November Writing Challenge Day 26: Ramen

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

Nothing beats ramen on a cold night.

My wife and I visited Japan a few years ago while our daughter was studying abroad for a year. It was an awesome 10-day trip and we’re always talking about taking another trip there.

We stayed in Tokyo the entire time and thanks to our daughter we got to explore the city like locals, since she’d already been there for six months when we showed up. The public transportation is efficient and clean, and we never needed to use our non-existent Japanese to ask for directions.

Around the neighborhood where our daughter was staying were a few local ramen shops and we ate at one in particular a few times during our stay. In fact, we ate at a different ramen shop nearly every day we were in Tokyo. I thought we would’ve gotten tired of it, but we didn’t.

Of course, the ramen is better in Japan than back home in the States. Every bowl of ramen was deeper in flavor, fresher in ingredients, and cooked better overall. We liked the efficiency of the local shops: once you entered, there were little kiosks where you entered your order and paid, then sat down and gave the server your ticket. A few minutes later and your piping hot bowl of ramen was placed in front of you.

We learned basic etiquette on the first night we were in Tokyo, like slurping is OK but rubbing your chopsticks is not. We also learned to love the library quiet of all of the shops we ate in. The locals enjoyed their meals with a minimum of chit-chat and there was no music blaring or sports yakking from any televisions.

Besides the ramen itself, it’s the whole dining culture that I miss the most. When we came back home, we noticed how LOUD American restaurants are. It took us awhile to really enjoy a nice meal out, and we’ll still mention Japan whenever we sit down at a local eatery and get bombarded by noise.

The bowl pictured above, unfortunately, is not from Japan. It’s a tonkotsu from our local ramen joint, which would shutter its doors within a week if we were in Tokyo. But we’re in the Inland Empire of Southern California so when we’re craving ramen and don’t want to make the long trek to Los Angeles, this is the best we can do. If it was better we’d probably eat it more often. But even if it was I’m not sure we would: like all of the restaurants here, it’s LOUD.

Day 227: Nisei Week

Manichi Ramen

Manichi Ramen

We did a family trip to Little Tokyo today to celebrate Nisei Week. It’s the 75th celebration and even though we’re in the middle of a heatwave, we had a fantastic time.

Admission to the Japanese American National Museum was free today, so we checked out the current exhibitions. First was Sugar/Islands: Finding Okinawa in Hawai’i – The Art of Laura Kina and Emily Hanako Momohara, which featured paintings and photographs documenting the migrant workers in Hawai’i. Next was Before They Were Heroes: Sus Ito’s World War II Images, a fantastic collection of candid photographs of Japanese Americans fighting in WWII. I really liked this exhibition, since it showed the day-to-day lives of the soldiers and it also touched on the dilemma facing most of the soldiers: they were fighting for a country that sent most of their families into concentration camps.

Of course, in between all of the sightseeing and museum-ing, we did some eating. On our way there, we stopped at 85 Degrees for pastries and ice coffees, then noshed on ramen, mochi, poke, and ice cream. Yes, even the heatwave didn’t stop us from scarfing down bowls of hot ramen from Manichi Ramen, as shown above.