramen
Pork bone broth and thin, straight noodles form the base of tonkotsu ramen! Even though you will find it mainly in shops that specialise in ramen from the Fukuoka area as well as Chinese restaurants and roadside stalls, you can definitely find good tonkotsu ramen in Tokyo, too. Some places let you choose how soft you’d like your noodles, or even order a second serving of noodles on the house!
Hakata Ramen Akanoren (Nishi-Azabu Main Branch)
Akanoren is a well-established ramen place that’s been serving the Nishi-Azabu area for over 40 years now. In my opinion, they have the best tonkotsu ramen in the whole of Tokyo! The soup is simmered for a full day, and paired with a strong soy sauce, it is rich and thick without a hint of gaminess that might put some off. The noodles are shaped thin and flat, so they pick up the soup well! Plus it’s close to Roppongi Station and open until early morning, so you could even go for a late-night meal after a night out! Can I get seconds, please?!
The best thing about tonkotsu ramen is the fact that you can choose how firm or soft your noodles are, as well as order a second serving of noodles called “kaedama”. But because the noodles at this Akanoren are softer, I always choose to go with firm or very firm. In general, there are 5 options at tonkotsu ramen places: soft, normal, firm, very firm, and wires. Well, true connoisseurs often adjust the firmness of their second servings based on their first.
Hakata Ramen Akanoren (Nishi-Azabu Main Branch)
1F Daigo Nakaoka Building
3-21-24, Nishiazabu, Minato City, Tokyo
10 minutes from Roppongi Station, Exit 1C (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line/Toei Oedo Line)
11:00 am to 3:00 pm
9:00 pm to 5:00 am
Closed every Sunday.
3. Shio (Salt) Ramen
This ramen is made up of Chinese wheat noodles and a soup that is extracted from chicken and pork bones then seasoned with a salty sauce. Since the broth isn’t vigorously boiled, it doesn’t turn cloudy like the previously mentioned tonkotsu ramen, and instead, remains clear. This is the ramen that embodies the saying, “Less is more!”
Just a 5 minute walk from Harajuku, Afuri is popular with locals and tourists alike! I used to make it a point of stopping by whenever I found myself in Harajuku. My favourite would definitely be the Yuzu Shio ramen. Not all that glitters is gold, but trust me, this soup gets pretty darn close.
Using natural water sourced from Mount Afuri in Kanagawa Prefecture, it is boiled slowly with whole chickens, seafood, and herbs among other carefully selected ingredients, making it seriously delicious. Every single time, I end up completely draining my bowl. The hand-pulled noodles are also so springy. God, I can feel my mouth watering even as I’m writing this!
Even though the toppings offered are simple, they’re bound to satisfy! Imagine the crisp Japanese mustard greens and the soft, syrupy middle of a boiled egg, sheets of roasted seaweed and crunchy bamboo shoots, finished off with refreshing yuzu zest. The combination of yuzu and the soup is irresistable!
Oh, yes, and you get to choose between how you want your chicken char siu slices done, too. Whether you want them packed full of flavor and cooked over an open flame, or tender and healthier if you’re health-conscious, they’re there for you! The interior of the restaurant is fashionable and looks like a cafe! If you’re a Harajuku boy, you’d want to take note of this place!
3-63-1 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
3 minutes from JR Harajuku Station
5 minutes from Meiji-jingumae Station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, Fukutoshin Line)
10:00 am to 11:30 pm (Last order at 11:00 pm)
4. Miso Ramen
Miso ramen gets its name from the fact that miso is added to the soup as a sauce. Although it famously originated from Sapporo, there are other kinds of miso ramen that were birthed in other places as well. This is just something I saw on TV, but apparently, it’s number one out of all the foods that tourists try and love when they visit Japan!
Whenever I have miso ramen, it always makes me think of my childhood. Maybe it’s because my father often took me to eat it. The soup at Hanada is so creamy and rich. With pork bones as the main ingredient of the stock, they are cooked down with vegetables to draw out their savouriness, until the depth of the soup is simply intoxicating! Here, the noodles are thick and springy, and just a little firm. Topped with bean sprouts, the servings are properly substantial and for a glutton like me, it’s perfect!
