Friday, April 28, 2017

Asia Mega Tour II - Finale, Search for the One True Ramen

With a single day left on two month tour, we were exploring our options within the Tokyo area. I wanted to see some water and had suggested visiting Yokohama, only 30 minutes by train from Shinjuku. As I researched I came across something that struck my eye...the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum! What was this? Going to the museum's site I found out a lot about ramen and the fact that the museum's key feature was subsidiary branches of multiple top flight ramen places from around the country representing the best of their regional styles. This led to more research on my part and my finally understanding the component parts of ramen and the wide range of regional variations.

This led to THE QUEST. The Quest for the One True Ramen.

Some history...remember back to our trip beginnings. We were in the south/west of Japan on the island of Kyushu in the cities of Kagoshima and Fukuoka. We'd had all kinds of issues finding food we liked but our fall back was ramen. It was rich, meaty, and had all the flavor points we were looking for. Fast forward to being in Taiwan. It was our last night there and there was a Japanese ramen place in the train station next to our hotel. The ramen there was 'Tokyo style'. That didn't mean much to us but we were very disappointed when our bowls came with a heaping pile bonito flakes on them giving the ramen a distinctly fishy flavor. We didn't think much about this until we finally made our way to Tokyo. Our first meal was ramen and it was nothing like what we'd had when we were down south. The broth was very fishy and they put a dollop of salted fish in oil on top of the bowl. We were very disappointed and feared to try ramen again.

But my research showed the types of ramen, their use of different broth components, flavoring components (called 'tare' it is a strong flavor on the bottom of the bowl), noodle types, noodle length of cooking time, and additions. And I found OUR ramen, the ramen of the south, the ramen of Kyushu, the TONKATSU RAMEN based on a rich pork bone broth and no fish!!!!!  Lo and behold at the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum was a place offering the very ramen we sought! The quest began.

First it is necessary to go to Yokohama
Yokohama is a city of 3 million that is part of the 35 million person Tokyo metropolitan area
Compared to the intensity of the areas of Tokyo we'd been in to date, it was an island of calm.

Yokohama struck us as a particularly attractive and photogenic city
Upon our arriving we went from the main train station to a development next door (almost always the case with Japanese train stations from our limited observation)
We noted this mural
 Yokohama was the major port of entry into Japan after it was opened up in the mid-19th century 
This mural has scenes depicting that era

Next we took a water taxi to another part of the city which gave us great views of the city 
The weather was glorious and the inner photographer freshly blooded from his recent workshop came forth
Study of Yokohama Harbor on a Rising Sun Theme

Study of Yokohama Harbor without Rising Sun

ARG what is this we spy?
Our nemesis - The Cruise Ship
Actually they all seemed to be in places other than Yokohama today
Into the lovely bay side park

Statue notable for something but I forgot to write it down
Hopefully Wife puts it on her blog
Photographer's study of other photographers

Then we went to what was reputed to be Japan's largest Chinatown
There a slew of school children in uniform
Some kind of end of year field trip we suspect

By this time a number of hours had passed and we were getting tired and hungry
We wanted Japanese fried chicken but this was the kingdom of steamed buns and there was none to be found
Wife wisely recognizing the infamous de-I family hunger crabs made a command decision to buy some recognizable spring rolls which we wolfed down

Next we needed to get to a particular train station to get to Shin-Yokohama, a suburb around Shinkasen train station (not the same as the regular station) where the museum is located
Now the quest truly began
Train station
So close looking on the map
So NOT close by way of the feet and attempts to navigate with map and google
But despite the long, hot walk there were still pictures to be taken

And what is this?
Why I believe it is monument in homage to the veritable ramen noodle itself
At last we reached our goal 
Arriving at Shin-Yokohama a Japanese gentleman struck up a conversation with us in English
(very unusual)
He had a warm spot for Americans based on working there
He walked us to the museum

Ah the splendor of it

Inside the museum (which had a steep discounts for seniors thank you - the first and only we'd seen in Asia) - it was laid out as 1950's Tokyo would look like

After some searching, we find our place
Further frustration trying to figure out the system for buying tickets from the machine (too the right) for getting what we wanted
But ultimately the price
Gad it was good
Delicious rich pork broth, crispy fried garlic over the top, highly seasoned pork meat, and NO fish
With extra meat it was $9
I was in heaven 😇
So let us say goodbye to our quest with one last
Feral bikes clearly are a big problem in Yokohama


alexis said...

Glad you were able to redeem ramen before you left!! Safe travels home.

Anonymous said...

That there is a Chinatown in Japan is ridiculously funny! Was there a Little Italy as well? Go figure.