If you look up “ramen alley”, you’ll find that there are such alleys all over Japan. If you happen to be in Tokyo, one of such alleys is in the Tokyo Station itself. It has some ramen shops that features signature ramen from all around Japan. When we got there, we counted about 10 different ones.
Despite the selection of delicious ramen, there are three reasons I had a bit of an underwhelming experience at this particular alley. Maybe my tales of ramen woe will help others have a more pleasant experience ramen tasting. Nevertheless, I think I would have better enjoyed my experience if I had time to try all the different shops. Also, it’s not like my ramen experience was bad. Don’t get me wrong, the ramen I had was good, but I was looking for a particular ramen taste.
First of all, I actually had an incredibly hard time finding the place, even with GPS, because we kept going into the wrong underground entrance and ended up walking in circles in the subterranean halls of different buildings that had all been connected in an underground labyrinth. Lesson learned: when finding your way around major city areas in Japan, stay above ground. Also, asking people, security guards, and shop people helps too.
Second, when we finally got there, lines were long. So word of advice, go during off times and you’ll probably still have a wait, but not as ridiculously long as during peak hours. Though our lines were not that ridiculous, we also did not have a lot of time to wait around in the lines, even midsize ones, so we ended up just going to the one with the shortest wait. Lesson learned: rushed ramen is not good ramen.
Third, I suppose all of us had our own mental conception of what was the ultimate ramen taste, and all of us being from Downtown Los Angeles, we love our Orochon with its 8 levels of spiciness or even the rather satisfying Shinsengumi personalized ramen. But the real dream ramen is in Daikokuya, and not the current form of it, but the Daikokuya ramen of yesteryear, that is, about 10 years ago before some sort of change in ownership or cooking or something happened. I don’t know what happened, but it just doesn’t taste the same today as it did before. Anyways, that was the dream taste we were all kind of looking for, so even though the ramen we had was good, I think we were all looking for that old taste, maybe because it’s really that good or maybe because we’re stuck in old school nostalgia. Lesson learned: to enjoy regional ramen, taste with an open mind.
Would I go back to Ramen Alley next time in Tokyo? Probably. Primarily so I can try different ones and just be open to appreciating different tastes. I know it will be hard, though, since I’ve eaten at different ramen places in Japan, each purportedly “the best”, and I even have some at Denny’s in Japan, and nothing has been as magical as yesteryear Little Tokyo Daikokuya ramen.
Next up, spiriting away to the Ghibli Museum.