Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ichiran, where everyone eats alone

Ichiran's private ramen-guzzling booths

Have you ever felt that you'd prefer to get your ramen in a manner similar to a dirty movie arcade? Have you ever wished you could eat a bowl of ramen in complete privacy, while still getting the delicious recipes of a high-class ramen joint?

Ichiran believes that eating ramen should be a solitary activity. It doesn't matter who you go into a restaurant with, when you eat ramen, you eat alone. Ichiran enforces this through the installation of the "Flavor Concentration Dining Booth". Yes, they have divided the ramen bar so you cannot see your fellow ramen patrons, and perhaps even more creepily, they have curtained it off from the kitchen so you cannot see the servers, save for a pair of disembodied hands.

They have a menu in multiple languages to help you perfect your bowl. How hard do you want your noodles? How spicy? How much fat in the broth? 

In case your ramentrepreneurs are getting any bright ideas about bringing this sort of technology to a ramen shack near you, Ichiran claims to have a patent on the idea (patent #4267981).

From the Ichiran siteWith a 'curtain' and a 'dividing board', each seat is divided into a semi-private room, where you can focus on the flavors of your ramen without having to worry about anything that's happening around you. (A World First) This is especially popular with our female customers.

Ramen is a graceless meal that involves a lot of slurping and shoveling of food into one's mouth as quickly as possible. Apparently the Japanese do not find this attractive in women, who in turn do not embrace ramen with the enthusiasm that men do. It's even said that it is unladylike to order the extra helping of noodles to round off a good bowl of ramen. We fought for this?

But at Ichiran you order from a machine, push your ticket through a curtain and have no one to judge you if you slurp or have extra noodles or pick up the egg and eat it with your fingers. And at ¥650 per bowl (or about $7/€5) you can't really go wrong with ordering extra. In fact, my gracious hostel owner in Yufuin had, upon hearing that I would be going back to Fukuoka today, warned me that it was essential that I ask for more noodles. That's just how they do it there, he said.

Look at that hard boiled egg. It's that whole "you do the work for us and we'll act like it makes it better!" thing

So with this added privacy for the first time I ordered an extra half portion of noodles, which they come and throw in once you've gotten through the first batch but still have broth left. In addition to appealing to my gluttonistic tendencies, it also appeals to my sense of value. It makes your lunch twice the size for only ¥100! And if no one sees you eat it, you can pretend it never happened.

"English can be used in our noodles restaurant. Please feel free to come in."


  1. that's a fairly depressing sight.

  2. Hate to break it to you, but everyone dies alone too and it doesn't taste as good as ramen!

  3. umm thats the best thing ever - how did i not know about it!

  4. This is a fascinating example from a culture that zealously protects personal space but does not allow for an individual soul(I think). Is there a certain amount of shame in satisfying one's physical appetites, that the spectacle of such must be concealed?

  5. I think for women, definitely. I'm guessing not so much for men. They probably don't want to have to be constrained by manners when they go in for a 10 minute meal break.