A few hundred kilometers north of Tokyo, on the west side of Fukushima, is Kitakata. A rather sleepy place, it is nonetheless one of the most famous spots for ramen in Japan. The location, a fertile valley fed by countless natural springs, is a haven for rice production. And what better food for a hard-working rice farmer?
By motorcycle is the way to go! Nearby Bandai-san has some of the most spectacular riding in the country. (on a random non-ramen note, this isn’t my KTM 690smc, but a loaner bike from some friends. My 690smc was stolen over the summer while I was off at work. Horrible. More info over here on another site.)
Your first stop should be the station. Inside, you can grab a free ramen map. Nice!
I will be talking about the four shops I visited soon. Kitakata ramen is very simple. Flattened noodles with a bit of a curl in a deep shoyu broth. Usually pork and niboshi based, though chicken makes an appearance at a few popular shops. The toppings are as standard as it gets; a piece of pork, a sprinkle of scallions, and some fishcake.
There are dozens of great shops within walking distance of the station. One of these, ラーメン館, isn’t a ramen shop, but more of an info / gift center.
Dinner date with a pretty lady? Ramen.
Lunch in the rice paddy? Ramen.
Hospital food? Ramen.
Food with alcohol? Ramen.
Business meeting? Ramen.
The perfect gift to take home with you? Ramen.
Other than ramen, there are a few sake breweries in town that have tasting rooms. If I wasn’t on a motorcycle, it would have been nice to have a bowl for breakfast, have some sake, have another bowl, then finish with some more sake.
Here is a nice interactive map for those planning a trip.