The toppings here include melt-in-your mouth fatty char siu, along with bean sprouts and green onions that were in a cast-iron pot with miso pork bone broth. Of course, the seasoned egg is divinely thick and gooey, too. It would be nice if I could take my father here for a meal! Plus it’s also great that Hanada is in Ikebukuro – 1 of the 3 holy lands for otaku in Tokyo. (The other 2 are Akihabara and Nakano!)
Higashi-Ikebukuro ISK Building 1F
1-23-8 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
6 minutes from JR Ikebukuro Station, East Exit
6 minutes from Ikebukuro Station (Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line)
7 minuteus from Ikebukuro Station (Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line)
6 minutes from Higashi-Ikebukuro Station (Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line)
Monday to Saturday: 11:00 am to 11:00 pm
Sunday and public holidays: 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
Closed for the end and start of the year holidays.
5. Jiro-style Ramen
On a king-sized bed of noodles sits a blanket pile of vegetables and char siu, and the whole delicious mountain is double the size of a regular bowl of ramen. A signature yellow signboard is a landmark for a Jiro-style ramen restaurant, just like X marks the spot on a treasure map. The soup is made by boiling back fat and aromatics like garlic and cabbage cores with pork bones and belly. There are a lot of places that make their noodles in-house, and on the whole, they’re thick, firm, and flat. Because of its uniqueness, this style of ramen is extremely addictive and some even say “Jiro-style isn’t ramen; it’s a dish in its own right.”
Ramen Jiro (Shinjuku Kabukicho Branch)
I have a confession: I’m actually a ‘Jiro-rian’.
“Hm?” I hear you ask.” What’s a ‘Jiro-rian’?”
Well, that’s how you call people who are addicted to the noodles at Ramen Jiro! Trust me, you’ll understand once you’ve had them. Building upon the base of pork bones for the broth, it’s buttery and full of the richness of soy sauce. With such a heavy flavor profile, the strong depth of the pork bones really shines through. Another special feature is also the pork fat that is piled on top of the noodles. The noodles are flat, wavy, and broad. It’s springy with a good resistance so it picks up the soup well! I want to eat it so badly that I’m seriously starting to shake!
There’s actually a rule in Jiro. Whether or not you know this can change your entire experience, so listen up! At Ramen Jiro, you can adjust the amount of the following according to your preferences: nin’niku (finely chopped raw garlic), yasai (bean sprouts and cabbage), abura (pork fat), karame (how rich the taste is).
Depending on how much you want to eat, you can also try saying “mashi” (more) or “mashi-mashi” (a lot). Of course, you can also ask for a smaller portion (“sukuname”). When your server asks, “Would you like garlic?”, that’s when it’s your time to shine! If it’s your first time, you can always respond with “none”, and if you find that it isn’t quite satisfactory, remember the magic words on your next visit! As a side note, I always go with “A lot of garlic and vegetables, and just a little bit of fat.” (In Japanese: “Nin’niku yasai mashi-mashi, abura sukuname.”)
*As the default portion of ramen is already pretty substantial, please tread with caution if you’d like to increase your portion of yasai.
Ramen Jiro Shinjuku Kabuki-cho Branch
Nisshin Building 1F
2-37-5 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
4 minutes from Shinjuku Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line)
7 minutes from Shinjuku-Nishiguchi Station (Toei Ōedo Line)
7 minutes from Shinjuku Station (Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line)
8 minutes from JR Shinjuku Station, East Exit
11:30 am to 3:00 pm
Closed every Wednesday.
6. Tantan-men (Tantan Noodles)
Tantan noodles are a deliciously savory and spicy noodle dish. It was brought over to Japan by a Sichuan-born chef named Chen Kenmin, who then adapted the dish to suit Japanese palates and spread it across the country. What is characteristic is that it is often served as a soupy noodle dish flavored with chili oil.
The definition of tantan noodles are pretty vague in Japan, so details of the dish do vary depending on the store. In general however, many shops use slightly thicker Chinese wheat noodles and top the dish with soy sauce-seasoned minced meat or vegetables like bok choy and bean sprouts. Shredded green onion and thinly sliced chili peppers are also rather common as garnishes.
Yunrinbou (Akihabara Branch)
Just 10 minutes from our town of Akihabara! The tantan noodles at Yunrinbou are an exquisite blend of flavors from the mildness of the ground sesame seeds and peanuts, then the spiciness of chili oil and Sichuan peppers. Once you start eating, you won’t be able to stop your chopsticks here either! The thin noodles pair well with the soup, the chili oil with green onions, the white scallions with the minced meat. Even just visually, it looks amazing! I highly recommend this for anyone who likes spicy food like me!
