When I first came to Japan and answered the standard “what Japanese food do you like?” question with “I absolutely love ramen!” I wasn’t sure why I was typically met with a look of disappointment, as if i had let them down in some way.
It took me a a few months to realise that Japanese consider ramen not a dish of their own creation, but instead of Chinese extraction, hence the spelling of the word ラーメン (ramen) in katakana, the alphabet of loan words.
However, though it does use Chinese style wheat noodles, ramen actually is a Japanese dish, and here in Nagoya you can find some amazing restaurants that serve up fantastic bowls of steaming noodle soup. Here are just a few of them.
Misen isn’t strictly a ramen restaurant, as it does a wide array of excellent Taiwanese dishes at their three venues in Meieki, Yabacho and Imaike. However, their Taiwan ramen is a local institution (don’t let the name fool you, this dish, photo above, is as Nagoyan as Ichiro and red miso). Ground pork, Chinese chives, green onions and bean sprouts are seasoned with hot red peppers and other spices, fried, and placed on boiled ramen noodles in a soy sauce-based soup. The profuse use of garlic is another characteristic of this ramen that is a must for spicy food lovers. It comes in three spice levels, with ‘American’ being the weakest, ‘Italian’ the spiciest and original Taiwan in the middle. While I love spicy food, I’d recommend avoiding the Italian as a lot of the flavour is lost in the search for fire.
This was the place that first ignited my love for ramen. Tucked away behind Bic Camera on the Shinkansen side of Nagoya station, Hongo Tei is two stories of amazing ramen. There are various flavours to choose from, which you do by way of a ticket vending machine. I’d recommend coming at lunch time, where as well as your huge bowl of ramen (and it is massive) filled with great big slabs of chashu pork, half an egg and perfectly done noodles, there are also free pickles, rice and kimchi. If you’re feeling particularly glutenous the gyoza are a good accompaniment. If you can stomach it all…
Ichiran Ramen is one of the best known ramen restaurants in Japan, but with good reason. With one Forbes contributor calling it the best ramen in the world, it comes at no surprise that there is generally a queue outside the Sakae branch of this national chain. One of the great things about Ichiran is that you can really customize your dish. Want strong flavor but only a little richness? You’ve got it. How about extra friend pork but no garlic? That’s fine too. Just circle your options on your preference sheet and you’ll get your ramen just as you like it. Or you can even experiment to find a new combination to blow your mind!
While the aforementioned Misen is perhaps the best known place for Taiwan Ramen, Menya Hanabi took this well loved dish and revolutionized it, in doing so becoming the first shop to serve Taiwan Mazesoba. Taiwan Mazesoba tastes almost exactly like Taiwan Ramen but is in fact soup-less. With thick cut noodles served with spicy meat, raw egg yolk, and negi onion, it packs a punch right at the bottom where all the extra spice hides. Another great place that is famous for its Taiwan Mazesoba is Anzutei in Meieki.
When national TV shows come to Nagoya to sample the local ramen, Josui is where they head. They use a combination of chicken and mackerel as its broth base, creating a salty clear soup. The prices range from 700 JPY for the regular shoyu or shio broth – the latter of which is the most popular – or 950 JPY for ramen ‘with the lot’. There are huge slabs of chashu pork that go well with the deliciously sweet bamboo, and there are over 30 styles of ramen to choose from, coming from all over the country. For a full review, check out this article by JIS favorite Chris Glenn.
By Mark Guthrie
Image by Chris Glenn, via https://en.japantravel.com/aichi/josui/3969 (modified)
You can click on any icon to get more information (this info is also listed below the map)
Ladies Clinic/Child Health=Yellow
Image by U.S. Navy photo by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Seth Rossman. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Currently available to lease for 36 months, Lease Japan has a brand new 2017 Honda S660 available from December 2017.
Following the worldwide popular NSX and Civic Type R, the S660 is the next addition to Honda’s current sports car lineup. It features a 660cc engine, classifying it as a kei car, which is a common class of ultra small compact cars in Japan. However, this is a sports car. So while the engine is on the small side, it is a 3-cylinder turbo, and the turbo geometry has been revised by Honda’s engineers, producing faster acceleration and stronger midrange torque. And though small in size, the car is a great fit for Japan, allowing the driver to nimbly navigate Japan’s many narrow roads and corners.
Pictures below show a manual transmission, however, the actual car has an automatic transmission.
