We’re traveling back to my first two days in Tokyo to talk about a restaurant called Ichiran Ramen. This is a highly-rated, small chain restaurant in the Tokyo area. Another fun fact about me is that I will eat damn near anything for breakfast. I love food and don’t feel like pizza or sushi or ramen should be discriminated against just because it’s 7am.
My sleeping schedule has pretty much settled into bed at 9, up at 5. I’m good with it now but the first couple of days in Tokyo were definitely jet lag related. I woke up hungry (as usual) at 4am (not so usual) so I had to find a place that was open. Searching for 24 hour places I found Ichiran and it was rated very highly. I love ramen and wanted to make sure I get my fill, so off to Ichiran I walked. Pokemon go may or may not have guided me there. I read that it was in a basement so I knew to look for stairs down. Found it!
I knew that I was to order my ramen at a machine and bring the tickets that it spit out at me into the restaurant. OK. No English, but I understand images. (Artist.) Insert coins and it’s off to the races. I ordered a normal bowl of ramen, a soft boiled egg, and almond green tea pudding.
I come into the restaurant and am totally surprised by what I see. There are roughly 10 single seat booths. At 6am, there wasn’t a line so I got to eat in peace without feeling rushed. I can only imagine what it’s like at lunchtime!
You sit down and place your tickets at the edge of your counter. This is where it gets weird. You never see the face of your waiter and they never see yours. A disembodied voice that utters multiple phrases that I don’t understand comes from the direction of a torso with arms that is bowing furiously behind this partition. I am certain I missed valuable instructions on very important things. I couldn’t help but bob back in forth in my seat like a dipping bird toy. I rocked in my seat, quietly and awkwardly.
My egg was brought to me by otherworldly arms and another piece of paper with check boxes to hone the flavor of your ramen, mercifully in English, was placed in front of me. Some choices were richness, spice level, garlic or no, onion or no, and noodle texture!
Another sheet with visual instructions was handed to me that explained how to call for my dessert when I was ready. I was given a green metal tray and I was to place it on a sensor. I have questions. Why is it a tray? Do I need to put something in it? Why isn’t there just a simple button that says “dessert” that I press? The yellow tray pictured above is for extra noodles. Why isn’t there an extra noodle button? This could be solved with two buttons. I am surely missing something.
Ramen arrives and I add my egg to it. More questions. Why isn’t the egg just part of the ramen dish? Shit. The disembodied voice probably told me what to do. Here’s the food!
The bamboo slatted screen was rolled down and I was left alone to slurp my ramen. Slurping is not considered rude here. It’s a sign that you are enjoying your food. No problem. Surprised? I am. There’s a woman that comes to the lunch room at work sometimes and she smacks her food LOUDLY when she eats. I’m bothered so much by it I have to leave the area immediately.
Ok. So… this is what I am reminded of while sitting here. There’s a short story written by Chuck Palahniuk about these people who eat a certain delicacy under a white napkin to hide their faces from God because what they are doing is so reprehensible. I thought it was fictional but it turns out it’s true. It’s French. I’m going to spare you the details but if you’re interested it’s called an Ortolan bunting. At any rate… I feel like whatever I am about to do merits privacy. Maybe Ichiran wants us to enjoy our foodgasms alone. Or maybe, maybe, we’re not supposed to see them. Maybe to produce such great food there are otherworldly things happening back there that humans are not allowed to see. GASP! Maybe… they don’t actually have heads! Could Ichiran is a business owned and operated by Rokurokubi (vampires with detachable heads)? I think this is the most plausible answer.
Food was great. Went there the next day too.
No headless adorable Japanese people were harmed in the making of this blog post.