Good to know before: Eating Ramen

The ramen scene is a world of its own and ramen restaurants are often different from other restaurants. So it’s good to know a few things before you go out for ramen in Japan. Because if you know these things beforehand, you will have more fun and fully enjoy your stay and the food.

Vending Machines

In many ramen restaurants there is ticket vending machine directly at the entrance. Throw in money and push the button with the dish you’d like to have. Take the ticket and pass it to the staff. Get also a ticket for each additional topping, side dish and drinks. Bring cash as vending machines usually do not take cards. Even tough vending machines are popular with ramen restaurants, there are also some where you order at the staff after seating.

Waiting Lines

There are often waiting lines in front of ramen restaurants especially during peak hours. Don’t be discouraged, by them. Ramen is a fast food, fast prepared, fast eaten. So even if there is a line, it might not take much time to get in.

Eating Speed

You don’t have to rush, but don’t dawdle either. Eating ramen is just about the eating, not about chatting and drinking. Eat the ramen, then leave.

Free Water

Yes, typically there is free water offered in ramen restaurants. So you do not need to buy a drink, except if you’re up for a beer. Free water sound wired for many as in other countries restaurants try to earn the money with drinks, even with water.

Dish Type

There are several types of dishes that are served in ramen restaurants. Ramen is a bowl of soup with noodles. Mazesoba is a soup-less variation where all ingredients are decorated seperately on top of the noodles. You need to mix them before eating. Tsukumen serves the noodles seperated with a dipping sauce. Abura Soba is similar to Mazesoba but usually limited toppings.

Noodle Types

Noodles vary with the dish types and the region. Hakata ramen are very thin and straight. Tsukemen and Mazesoba noodles are typically thicker. Noodles can be straight or curly. Hard or soft and having more or less of the yellow ramen noodle color.

Soup Flavor

There are a couple of soup flavors common for ramen. Tonkotsu is a bork bone base soup. Shio ramen is salt base and Shoyu ramen is soy sauce based. Another popular one are Miso ramen which are as the name suggested miso based. There is also Toripaitan which uses chicken bones for the soup. In each of them there can be many variation. Lately also vegetarian soups grow in availability.


This is the secret of each ramen shop which brings in the unique flavor. Tare is added to the soup for seasoning.


Ramen are topped with a wide variation of things. Frequently you can see a soft-boiled seasoned egg, nori, menma, chashu or even a raw egg yolk. Shops might also have their unique toppings.

Side Dishes

Popular side dished in ramen restaurants are Gyoza and Karaage. Some shops have no side dish at all. Others have wider selections.

Counter Seats

Sitting at the counter having a view of the kitchen and the staff is very common in ramen restaurants. Small shops might only have a few counter seats. Other shops also have regular tables.

Have you been to a ramen restaurant and noticed something wired which you didn’t understand? Let me know in the comment and I will try to answer.

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