Ramen Week is soon coming to a close, and I’ve been celebrating the appetizing event in my own special way, which is by trying out several of the real-life restaurants that the ramen-connoisseur Koizumi visits in Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles. The title of the show is almost a blatant understatement, as Koizumi more than just loves her noodle soups; she’s crazy about them, traveling far and wide to get a taste of all the different varieties and flavors she can find. This leads her to numerous famed ramen shops throughout Tokyo, one more unique than the other, and of course, just about all of them are based on ramen restaurants that exist in real life as well. So while I was in Tokyo this past week, I thought I’d try out as many as I can, and see for myself if they’re really as good as Koizumi makes them out to be.
One of the more unique ramen shops that I tried from the show was this little, unassuming restaurant in Shinjuku’s Golden Gai area, called Ramen Nagi. You’ll find out about the place’s delicious specialty a little further down.
The Golden Gai area is located in the east of Shinjuku's famed entertainment and red-light district, Kabukicho. The small area is composed of just six narrow, parallel-running streets like the one in the picture above, but lined with over 200 small-size bars, clubs, and ramen shops like the one from the anime.
The cat in the anime logo here looks more realistic than the one in real life.
I spotted a few more scenes from the anime on my way to the ramen shop, like this ventilation shaft in one of the small back alleys. While it doesn’t match up perfectly, there was a submarine sticker on there like in the show.
In episode six, Yuu’s older brother notices the smell of fishy ramen in the air on his way back home. While it might have come off from Koizumi here, who just ate at the restaurant, I, too, was able to catch the scent of ramen even while standing just outside of the restaurant.
And there it was, Ramen Nagi. However, the overly minimalistic sign of the place reads Famab Daat in the anime here. The place would be impossible to find if it weren’t for the giant red lantern hanging in front of it.
“Amazing! Dried Sardine Ramen. Open 24 hours.” The place has already earned quite the reputation for itself, so longer waiting lines are the norm if you want to eat here, unless you are as dedicated as Koizumi, who stopped by early in the morning.
The restaurant is located on the second floor of this tiny two-story building, which is only a few meters wide, and has very steep steps leading up to it.
Immediately upon entering, you’ll be greeted by dozens of sardines painted on the wall, all of them swimming upwards to the restaurant.
Not only on both sides of the stairs, but also directly above you.
You’ve probably seen it a dozen times by now in the anime, but you order your food at this little vending machine here. And in case you want to know what exactly Koizumi ordered, it was the “SPECIAL Unbelievable Niboshi Ramen with 4 pieces of roasted pork and egg”. The whole thing cost 1200 Yen, which are around 11 US Dollars.
And what’s that to the left of the vending machine? A signed picture of Koizumi herself. The guy in charge told me that he actually still hasn’t seen the anime yet, but that it definitely managed to attract a lot more customers to the place.
It was also cool to find the black daruma doll from the anime in the shop.
I got to sit in the exact same spot as Koizumi did by sheer coincidence, and if you haven’t already noticed, the place is extremely tiny, only having about ten seats in total.
And finally, lo and behold, niboshi ramen! I’m sure that Emily could have given us an infinitely better explanation at this point, but here’s the gist of things. Ramen Nagi’s rich soy sauce broth is made with dozens of different niboshi (dried infant sardines), resulting in the murky brown soup. The only disappointment was the differently colored spoon.
The ramen’s topping included four pieces of roasted pork, a soft boiled egg, two dried sardines, green onions, a large piece of seaweed, and…
…dough strips. Koizumi sure had an appetite that early in the morning.
I’m really not fit to be a food-critic, but the pork was tender and juicy, the handmade medium-thick noodles were tasty, and to my surprise, I quite liked the strong sardine broth. And there was a special message waiting at the bottom of my bowl.
“Not a Shred of Regret With My Dried Sardines”. That I can confirm.
Would you want to try these ramen? Which ramen restaurants from Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles do you want to try the most? Let us know in the comments below!
Wilhelm is an anime tourist, who loves to search for and uncover the real-world spots he sees in anime. You can talk with him on Twitter @Surwill.