Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Anonymous Ramen

After eating soba for lunch on a wild hair we decided to try the other famous soba shot just around the corner. Unfortunately they were closed for some construction so we headed off for the subway. Along the way Sano asked us if we wanted to try a really good ramen place near Shibuya which was right by the office. Already in the second noodle mood we agreed.

The Anonymous Ramen ShopOutside the Shibuya station along a main road we came to a sign for 24 hour ramen and stairway descending into the dark. A quick turn to the right brought us a vending machine where you purchase the basic ramen ticket 720 yen. From there there is a very short 12 foot wide hallway/entrance where people lined up with a turn at one end. The immediate wall had a bunch of paper slips were you can specify additional customizations to your ramen : garlic, hot spice etc. This 12 foot entrance is divided into three equal sections. The middle section has a split door that is closed, behind this is the kitchen area. On the top side of the split door is a white sign with 21 square electric buttons in two lines, 10 on one side and 11 on the other. They represent the left and right narrow hallways on either side of the kitchen that house 10 on one side and 11 booths on the other. Occasionally a square will light up blue and a person will emerge from the hallway and the next person in line will enter.

Anonymous Ramen BoothPatiently you wait in line as one by one the squares light up and the rotation occurs, one full happy ramen customer emerges and another hungry intiate enters with their ticket and paper specifics in hand. Regardless of whether you come alone or in a larger party, only one person enters at a time and when you do your isolated from everything else but your ramen confessional booth. Each booth is literally just that, a small space maybe 3 feet across with a dividing wall separating you and the next booth. In front of this space is a red stool that you sit upon. Directly in front of you is a red cloth and a small 9 inch space where you see the mid sections of people scurry back and forth. Hands appear, place some chopsticks and a small glass on the counter; take your ticket and paper and you wait. A short while later a steaming bowl of ramen is pushed through the open space and a mat is dropped down closing the space and your in solitary ramen confinement. No neighbors. No talking. Just steaming ramen and you. Your primary purpose to eat.

After finishing you stand, a sensor in the stool turns on the blue light outside and the cycle continues. It was a strangely surreal eating experience, one that I enjoyed immensely as the ramen was not only tasty but the delivery was an odd social experience as well.

Full set of photos on Flickr


Blogger King Edward said...

Wow that is quite odd. It's like the ramen underground...shhhhh

6:32 PM  
Blogger thom said...


3:43 PM  

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