Engine: 660cc, 2WD, AT
Color: Pearl White
-Honda’s Genuine Navigation System
-Rear View Camera
-Leather Steering Wheel
-Sport Leather Seats (leather and suede)
-ETC (Electronic Toll Collection) Device
36 Month Lease Fee: JPY 49,000/month (price does not include sales tax or insurance)
Please feel free to contact Lease Japan to take advantage of this limited time offer!
Tokyo Office: +81-(0)3-5449-6061
Nagoya Office: +81-(0)52-973-3913
Kobe Office: +81-(0)78-325-3651
In the Christian world this is the time of the year for All Souls’ Day when the memories of the deceased are commemorated. Many religions celebrate the departed at other times. Monuments to the dead are some of the world’s most revered tourist attractions, the Taj Mahal in India and the Egyptian pyramids of Giza among them.
Japan has its own ancient burial tombs, known as kofun, or “ancient graves.” Kofun refers to the ruling class in the country from the 3rd to the 7th century when mounds were built as tombs for assorted emperors, empresses, and other movers and shakers of the era. Entering this century, scientists had identified 161,650 kofun tomb sites around the country.
Kofuns are believed to be unique to Japan, although the practice may have originated in Korea. The burial mounds would begin by placing a coffin, often made of stone, on the ground and walls would be built up to create the burial chamber. The soil excavated to create the mound would not be replaced so the pit could fill with water and form a protective moat for the deceased.
Japanese burial mounds were built in the shape of a keyhole with one flat-sided end and one rounded end. The burial chamber would be in the circular end and the square end would be where ceremonies would take place during the burial. Swords and other mementos were often placed in the tumulus. This mound shape resembles a keyhole when viewed from above but is not recognizable as such from ground level. The ancients would not tend these kofun mounds and nature would retake the grounds so that many burial tombs could well look like any patch of forest. Except for the largest of the kofuns.
Japan’s supreme keyhole-shaped burial mound is on the cusp of Sakai, an ancient city in Osaka Prefecture. A cluster of 50 burial mounds for the revered emperor Nintoku is said to be the largest area of any tomb on the planet. With an estimated 2,000 laborers toiling every day for 16 years, the mound grew to 35 meters high and 486 meters long.
The Goshikizuka Kofun, “five colored tomb”, is the largest keyhole burial tomb in Hyogo Prefecture. While not half the size of the Nintoku structure, it is nonetheless an impressive feat of ancient architecture, rising 18 meters tall and stretching 194 meters across. The interred residents are believed to have been an important local clan in the 4th century that held sway over the present Akashi Kaikyo region.
In the 1960s, a renovation was undertaken to preserve the 1600-year old relic. The sides of the mound are covered in river stones called fukiishi in what is thought to have been a common building practice. While visitors can not examine the interior of the burial tomb, flights of concrete steps lead to the terraces and flattened top of the Goshikizuka Kofun, which serves up photo-worthy views of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Kobe Bay and the surrounding cityscape.
Visitors can find Goshikizuka Kofun a short walk from San’yodenki Tetsudo San’yo-Dentetsu-Main Line Kasumigaoka (Hyogo) or the JR Nishinihon JR San’yo Main Line (Kobe-Okayama) Tarumi (Hyogo) West Exit.
On January 17, 1995, the Great Hanshin earthquake struck Kobe and over 6,000 people lost their lives. In the aftermath of the disaster it is estimated that over one million volunteers came forward to provide help to those in need. While that does not sound remarkable in light of recent modern disasters it was unprecedented in Japan, a country that did not have a strong culture of volunteerism at the time.
Contrast that to the United States, which has the highest rate of volunteerism in the world. Over 56% of Americans, nearly 200 million people, engage in some sort of volunteer work during the year. What are the reasons for this?
The United States was founded as the world’s first experiment in representative democracy. For almost 250 years the country’s philosophy is that the “people” come first, not the government. In almost every other country in the world, the government is supreme. A couple of centuries of rule by the people pales in comparison to a couple thousand years of government by a ruling class, as experienced in Japan. People in Japan are used to having the government take care of those in need.
Another factor is religion. Much of American volunteerism comes out of churches and synagogues where the practice has become internalized among the congregations. Japanese philosophy centers around service and sacrifice with less of a “give-to-get” ethos.
