Let me just start by unequivocally stating it – I LOVE RAMEN. In fact, I love ramen so much that when I went to Japan, I ate ramen for 7/9 of the meals I had. To be honest, I get extreme Japanese restaurant anxiety when I have to order things I’ve never heard of. But I don’t get this at ramen shops. Ramen is pretty simple. Just order a bowl with or without egg on top (you should do it with), and enjoy.
While I was in Japan, I had an opportunity to eat at some of the best ramen shops in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo. As my readers know, I’m not going to the most expensive, high-end ramen shops. I’m going where the Japanese eat. I want the real deal with no frills. So with that in mind, I will share my favorite ramen joints in Japan. Spoiler alert: everywhere I went was my favorite so I will write about each restaurant.
This no frills ramen bar is all about getting in and out while stuffing your face with their traditional Oishi ramen recipe. Kamakura in Japanese means “where the respected one sits”. And this is exactly how they treat their customers. Great fast service with a delicious bowl of ramen.
Ichiran Dotonbori Yataikan
The famous Ichiran ramen shop is so well-known because customers get to sit alone in private booths for one while enjoying their delicious bowl of Tonkotsu ramen. Eating here was like living in my own private world. I even had a water tap at my counter just for me. After serving my order, they closed the blinds at the front of my booth and let me eat in peace and quiet. The perfect place to stuff my face with an extra large bowl without the shame.
Honke Daiichiasahi Ramen
Eat like the Japanese do at this local’s only spot near the main Kyoto Train Station. This small ramen joint is one of those places where you’d be hard pressed to ever find a foreigner. And its so popular with the locals that around lunchtime there is always a line outside! But don’t worry – it moves fast.
I’m going to be honest – this might be the best ramen I’ve ever had in my life. Kyoto Gogyo is known for its burnt miso ramen. I’m not sure how they do it, but the miso is actually burnt giving the soup an extremely thick consistency and out-of-this-world flavor. The restaurant is a little more upscale than the others I’ve been mentioning and it has additional menu items besides ramen so it makes for a good place to get dinner or go out on a date.
Rokurinsha Ramen is located along the famed “ramen street” in the mall under Kyoto Central Station. While there are plenty of shops to choose from, Rokurinsha Ramen will always have a line. After tasting this delicious Tsukemen ramen, I knew exatly why. Tsukemen is ramen separated from a thick broth where people usually will dip their noodles into the broth before eating. I prefer to get them combined together just to make it easier on myself!
Finally I like to save the best for last – Kisurin Ramen. I originally found this shop on a list of the meatiest ramen joints in Tokyo and boy did it deliver. Kisurin’s Akasaka location focuses exclusively on Tantanmen ramen – a spicy noodle dish in a curry-like broth that is absolutely loaded with meat. Best part is there are four different levels of spice you can order so everyone can enjoy a meal at this tiny shop hidden away along a side street in Akasaka. If you normally like spicy food, I recommend going all the way.
If you’re still hungry in Tokyo, here is another great list of some of the best ramen spots from Time Out. And if you happen to be in Kyoto, read my guide about the best temples to visit.