A first trip to Tokyo can be daunting. Shinjuku Station, to use the most extreme example, services close to 4 million people every day. A single train from Tokyo Station can take you non-stop to the northern reaches of Aomori; another down south to the island of Kyushu (sorry ramen fans, there still isn’t a direct link from Asahikawa to Kumamoto). But one thing is simple and constant in this city; that lime green Yamanote line.
A train comes every 3 minutes. It takes an hour to loop the city. It stops at almost every ramen hub in town. Here are my top 5 ramen shops within a stone’s throw of this iconic line.
風雲児 – Fuunji
Fuunji’s smoky fish flavored soup is rich and satisfying. At first, I mistakingly thought it was a standard pork bone broth mixed with fish powders, with a few secret ingredients thrown in. But it’s actually made with chicken bones. How they get so much thick umami out of that I don’t know, but it’s great. Expect lines.
Exit the JR Shinjuku Station South Exit and turn right on the main road. Continue past the 1st large intersection. At the next signal, cross the street and go down the road there. You should pass a Starbucks coffee and police box on your right. Fuunji is just past that on the right.
Open 11-15, 17-21
Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi 2-14-3
The fiery bowl at Kikanbou gives you no choices, yet many. By choosing your level of both their signature 10-spice kara mix and numbing sansho pepper shibi mix you can go from safe (and delicious) to dangerous (and delicious) as you will.
Exit the Kanda Station and walk north along the tracks for a minute or 2. Cross at the signal and turn right. Walk another minute. It’s on a corner.
Open 11-16, 17:30-21
Tokyo, Chiyoda-ku, Kajicho 2-10-10
At the forefront of the cafe-style ramen trend in Tokyo is AFURI. The simple shio and shoyu soups, kissed with fresh yuzu citrus, pull in both hardened salarymen and health conscious ladies alike.
From Ebisu Station West Exit turn right on the major road. Walk past the first signal and turn right on a smaller street. You should see AFURI there.
Open 11am-late (about 4am)
Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Ebisu 1-1-7
A relative newcomer, Nishio won a lot of praise for his shoyu ramen. Using corn meal in the noodle making process and mixing both chicken and fish stocks for the soup isn’t very traditional, but it works wonderfully.
From Komagome Station, turn right on the main road. Walk down the hill. Just before the intersection at the bottom is an alley to the left. Nishio is just down there.
Open 11:30-15:30, 17:30-22
Tokyo, Kita-ku, Nishigahara 1-54-1
The Tokyo Ramen Street
A great selection of 8 different shops convene in the undergrounds of Tokyo Station. This is your one-stop-shop to try some of the best. You could come here every day for a week and still tell your friends that you experienced some of the best noodling in the city.
Now, there are only 4 shops, but from April 2011, there will be 8. Shops on these ramen streets change, here are the 4 as of writing.
From Tokyo Station, look for signs, ask a station attendant, or just wander until you find it. It’s not hard, but hard to describe!
I made a google map of these shops, but it doesn’t always display correctly:
Yes, this list is flawed as there are no tonkotsu shops. I was stumped for great tonkotsu that is within sight of the Yamanote.