Volunteerism was not unheard of in Japan before the devastating earthquake. There were 60,738 volunteer groups in the country according to the Japanese Council of Social Welfare. Their efforts were small and largely unseen.
But the extreme loss of life and $100 billion in property damage in Kobe after the tremors was largely seen as a failure of government in disaster preparedness and response. When Japanese citizens saw prolonged delays by reconstruction and aid crews, they stepped forward in waves to help. Many were young people who traveled hundreds of miles to Kobe. Publications in Japan called the effort “Year One of the Volunteer Age” and trumpeted a “volunteer revolution.”
The spirit of volunteerism spurred activism. In 1998 the Law to Promote Specific Non-Profit Activities was passed. This gave volunteer organizations in Japan official legal status. One of the reasons volunteerism in the United States is so prevalent is due to the financial aid and tax breaks federal, state, and local governments give to non-profit organizations. Now Japan has an equivalent financial mechanism. By 2003, the number of volunteer groups in the country had jumped to over 118,000 and the number of registered non-profit organizations tripled.
The volunteer revolution that started in Kobe has made inroads into Japanese civil society. When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck in 2011, there was no waiting around for a government response. Within hours, disaster volunteer centers directed by local social welfare council offices were on site. Local and national government agencies were co-ordinating disaster relief with volunteer civic groups.
Japanese citizens were also making generous private donations of money that were funneled into disaster relief non-profit organizations. What had been a hit-and-miss volunteer relief effort in Kobe 16 years earlier had evolved into an integrated system of relief efforts among voluntary and government agencies. The seeds of volunteerism sown in the disaster of the Great Hanshin earthquake had sprouted.
People have been fascinated by spotting aircraft ever since Orville and Wilbur Wright bumped a fabric-covered airplane into the sky from the sand dunes in North Carolina in 1903. Even now, when more than 100,000 flights take off and land somewhere on the planet every day, plane spotting is pursued with a passion.
High tech cameras have helped spur the hobby and so has social media. Plane spotters upload their sightings to Twitter and Instagram and file reports on websites devoted to aircraft. Airports encourage the pastime by supplying observation decks for the shutterbugs to snap their best photos.
The proliferation of modern air travel has resulted in over 5000 airlines in operation around the world. All have their own distinctive, and often colorful, insignia. Like bird-watching, a plane spotter’s goal is to see as many airlines as possible in an outing. To facilitate this quest, the Internet offers websites that track airline travel across the globe. Hard core plane spotters can also tap into air traffic control with electronic scanners to heighten the anticipation of an impending arrival.
Other spotting techniques involve “collecting” as many types of aircraft as possible. Seasoned watchers can identify variations in big commercial airliners and there are also business jets, military planes, and general aviation aircraft to check off a plane spotting life list.
Itami Airport was built in the 1930s as an installation primarily for the Japanese military. It evolved into the region’s primary airport for Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe and eventually became known as Osaka International Airport. In 1994 an artificial island was constructed in the middle of the Osaka Bay for Kansai International Airport. Kansai is now Japan’s third busiest airport and handles all the international flights into the region. Osaka retained its “international” designation but handles strictly domestic traffic.
Each year there are over 160,000 flights in and out of Kansai International’s artificial island. The observation deck is located in two buildings linked with a footbridge. The outside viewing platforms offer unobstructed viewing of the airport’s two main runways and the approach apron. To the lament of plane spotters, however, the orientation of the airport means many photos will will be aimed directly into the sun.
Osaka International offers a rooftop observation deck on both of its terminal buildings but many spotters prefer avoiding the airport altogether. On the opposite side of the runway system is the Itami Sky View Park with a large open viewing area and observation deck. The number 25 bus stops right at the park. Osaka International handles almost as much traffic as Kansai International but it is all domestic so airline and plane variety is limited.
By comparison to its two older cousins, Kobe Airport offers a more intimate viewing experience. Built on Port Island in 2006, the single passenger terminal handles a little over two million passengers a year and about 25,000 flights. The traffic is capped to funnel as much business to Kansai as possible. The one runway receives mostly domestic traffic and an occasional international charter. Skymark Airlines is the primary carrier.
The observation deck is outdoors, on the roof of the terminal. There is a long plank walk parallel to the runway and the grounds are landscaped with lawns and shrubbery from which to sit and watch the action below. There is a fence but the square holes are large enough at eye level to easily snap photographs. The observation deck at Kobe Airport is open until 11:00 p.m. to permit day and night photography. Save for the arrival of a unique charter flight, the variety of aircraft is not great but “Kobe spotting” offers an enjoyable entree into the hobby.