My recommendation would be to get the noodles with a mini mapo rice bowl! You probably already know, but a mapo rice bowl is made up of rice under a stir-fry. This stir-fry is made by frying minced meat, red chili, and Sichuan peppers together with toubanjan (broad bean chilli paste), then cooking the mixture briefly with tofu and chicken stock. Even though the mapo rice bowl at Yunrinbou is quite spicy, it’s still tasty and full of flavor!
By the way, you can choose the levels of spice and numbness for both dishes on a scale of 1 to 4 without extra cost. It’s 100 yen extra if you decide to go with Level 5. Usually, people go with level 3, but if you love spicy food, you could go all out and give it a shot!
Yunrinbou (Akihabara Branch)
Kyodo Building 1F
2-12-12 Kanda Sudacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
1 minute from Iwamoto-cho Station, Exit A1 (Toei Shinjuku Line)
10 minutes from JR Akihabara Station
4 minutes from JR Kanda Station
Weekdays: 11:00 am to 10:00 pm (Last order 9:30 pm)
Weekends and public holidays: 11:00 am to 9:00 pm (Last order 8:30 pm)
7. Ie-kei Ramen
Ie-kei ramen was a brainchild of the owner of Yoshimura-ya, a ramen joint in Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture. Having worked as a long-distance truck driver, his trips up and down the country made him start daydreaming about combining Kyushu’s famous tonkotsu ramen and Tokyo’s equally well-known soy sauce ramen, which then led to its birth.
To make the ‘pork bone soy sauce’ that lends the dish its characteristic taste, a chicken and pork bone stock is used as a base. Soy sauce is then mixed in, and to that, thick straight noodles are added, along with toppings of spinach, char siu, and roasted seaweed. It is the combination of all these ingredients that make it a genre in its own right, and I have absolutely no doubt that this would go well with rice.
Yokohama Iekei Samurai (Shibuya Branch)
As a matter of fact, the previous TOM office used to be near this ramen place, which is why I often went on my lunch break. Their famed pork broth soy sauce strikes a good balance between the buttery, thick pork bone broth and the soy sauce that isn’t overly salty. Then the depth of the chicken lard follows, lending a different kind of flavor to the dish.
Their noodles are slightly thick, but still firm and springy. You can choose to tweak your order to your preferences here as well, according to how rich you’d like the soup (rich, normal, light), the amount of fat in the soup (more, normal, less), and how firm you’d like the noodles (firm, normal, soft).
One of the features of Ie-kei ramen is also how the boiled spinach is cooked just enough so it still has a good bite, and unlike other styles of ramen, there are always 3 pieces of roasted seaweed.
But above all, I’m going to let you in on the best way to dig into a steaming bowl of ramen at Samurai! Are you ready? First, order rice with your ramen. Then, grab a few pieces of the pickled cucumbers from the container that’s always on the counter and put them on your rice. Add your preferred amount of toubanjan (broad bean chilli paste). Then, wrap a mouthful of that with a piece of seaweed that’s gone delightfully soggy with your soup and feast! It’s seriously so darn good that you’re not going to be able to hold back! It’s been some time, but maybe I’ll make a trip to Samurai soon!
Yokohama Iekei Samurai (Shibuya Branch)
3-15-2 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku
10 minutes from Shibuya Station, South Exit
Monday/Thursday/Friday: 11:00 am to 3:00 pm/6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Tuesday/Wednesday: 11:00 am to 4:00 pm
Weekends and public holidays: 11:00 am to 6:00 pm
8. Tsukemen (Dipping Noodles)
Picture this: a mouthful of chilled noodles dipped into broth, heady with the rich flavors of meat and seafood. Though it is different from your regular bowl of ramen, tsukemen is still considered a type of ramen. On the whole, the soup (or the dipping sauce) is denser and stronger in flavor than your regular ramen broth, but as with other styles of ramen, there are countless variations to it. There are places that play with levels of acidity or sweetness, or even with adding fish meal to their stock. Many places offer thicker noodles, and you can even order what is called ‘atsu-mori,’ which are warm noodles.
