The first thing I said to our landlady (whom I fondly refer to as Ate Kobayashi, ‘ate’ meaning older sister in Filipino and Kobayashi because, obviously, that’s her surname) after returning to our ryokan from Kiyomizu-dera was, “We want to eat ramen.”
“Oh!” she said, face lighting up. “Ramen! Yes, yes.” We gave her our map and she marked one of the squares with ‘ramen’ in katakana (ラーメン) then in Roman alphabet ‘La-men’, bless her heart. I vaguely remember being told to take two right turns and to cross the bridge and that the whole walk would be about ten minutes. R was always better with directions than I was, so I figured he’d figure it out (haha) and off we went.
Unsurprisingly, we got lost. We were pretty sure we were in the right direction, though, so we plowed on. After what seemed like around 30 minutes, we finally saw a ramen shop sign. Yosh!
750 yen? Not bad, we supposed. We were too hungry by then, anyway! It was full inside the shop, though, and overcome with shyness, R and I decided to creep outside instead.
Looking in from outside. It was quite a small place. Later, though, I’d learn that most shops and restaurants in Japan are only about this big.
After a few minutes of creeping around, someone from the shop came outside and asked us something in Japanese, which I can’t remember now, haha. I quickly asked him if he can speak English, and he answered clearly, “Yes, I can speak English!”
I think R and I might have screamed for joy.
English-san explained that we had to buy a ticket stub from a machine inside the shop (which I regretfully failed to take a picture of), then he offered to do it for us. “Just tell me what you want to eat and I’ll pay for you.” We told him we didn’t know the menu, but that we wanted the 750-yen ramen from their sign outside. Then we gave him 1000 yen bills each. English-san was not only kind but efficient: he returned with 250-yen change each for R and me!
After waiting for a few more minutes, English-san beckoned us inside.
The name of the shop! There was a sign outside that seemed to say that the shop was featured in TV. Or their cooks were?
The ramen shop was operated by three men. One was English-san, who seemed to be responsible for taking and serving orders. This guy, Noodle-san, seemed to be in charge of cooking the noodles and washing the dishes.
I don’t quite understand the cooking process of ramen noodles, but it looked like they were submerged in boiling water while being cooled by the water trickling from the faucet.
The third man, Soup-san, seemed to be in charge of watching over the boiling soup stock and placing the orders in the bowls. I didn’t quite understand what he was doing, but he’d flick what he was holding and white stuff would spray out. I think he was removing the fat?
AND HERE IT IS IN ALL ITS PORK-LY GLORY. *__* I swear I can still remember how it smelled like!
R and I spent the next moments eating in total silence, save for our slurping. I remember pausing briefly to say to R, “It’s DELICIOUS,” in an astonished voice. I’ve been eating ramen before in the Philippines and I’ve always thought that I loved ramen. But this? This ramen was a completely, entirely different level. ALL THE OTHER RAMEN I’VE EATEN BEFORE IN MY LIFE WAS A LIE.
The thing that surprised me the most was that the noodles themselves had a delicious taste. In the Philippines, the noodles… didn’t really taste anything? Only the soup did.
Oh, and the soup. The heavenly soup. It was the first time I’ve had ramen soup that was this rich, creamy, and almost milky. Later I would learn that this type of ramen is known as Hakata ramen.
Looking back on it now, I think R and I really did get lost and ended up in another ramen shop instead of the one Ate Kobayashi directed us to. But for the first time I’ll have to say, thank God for my (and R’s!) poor sense of direction. We ended up having our first ramen in Japan that was possibly the best ramen of our lives. (R and I would have many more bowls of ramen for the rest of our trip, and we still think this one was the best.)
To get to Ginjo Ramen Kubota, take the Kyoto City bus numbers 4, 5, 10, 11, 17, 32, 59 or 205 and get off at the Kuwaramachi Sanjo bus stop. You can also ride the Karasuma subway line and get off at Gojo station. The ramen shop is about a ten-minute walk along the Nishinotoin-dori street from those stops.
*Budget: 700-900 yen
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