Tourists flock from around the globe to eat Kobe’s famous beef. But you’re a local now, and you’ve been there, and done that. Now it’s time to give some local delicacies a try. Here are the top five tasty treats the locals enjoy in Kobe.
Gyoza are delicious Japanese-style dumplings filled with some kind of ground meat and veggies, and wrapped in a paper-thin dough. They come in three styles, just like the chinese potstickers: pan fried, boiled, and deep fried.
You can get gyoza at just about any noodle shop, or casual dining establishment. They usually come at about a half-a-dozen per serving, and you dip them in a sauce that’s a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and sometimes a bit of chili oil for a kick.
There are various kinds of Gyoza that you can find throughout Kobe, and across the country. But when in Kobe, the locals swear by Hyotan. The restaurant has been open for over 40 years, and they are famous for their gyoza filled with minced pork, cabbage, and leek.
Hyotan may be tricky to find if you don’t speak Japanese yet — it’s under the train tracks of the Hanshin Sannomiya Station, and boasts red noren curtains you can’t miss.
The place is always packed with locals, especially during lunch. So if you want an authentic dining experience, head here!
1-31-37 Kitanagasadori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 650-0012 (map link)
Open: 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. (weekdays)
11:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (Saturday, Sunday & Holidays)
Ramen isn’t just delicious, it’s a fundamental part of life in Japan. But this isn’t the cheap, dried and packaged soup you’re used to finding at the grocery store. Japanese ramen is fresh, and indulgently simple.
The broth is usually pork based, but you can also get it with miso, salt, or soy sauce based broths. And inside are these delicious noodles — handmade and garnished with tender pork, and chives, and sometimes even an egg.
A local favorite in Kobe is Ramen Taro. They’re known for their fresh ingredients, and incredible pork broth. They also offer an all you can eat kimchi deal that the locals drool over. Kimchi isn’t Japanese though, it’s a Korean dish consisting of spicy pickled cabbage, seasoning, and sometimes other vegetables too. Give it a try!
1-10-10 Nakayamate-dori, Chuo-ku, Tensei Bdg 1F, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture (map link)
Open: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 a.m.
Okonomiyaki is described by outsiders as a crepe, pizza, pancake-like concoction that’s quintessential comfort food for the Japanese. But, those descriptions don’t get it quite right.
The dish is a flour based mixture with cabbage cooked on a griddle, and you can top it with whatever you’d like. So while it’s cooked more like a pancake or crepe, it’s more pizza-like in the sense that you can have whatever you want on it, and it’s not sweet or fluffy. Okonomiyaki roughly translates to ‘whatever you like grilled’.
Okonomiyaki is famous in the Kansai region, where Kobe is located. Kansai style means that you mix everything in the bowl first, then cook it on the griddle, and this is believed to be the original variation of the recipe. The other way to make it is similar, you just cook the batter and the ingredients separately, then add them together in the end.
There are entire restaurants that cater just to Okonomiyaki, so get out there and give it a try!
These ball-shaped snacks are a flour batter filled with octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion — all fried up in a special pan. The little balls are then topped in takoyaki sauce (which is similar to worcestershire sauce), mayonnaise, and garnished with green laver (seaweed) and dried bonito (fish).
This dish is also a local speciality of the Kansai region, and can be found at entire restaurants that cater to the tasty treat, as well as food stands on the side of the road.
The cafe is a former church, turned German bakery. The couple was married in the church, and later purchased it and turned it into a cafe that is now a local landmark. It’s special to the locals because of it’s unique architecture, and the more European based menu. So while it’s not Japanese, it’s definitely a place the locals like to grab a sandwich, or enjoy a coffee with a pastry.
4-6-15 Ikuta-cho, Chuo-ku Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture
Open: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (closed on Wednesdays)
Website (Japanese): www.freundlieb.jp
Kobe is known for serving up delicious coffee, and the locals say the best place to enjoy it is at Nishimura. The cafe’s been open since 1948, and it offers 20 different blends of coffee, making it the best place to get a brew in town. It was also one of the first restaurants to introduce cappuccinos to the Japanese public — which are now extremely popular.
