Ramen Restaurants in Japan hr675

Hidemi Woods
3 min readFeb 17, 2024

Japanese people love ramen so much. Ramen is Chinese-style soup noodles which is obscenely popular in Japan. I hear that there are about 20,000 ramen restaurants all over the country. The degree of its popularity is easily imagined by the fact that a McDonald’s closed and reopened as a ramen restaurant in my town. Chains are rampant while the majority are small restaurants run privately by individual owner-managers. In front of a popular restaurant, a long queue is formed before it opens until it closes for the day and the place is packed with customers all day long. Millions of websites, magazines, TV programs and YouTube videos feature and introduce ramen restaurants of any kind, in any area.

I like ramen but don’t eat it at the restaurant. I loathe a waiting line to begin with. And the atmosphere is a big problem. Those restaurants are clean but almost all of them are shabby. Customers sit at the counter elbow to elbow in a cramped space where they suck in noodles by slurping. Above all, the price is high. A bowl of ramen in an atrocious atmosphere costs more than a dish at a modern family restaurant. The reason why people choose ramen restaurants despite all of that is the quality of deliciousness, I suppose.

An owner-manager in any ramen restaurant is particular about his or her special recipe that is attained by a continuous process of trial and error over years, in which they have selected and contrived a mixture of ingredients for the soup, such as pork, chicken, fish, soy sauce or miso. They use carefully-selected noodles in their elaborate soup for which they begin to prepare the night before. Because they spend enormous time and effort to make ramen, profit is little in spite of the high price setting. I think that is why their restaurants are small and tacky. To me, it’s always a mystery why they wouldn’t spare just a tiny bit of their passion for the taste, to their place’s interior. But there’s one bigger question. If they can’t be rich no matter how popular their place becomes by their time, effort and elaboration, why do they run that kind of business?

Come to think of it, I take years to complete my song with persistent, rather obsessive elaboration although it doesn’t sell at all. I know I can earn money if I make many songs like recent hit ones that are catchy and arranged with loops efficiently done by copying and pasting on music software. Yet, I wouldn’t do that. Since we have limited time from birth to death, I want to spend mine for what I can enjoy as much as possible. From my experiences with my wealthy parents and my rich friends’ parents at the private school I went to, I learned that living in luxury gives more enjoyment is an illusion. I would rather have time for doing what makes me feel deeply satisfied and truly happy than for greed and a shallow delight given by looking down on others. After all, I feel happy by elaborating my music into perfection itself, which is more appealing to me than money.

I suspect that owner-managers of ramen restaurants may feel the same way I do. Even if that’s the case, I won’t enter their unrefined restaurants. I would definitely get in if there were a delicious, low-priced ramen place with a sophisticated atmosphere and no queue. However, the possibility that I come across that restaurant is as low as I become a successful musician. I would never say never though.