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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Farewell to Fukuoka, Japan and Ichiran Ramen

yatai sm Photo by myself in Fukuoka, Japan.

A night view at one of the many yatai along the canals in Fukuoka, Japan.

Fukuoka is a canal city and is much smaller in scale than Tokyo. 'Yatai' are the street carts parked along the main canals in Fukuoka, at night. They serve up satay, ramen and beer. During the day, the cooks rest and the yatai are packed up and parked away.

My fiance Mark and I are leaving Fukuoka on Wednesday, traveling to Kyoto, a historic city about 3 hours away. This was our second visit to Fukuoka and I am absolutely saddened to leave.

There is a vibrant street culture here that is precious. People are friendly and very polite when approached (in general, the Japanese keep to themselves). We have enjoyed walking about and getting to know this city.

Yatai 2 sm Bright lights and lanterns make each yatai dinner festive. The canal is to the right, out of frame.

Setting up Yatai Stands, Fukuoka One of the vendors pulls his cart to a parking space. It is hot and humid, day and night. The canal is visible to the left.

One of our favorite discoveries has been Ichiran noodles. Ichiran is a chain of restaurants throughout Japan.

Eating Ichiran noodles means sitting at a bar with blinders to either side, so you are focused on your food experience. The main attraction is tonkatsu ramen, a traditional ramen in a broth made from stewing pork bones for hours.

You order your food via vending machine, as with many Japanese restaurants. Then you customize your order with a checklist - firm noodles or soft, with hot sauce or without, with pork meat or not.

Then you place your order by pressing a button. A waiter/waitress rolls up the screen and takes your order. You can only see a bit of their torso. After a few minutes, presto, your ramen is delivered in a clay pot, and the screen is rolled down.

ichiran view sm A photo from my Ichiran booth. I can see into the alley where the waiters work, through to the booth opposite me. The call button is ahead of me, my customized checklist is to the right.

Ichiran booth
A photo of my Ichiran booth. Each booth has its own water dispenser, glasses, soup ladles and wall of instructions.

Ichiran Noodles Your noodle soup comes in a clay container with a lid. Condiments such as scallions, hot sauce, pork and garlic are custom-calibrated. Absolutely delicious. This was lunch. Dinner looked very similar!

Each ramen costs about $10 US. You can add full or half-servings of noodles to your broth as well. I was so in love with this place, I went once for lunch and again for dinner!!!

Mark and I are delighted to learn that there will be an Ichiran opening in New York, though we're not sure when. I'm also doubtful how well these booths will hold up in New York, where younger kids tend to litter everything with graffiti.

For more about Ichiran, see their website (in English) here.

I am away in Japan through the rest of August! Posts will continue here, as usual.
Related posts: On Night Life in Fukuoka, Japan, A Trip to the Countryside, in Yufuin, Japan, and Highlights from Japan, Part One.


Olivier said...

belles photos de rues

biebkriebels said...

I like the photos, looks a bit like a men's world there. To order food to a torso is rather impersonal and a bit weird.

James Wei said...

I have tried Ichiran ramen there. It brings memories reading your post.

Your photos bring that look about the street!

kousuke said...

I'm late!
Welcome to tropical Japan(^^;)
I hope you come here in another season again, Kitty.

Al said...

It has been a while since I thought about Ramen Ichiran. I ate at the Ueno version in Tokyo several times. Here are some pics: http://traveljapanblog.com/wordpress/2010/11/ramen-ichiran-part-2/

Wayne said...

I have a feeling I'd starve to death in Japan in pretty short order.

Rose ~ from Oz said...

I love reading and hearing about different cultures. How wondrous to have these amazing experiences Kitty!

Anonymous said...

There are some tastes in Tonkotu ramen.
But it is divide into two, Hakata taste and Kumamoto taste.
I like the latter one better.
If you go to Tokyo, there is ramen museum in Yokohama next to Tokyo, where you can enjoy the most popular ramen in each area.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.