The cafe is located in a German-style house that’s become a Kobe landmark in itself. Inside you’re surrounded by antiques and wooden furniture, making it a cozy place to curl up with a cook, or have a chat with friends. This is where the locals hangout, and you should too.
While we’ve recommended some great places to try these local specialities, there are plenty of places throughout Kobe that serve these dishes. So get out and explore Kobe, and try the delicious treats they have to offer.
Around the world traditional Japanese carpentry and craftsmanship is revered for its precision and quality. In 1984 the Takenaka Corporation, one of the nation’s largest engineering and construction firms, decided to preserve and illuminate those fabled building techniques by establishing the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum in Kobe.
Takenaka had the bonafides for such a project. The company claims to be the oldest construction firm in the world. Namesake Tobei Masataka Takenaka was a carpenter working on shrines and temples when he started a business in 1610 in Nagoya. The family business was still going strong in the second half of the 1800s when it constructed some of the first western-style buildings in Japan.
One of the goals of the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum is to remind visitors of the importance of wood in Japanese culture. All of the nation’s sacred temples and historical buildings were constructed from wood. Whereas modern construction methods depend on uniformly consistent building materials, the individual traits of a single piece of lumber were celebrated by traditional Japanese builders. No detail was overlooked. If a tree was cut from a south-facing slope, its lumber would be used on the south side of a building. The grain of the wood was studied and strategically placed in the frame of a structure so as to build strength and prevent sagging. Japanese craftsmen would design buildings to anticipate shrinkage that would take place not in their lifetime but over centuries. Hence, the existence of many of Japan’s iconic structures.
Japanese forests once yielded a seemingly inexhaustible supply of prized Hinoki cypress lumber. Those vast forests have now been cut down and the museum provides an exhibit to display the various species of native trees that are critical to Japanese construction. The emphasis is on management of these often overlooked resources.
In their completed form many teahouses and shrines appear to be of simple post-and-beam construction. In its open, two-story exhibition space, the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum lays waste to that impression. A full-scale frame of the Yakushiji Temple in Nara can be examined to understand the actual complexity and ingenuity involved in its construction. There is also a wooden skeleton of a typical Japanese tearoom on display with its bones of wood and bamboo.
One of the most obvious things in the museum is what is not seen – nails and metal fasteners. Skilled Japanese carpenters were masters of joinery techniques which get their due in many hands-on exhibits. Contemporary Japanese builders are renowned for making tiny spaces appear larger and more functional. The origins of those techniques can be seen in the carpentry practices of yore.
The Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum has over 30,000 tools and building materials in its collection. The organizers also sponsor workshops, seminars and classes in the pursuit of maintaining the Japanese culture of wood. The museum is located near the Shin-Kobe Station on the foot of Mount Rokko in Kobe. It is open every day but Mondays and admission is charged. Parking is free.
In 2001 ‘Fratelli Paradiso opened the doors to in Potts Point, Sydney Australia, where it is a the staple of the Sydney food scene due to its consistently good Italian food and inimitable hospitality. The Ometesando shop itself is unpretentious and cool. You will find a handwritten menu on the black chalk board and artists and creative crowds come to check out the restaurant’s magnificent wall art. House breads and pasta are made fresh daily. The quality produce and seasonally driven food is considerate to all that is Italian, and an exciting and innovative variety of natural wines are available all-day.
Access: Omotesando Hills Building
Image: Screenshot from www.fratelliparadiso.im-transit.co.jp
Ramen is classic Japanese food. If you ask a random person, foreign or Japanese, male or female, what their favorite food is you are highly likely to get “ramen” back as your answer. Ramen is a noodle soup of wheat noodles served in a meat-based broth. Standard flavors include:
While you can always find these flavors, you will also find an innumerable amount of regional and local varieties that make a love of ramen a lifelong pursuit for the truly enamored. Your best chance to find and try some of these varieties without traversing the country is the Tokyo Ramen Show. The show is spread out over two different two day periods, each featuring an opportunity to sample 18 different vendors and styles of ramen. Attending both days affords the opportunity to slurp down 36 bowls of the good stuff.
While I seriously doubt anyone could consume that much ramen, the opportunity to try is yours for the taking. Admission to the event is free, but tickets to eat your choice of ramen from a vendor cost 850 yen, making the bill for sampling every variety very reasonable; not including medical expenses related to gluttony.
The Ramen Show takes place at Komazawa Olympic Park, in Setagaya Ward on