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GUIDE Ramen Lunch, dinner or the perfect late night meal

Ramen in Japan is inexpensive, convenient, fun and most importantly, delicious

Ramen in Japan is all about casual dining. You don't go out for ramen to linger over your bowl. It is an easy, all-in-one meal that pairs well with gyoza, fried rice and beer. Some new-wave shops up the level of ingredients and craftsmanship—and command long lines—but its low price makes even the best ramen available to anyone.

Ramen can be found all over Japan, and there are many regional varieties and stylistic variations. No two bowls are exactly the same.

Ramen types

There are many types of ramen, as well as many regional varieties of those types. Three of the four most common types are distinguished by the type of flavoring used in the soup. They are shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce) and miso. Tonkotsu ramen, the other most common style, is defined by its creamy pork bone soup. Shops will typically specialize in one or two types of soup.

Where to eat ramen

Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido is famous for its miso ramen, while tonkotsu is preferred on Kyushu in the south. Tokyo's classic style is a dark, pork bone or chicken-based shoyu, but almost all other styles—including many inventive takes—are available in the capital as well. Nearly every area of Japan has its own variety, such as Tottori's beef stock or Tenri's vegetable-heavy ""stamina"" ramen, so you should try local shops wherever you happen to be. A line outside a shop is often a mark of quality.

How to eat ramen

In most ramen restaurants you have to pay for the meal in advance with a ticket vending machine, although at some you can order from the staff. To use the machine, insert money, then select your ramen, drinks and whatever sides you want with the push of a button. Get your change and hand the printed ticket to the staff, then sit down and wait for your food.

While eating your noodles, try to slurp like the locals. It's not considered rude at all and many people actually find it makes eating noodles with chopsticks easier. Focus on sucking the noodles into your mouth rather than simply making noise for the sake of it.

If you want to drink all the soup, feel free. You can even lift the bowl to your mouth. However, don't feel like you have to! Finishing all the noodles and toppings but leaving some soup is still considered "done."

Ramen shops are not places to linger over your meal. Chatting is perfectly acceptable, but don't stay too long after finishing your meal, especially if people are lined up outside.

* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.

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