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If you Google “Jiro” then you will find a very prestigious sushi restaurant located in Ginza (a high-end shopping district like the 5th ave in NYC or Orchard in Singapore).
And the search result will show you a documentary movie about this sushi restaurant.
To your disappointment, this post is not about sushi but about Ramen.
Not that pricey pricey place where you may end up in paying $300 per person, but where you can eat to death with less than $10!
In fact, this is what comes to a lot of Japanese people when they hear the name Jiro. There is even an expression like “Jiro-style ramen”.
Well, Ramen jiro Is in no way a fancy place but it reminds us of what Ramen restaurants once were, or still are, like.
Table of Contents
- 1 The famous Ramen Jiro HQ, first time in my life
- 2 Caution: Ramen Jiro may not be a place for you
The famous Ramen Jiro HQ, first time in my life
To a "once-the-edge-of-the-city" area
The other day, I went to Mita area for personal stuff.
For those not familiar with Tokyo, it is a business district to the south of Tokyo Tower (the red and white tower in the pic above), and I think this area used to be the south edge of the city of Edo (Tokyo in the samurai period).
When I read some samurai novels, a place "Fuda-no-tsuji (札ノ辻)" often shows up, as the south edge of the city. It is now in the middle of a busy business area though.
The pic below is Fuda-no-tsuji today (there is the name on the over-the-head bridge).
And I notices that I was very near to Ramen Jiro (二郎, not 次郎) headquarter. Ramen Jiro is one of the most famous ramen brands in Japan with a lot of branches and the headquarter located right beside Keio University, the oldest University in Japan.
I have heard a lot about Jiro, but never been to because people are lining up outside the restaurant all the time. To be honest, I don’t bother lining up for ramen.
But this time was one of my rare occasions to come to this area, so I decided to give a try to this place.
Long waiting ouside Ramen Jiro
Although I tried to get my stuff done early to avoid lunch time, it took me some extra time as I went to a wrong station, got lost on the way.
In the end, I arrived there 15 mins before noon and ended up in waiting in a long line, which went on to the back of the building!
While waiting (for good 25 mins!), I took some pictures that may interest you.
The master is turning 77 and a group of Keio alumni are setting up a Kiju (喜寿) celebration. Open for Keio Univ. alumni only at JPY 12,000 ($100 ~ 110) per ticket.
The poster jokingly says “The grand pre-passaway funeral (lol)”.
The poster ad of t-shirts says “Congrats Oyaji!”. He is one of the guys called “oyaji” from his fans! too
Old but well-maintained houses nearby. The estate value must be multi-million dollars or more in this area..
A group of go-carts was passing by. Everyone dressed up in some ways like this guy.
Inside Jiro HQ: Super "old-school" as a ramen place can be
Now getting closer to the food. I stepped up to the ticket machine and found their ramen bowls are so inexpensive, from JPY 600 - 800 (USD 5.5 - 7) depending on your choice of additional pork.
If you want to make it large, the extra cost is only JPY 50 (45 cents)! This is not cheap or what?
The inside looks like this. So tiny and old-school, with only a twelve-seat counter. I believe the person in the right is the “Master”.
Now all I needed to do was to have a seat and wait for my bowl of ramen. A mouth-watering moment, isn't it?
Well, I will tell you how it went...
Here comes the "Monster Ramen"!
I ordered a regular bowl with pork meat (JPY 700).
When I seated, they offered me some extra toppings like minced garlic, boiled veggies, pork back fat (背脂), spicy source, and flavor thickener, with all free of charge!
Why not put them? It's no-brainer, right?
I got all of them except for the flavor thickener, and here came the monster..
I couldn’t believe my eyes! Can you see how big the heap was?
A full-load of boiled vegies, minced garlic, and chunks of pork! And the pork chunks were so thick..
The portion was so huge and I started to wonder if I could really finish this.
I managed to finish the noodle, but left 2 slices of pork... This happened to me even if I had a regular, which they call "small". What if I ordered a large bowl...
Honestly, this ramen bowl made me feel unwell from over-eating, rather than fulfilled. That said, it was an interesting and long-waited experience to me.
Caution: Ramen Jiro may not be a place for you
In case you want to try this place, let me tell you this place is not for everyone, and may not be for you.
If it is a taboo to eat pork
Their soup is pork bone based and each bowl comes with slices of roast pork, and even with pork back fat. So, if you cannot eat pork for some reason, this place is not for you.
Can you eat like hungry young boys?
Simply put, this place it’s a "quantity-over-quality" kind of place. The food taste okay, I mean not that great, but the quantity is so massive.
So this is it’s a perfect place for college boys living on the budget. But if you don’t eat like them, then this is not the place for you.
No wonder the customers 100% men and no woman.
So my first try for this place reminded me of the fact that I’m not young anymore..
Ramen is not for enjoyable long chatty lunch with your friends
And I want to add one more thing, this is not a place for you if you want to enjoy long lunch with conversation and chitchat with your friends.
This place is just a ramen place where all you do is to have a seat, order, eat, and leave. This place is exclusively for eating, not for fancy chitchatting.
So if you feel miserable for this kind of meal just to feed your stomach, then this is not the place for you. Or ramen itself may not be for this purpose.
But this is what Ramen places were originally like because ramen was, or still is, a quick and inexpensive meal for busy workers and nothing fashionable. (image by quaz00 from Flickr)
Well, this place is an extremely “hard core”, but I hope you can have a good idea about what ramen (and ramen shop) is like in Japan.
And some more thing that may embarrass you..
However, there are a few things that may be embarrassing to you.
You will be asked to leave your stuff somewhere away from you
Before seating inside, you will be asked to put your stuff in a separate place in the shop.
But this is not a locker or something but just an open space accessible by anyone, including those just walking by.
So I put my coat and bag there but brought valuables and some important documents with me as I didn’t want to lose them whether by mistake or intentional stealing.
Having lived outside the country for more than 10 years, I find my wary response natural.
And I have to say that, to my eyes, a lot of Japanese people look a bit too optimistic on their own security, not only at personal level but also at society level.
Maybe "No English"
The other thing is that they do not have English menu nor explanation and I guess they don’t speak English.
Well, you cannot expect everyone on the earth should speak English, although we often do, and I would say this is a part of the fun of traveling.
If you really want to have a Ramen Jiro experience, I would recommend you hire a guide so you can eat like locals. It will cost you some, but should be money-well-spent!
See you in the next post!