As for garnishes, you can expect the usual ramen toppings: pieces of roasted seaweed, char siu, fermented bamboo shoots, and soft-boiled eggs just to name a few. Some places even top the whole delicious bowl with some wasabi or yuzu zest! As a ramen-lover, I initially thought of tsukemen as blasphemy when I first had it, but now I’m a die-hard fan!
Tsukemen Enji (Kichijoji Main Branch)
The soup is aromatic from the depth of the seafood and pork bone broth as a base, layered with sweetness from vegetable stock. Somehow, it manages to be bursting with flavor and refreshing at the same time, rich without weighing you down. I’m going to be honest and tell you that the first time I ate at Enji, that freshness really surprised me. This soup sticks to the bouncy noodles well, and honestly, once you’ve had one mouthful, your chopsticks are going to be back for more before you even realise! Oh, right, you also get a choice of 3 types of noodles at Enji: regular wheat noodles, thicker, springier ones, and sprouted wheat ones. I definitely recommend the sprouted wheat noodles!
Just a minute’s walk from Kichijoji Station Park Exit! With the park so nearby, you can take the time to relax there before strolling over for some food. Inside there are only counter seats, so be prepared to get cozy with some of your fellow restaurant-goers. The interior is trendy though, so even if you’re a woman looking for solo ramen adventures, it’s not daunting to dine alone at Enji.
Oh, I forgot to mention how to enjoy tsukemen! If you finish your noodles and have soup left over, you should absolutely try thinning it out with some fish broth (dashi). There will be a pot on the counter filled with dashi, and I recommend adding some to your soup. Without a shadow of doubt, it’ll be delicious, but it’ll also be soul-warming. If you have the chance, try it!
Tsukemen Enji (Kichijoji Main Branch)
Nanyou Building 1F
1-1-1 Kichijoji Minamicho, Musashino-shi, Tokyo
1 minute from Kichijoji Station, Park Exit (JR Line, Keio Line)
Weekdays: 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm (Last order)
Weekends and public holidays: 11:00 am to 10:00 pm (Last order)
9. Vegan Ramen
Vegan ramen is a very healthy type of ramen that is made without using any animal products or animal-derivative products like eggs, dairy products or honey. Instead, it uses ingredients like vegetables and seaweed. It draws out the flavor of the ingredients and it’s also nice that it’s easy on the body and isn’t too heavy on the stomach. In the place of stock made from pork bones and seafood, restaurants use a variety of foods like shitake mushrooms, kelp, and vegetables. In place of the char siu, so many different places have come up with inventive ways of topping their noodles that it might be fun to make a day of visiting a few stores to see how they all do it.
Soranoiro (Main Branch)
The attention to detail in Soranoiro is incredible! Let’s talk about the soup first. They’ve taken dried foods like kelp, and coupled it with vegetables such as tomatoes and broccoli in order to make what they call a Veggie Broth. Then, using gluten-free soy sauce, they’ve created a transparent soup that is delicious and utterly clean on the palate. At this point, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to call it art. The noodles are made from brown rice flour and are completely gluten-free. It feels like my ramen horizons are going to be broadened!
You can really feel how meticulous Soranoiro are, all the way from their ramen to their tableware and the interior design of the shop. The ticket machines that take orders are also equipped with touch panels that offer multiple languages. Surely a restaurant that pays such close attention to the needs of their customers has delicious food… That’s right – even the non-vegan ramen here is delicious, so even if you come with non-vegan friends, there’s nothing to worry about!
Soranoiro (Main Branch)
Blue Building, Honkan 1B
1-3-10 Hirakawacho, Chiyoda-ku
1 minute from Kojimachi Station (Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Station)
4 minute from Hanzomon Station, Exit 1 (Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line)
Weekdays: 11:00 am to 2:30 pm (Last order)/6:00 pm to 10:00 pm (Last order)
Closed every Saturday, Sunday and public holiday.
Did any of these ramens pique your interest?
How were the 9 different ramen recommendations by this self-proclaimed ramen expert? What draws me to ramen is how deep it is. It’s so fascinating that it feels like I’ll never get to the bottom of the metaphorical bowl no matter how much I eat! And if you ever find yourself in Tokyo, I do hope you can use this article as a guide and get yourself some amazing noodles! Rather than it being a side quest to your otaku adventures, perhaps I’d go so far as to suggest coming to Tokyo just for ramen!
This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article written by Tetsu.