Visit to an interesting ramen restaurant in Japan

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I saw an interesting program on NHK World the other day about a Chinese chain of ramen shops that has copied the ramen-of-solitude model right down to the logo. The NHK crew tried to interview them about it and they waffled around between it being an “homage”, “completely coincidental”, and it being “developed in cooperation with our Japanese consulting partners.” Fascinating stuff.


I had the opportunity to dine at the Shibuya (Tokyo) Ichiran last September. It was almost exactly the same as the video, except there were several alcoves with only 10 seats each, and no windows, so a bit claustrophobic. Of the various ramen restaurants I tried, the “cubicle” experience was unique to Ichiran’s chain. You can buy make-your-own versions of their product in the local Don Quixotes, the same way you can buy T.G.I. Fridays appetizers in your grocer’s freezer.

Very yummy and recommended for a chain ramen joint, but go at off-hours. We were lucky to get seats when we arrived, but the line to get in was twenty deep when we left.


Ichiran has three locations in the NYC area. I don’t think they have the vending machines tho – there is an order form instead.

The vending machines weren’t intended just to reduce human interaction. They help to speed up the process of ordering (no need to wait for staff to take your order), payment is already pre-done (no need for staff to handle germ-y money), often the vending machines have the models/pictures of the items (no need to be able to read), increases the usable space in the tight locations (no hostess/cashier station).

The solo booths, however, we expressly created to reduce your interactions with anything but the bowl of ramen.

My favorite channel on Youtube. It’s been fun watching Chris’s videos evolve over the last few years.

then sit in one of the walled-off cubicles along the counter, so you can eat without having to interact with anyone else.

So, like, uh, a chow urinal?


Blech. Perfect for the internet era I suppose.

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It’s nothing so dystopian. These ramen shops are in really busy and crowded areas with minimal floor space for seating, so they do this so that patrons won’t sit and chat while they eat, thus eating slower and occupying a seat for longer. By making sure you can’t do anything but sit down and eat your ramen, they make turnover time much faster, since a patron will just sit down, eat their ramen, then be on their way.

Sounds pretty dystopian to me!


There are plenty of restaurants made for more casual and social dining - the izakaya bar/restaurant is the quintessential example if this. The crowded ramen stand just occupies a different niche: delicious hot noodles served fast and eaten quickly.

Yeah, but there are plenty of crowded ramen shops that don’t have walls between the seats. I can’t remember seeing this arrangement either of the times I was in Japan.


thats exactly the shitty world I dont want to live in.


Exactly. The vending machines for ordering in Japan are great. You can make a decision from looking at the numbered (and often realistic) plastic food models and place your order by selecting the corresponding number on the vending machine and inserting your money. It’s faster and reduces the likelihood of errors/communication problems even if you can’t speak Japanese. You often are given a paper ticket with your selection/confirmation of payment to hand to staff, so it’s much more about improving the process than eliminating human interaction.


An awful, but apt comparison for sure! :joy:

Personally, never been a fan of the eating alone cubicle setup and prefer to eat at an open bar in Japan where you can enjoy the ambiance and sometimes even watch the cooking and interact with staff. If you make it to Tokyo, and you don’t have time to pop all the way down to Fukuoka, the Ogikubo suburb is our favorite for ramen in Tokyo. It’s well worth a visit. :ramen:


I’ve seen it several times, but only in really busy and crowded areas inside a major train station.

I rarely eat quick-Ramen soup… but when I do, I do it watching the film Tampopo (one of the great foodie flicks); improves my Ramen experience tenfold.

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