Ramen Week is unfortunately officially over now, and Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles is heading towards its mouthwatering finale this week, but that doesn’t mean I can’t dish out another real life comparison article for the show. After last week’s culinary excursion to a sardine-heavy ramen shop in Shinjuku, it’s now time to head to the place where it all began – Asakusa. There are several tales about the origin of Japanese ramen, and its history is still highly debated today, but one of them states that the popular dish originated right here in Asakusa, more than 100 years ago, during the Meiji period. In 1910, a local Chinese-style restaurant called Rairaiken, which employed Chinese cooks, was allegedly the first to make soy sauce ramen with char siu and bamboo shoots, coming pretty close to modern ramen. At least, that’s the version that Koizumi believes in, and nobody is more knowledgeable than her when it comes to ramen. The ramen restaurant in today’s article, called Yoroiya, honors this history of Asakusa as the birthplace of ramen, so let’s get going!
Before heading off to lunch, Yuu, Yun, and Misa first do a little sightseeing in the area, passing by several of Asakusa’s landmarks. Misa is posing in front of the famous Sensoji Temple’s Hozomon gate here, the inner one of the two large entrance gates that lead to the temple. While not as famous as the outer Kaminarimon, which can be considered the symbol of Asakusa, the Hozomon gate also features a large red chochin lantern, weighing 400kg.
The 250 meter-long street leading up to the temple is the Nakamise Shopping Street, which is lined with dozens of tourist souvenir shops. And as Yuu correctly states in the anime, the street is usually immensely crowded.
Knowing Yuu, she probably prayed for a chance encounter with Koizumi.
They then also draw their fortunes, called omikuji, which are Japanese fortune-telling paper strips. Here’s how it works: First you have to pay 100 yen (almost one US dollar), and then you get to shake the metal container filled with the numbered sticks you see on the table here. Draw one of the sticks and check the number on it, and then take one of the fortune papers out of the corresponding drawers you see in the back (while wishing for the best). Take any good fortune home with you, but be sure to tie bad fortunes to one of the nearby poles on the temple grounds. I unfortunately only got a regular fortune, while a friend of mine drew a bad one without tying it up later on, so he’s probably doomed. Sadly, we don’t get to see the girls’ fortunes, and it’s hard to tell from Yun’s facial expression.
Even the exact board with face cutouts exists in a nearby side street, next to the Nishi-sando Shopping Street.
And a trip to the nearby miniature amusement park shouldn’t be missed either! The Hanayashiki Amusement Park is one of the oldest in Japan, being open since 1853, and is still running a 60-year-old rollercoaster.
Other attractions include a Ferris wheel, haunted house, and the Space Shot, all of which the girls try out in the anime.
Standing in front of the amusement park is this surprisingly popular panda atop a post box. Hordes of people were taking selfies with the adorable thing, so many that I walked the whole street up and down until I finally gave in, and properly lined up to get my own photo of it.
And finally, after a long day of sightseeing and amusement parks, it’s now time for what the show is all about: ramen. The girls head to Yoroiya, located in one of the side streets of the Nakamise Shopping Street, which is relatively easy to spot due to the life-size mannequin atop of the store. There was quite a long line in front of the shop, so I had to wait around at least 15 minutes to get a seat at the place.
Here you had to pay at a counter first, and I obviously ordered the same thing as Yuu did, the Umesio Ramen, which cost 800 Yen (around $7.50). The ramen was fairly basic, with the toppings including a piece of char siu pork and bamboo shoots. The standout items here were definitely the two umeboshi (pickled plums), which you either hate or love.
Apparently, this was also the location of the old Rairaiken shop – the said birthplace of ramen – and as Koizumi mentions in the anime, the Asakusa-born owner still continues to honor the history of the place by maintaining the old nostalgic taste.
I overall quite liked the dish, as you can probably guess from the picture above, but as already stated, it was fairly basic and not really something out of the ordinary. But Yoroiya is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area and in the mood for a belly-filling anime pilgrimage.
Be sure not to miss the finale of Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles this week!
Read part 1 here.
Would you want to try these ramen, and do you like pickled plums? 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.