As I mentioned before, this trip wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about what I wanted to do, or where I wanted to go. It was a family trip and to prevent creating the awkward situation whereby I wanted to see things that others may not, I didn’t absolutely bugger all research into Japan and it’s must see. I’m leaving that for when Erica and I take a trip on yonder on our own. Or at least a trip with company that doesn’t not have the age variance that comes with a family trip.
That all being said, I only had one tiny little request…. and that was Ramen Jiro baby! A friend first told me about Ramen Jiro a long time ago and after reading up on it, decided that I simply had to try it whenever I got around to visiting Japan. Ramen Jiro is nothing like your ordinary Ramen. It’s like a power Ramen of the gods! If you’re wondering as to what the heck Ramen Jiro is, head on here to the Ramen Toyko and read all about what Jiro is.
After reading through the Jiro reviews, I opted for the Ikebukero store because the review of the Jiro there appealed to me the most. The Ramen Jiro establishment there is a small and intimate little place. You come in, stand in line, eat, then GTFO. Plain and simple. No dawdling, no sitting there and soaking up the ambiance. There is a queue here at almost every hour of every day, so if you’re heading there be prepared to wait.
Now what else was on offer at Ikebukero? I have no idea because I didn’t care. I was just here to try these noodles. Apparently the smell of Ramen Jiro is thick, porky, pungent, and hits in a face like a wet sweaty running sock. A running sock that was soaked in awesome!! Reading the reviews, most warned that this place was not for those whom aren’t a fan of porky pork. Unfortunately, these such people included Erica and her mother. Two women whom are very very susceptible to pork that is too….. porky. I can’t personally relate so you’ll have to ask them exactly what they determine that to be. Also, in all likelihood we all wouldn’t be able to sit together given the size of the place and that it’s all counter seating. Thirdly, there is a queue to get it, and queuing for food is something Erica’s father more often than not simply refuses to do.
So I suggested to all that I would just come here by myself, and will meet them all later. They all decided to come along anyway to give it a shot, so fair enough. And so we rocked up at Ramen Jiro, Ikebukero. Erica’s dad took one look at the line at said screw this, leaving me lining up to have lunch on my lonesome whilst he whisked his family to a place that was more appealing to the worlds anti-queue demographic.
Now what happens is that you get your ass in line, then buy a ticket when you arrive at the machine, then give your ticket to the counter dude and await your seat. Once you’re seated he’ll then ask you if you like any extra toppings, and then you get the Jiro. First you get the Jiro…. then you get the power…. then you get the women….. (points to whoever gets this reference)
Standing in line amongst the hungry salarymen and students made me feel a little out of place. The only thing that kept me from feeling like even more of a foreigner was probably my slanty eyes. They help me blend in they do. Eventually it’s my turn to plug the machine with my yen and I felt I was well enough prepared for this. I read up on which button to press and so was suitably confident that I wasn’t going to mistakenly ordered roast dog or something. The Ramen comes in two sizes, small and large. I would soon discover that the sizes are actually large and GTFO insanely huge.
Everyone says… DO NOT ORDER THE LARGE! Because even the so called small, or regular if you will, is large enough that most have trouble finishing it. Given that I can’t read Japanese, research told me to press the second button for regular Ramen, with extra meat. And so I did… Only later did I realise that asians read down, and not across! So when they say press the second button, they mean the one below the first, not to the right of it! /facepalm
I finally take my seat, and await for the server to ask me what topping I want. I had no idea what he said, I just assumed based on my research on ordering procedures that it was what he was asking. And so I answered “Ninniku mashi”, which meant extra garlic, hoping that he wasn’t actually asking me a completely unrelated question, like how do I like Japan or if I would like to see the beast lurking within his pants.
So there I am, little ol’ me. Sitting amongst all the locals whom are have all ordered the regular sized portion, then out come this huge fuck off sized bowl which gets plonked down on the counter in front of me! The people sitting next to me quickly glanced from the bowl, to my face, then back down to their food. No doubt they were thinking something along the lines of “This greedy little Gaijin has no idea what he’s in for”. To say I felt ridiculous is putting it mildly.
Back to the Jiro. All I can say is…. sheeeeeeeeeeeeetttttttttt…….. I have not tasted anything like this before. The thick, pungent, garlicky porky soup was simple beyond description. Well, beyond adequate description anyway. It was like I had died and gone to heaven… almost.. but then before I got there my body was given mouth to mouth by a bowl of tasty noodly magic that possessed some sort of divine power which sucked my soul back into my body so I could have more of it.
This is no ordinary ramen. Simply calling this “a bowl of ramen” is a travesty. It’s like calling the Mona Lisa just another painting or Pavarotti just another fat guy. This is the KING of all Ramens. This I hereby decree and wish for the world to officially recognise it as so. Aside from the difference in the broth, the noodles itself is much much thicker than your normal ramen. It’s almost as thick, if not as thick, as hokkien or egg noodles. And the pork or chashu… was just… wow. Flavourful, succulent, and tender. This dish, by far, turned out to be the most memorable meal I had in my entire Japan trip. It was simply… sensational.
That being said, as good as it was, I couldn’t make a dent in the damn thing. It was like the bowl of noodles that would never end. I couldn’t get enough of the soup even though it was so thick and rich, but it just wouldn’t go down. By the time I was so full I don’t think my stomach would take anymore, it still looked as if I had hardly touched the thing. I kept trying to hide and shift the noodles around in different ways to give the illusion that I had eaten more than I did, but the bowl was just so packed with it that I couldn’t even compress it! That was simply no way to walk out of there with my pride intact!
And so I sat there, embarrassed, making a great big show of eating and slurping up one noodle at the time so those around me would think I was still going strong. The guys on either side of me kept looking at my bowl no doubt thinking that these foreign devils are just a bunch of greedy pussies that can’t hold their noodles. Eventually I realised that couldn’t sit there hiding my bowl forever, especially not with the long queue waiting (thankfully I was sitting far away from the door), and quickly stood up, wiped down my section as per etiquette, kept my head low, and rushed out the door.
So note to all… if you’re there, and you want to order a regular bowl with extra meat, it’s the button 2nd down, not 2nd across! Anyone whom likes noodles, you must must must must must try Ramen Jiro if you’re in Japan! Sure there’s probably enough fat, salt, and MSG in one bowl to take 50 years off the lifespan of a full grown T-Rex, but hey… you can’t put a price on that kind of tasty!!
After the Jiro, I think I felt a little queasy and heavy and followed the recommendations I read of having a yoghurt at the closest convenience store. I have NFI what a yoghurt drink is, but figured Calpis might be a close enough bet so I got that. In other news, Mango Calpis is fricken’ awesome. I then met up with Erica’s folks and we wondered around Ikebukero for a bit. Nothing much to see or do here actually, apart from a Sanrio store which the girls all got excited over *rolls eyes* All I can say as a man is… grown women…. Hello Kitty obsession…. like kids in candy store…. wtf? Am I right guys?!
After Ikebukero it was onto Shibuya! Shibuya is so much fun. Apparently it’s where all the young and happening people hang out. This place was absolutely pumping with the streets just packed with young guns out to have fun. It was so full of life and just happening. Now this is Japan! The next time I visit, I actually want to stay at Shibuya purely because of the ambience. We only came here to have a look see, grab some dinner, and go home again. We opted to have dinner at a Yakitori place. I’m not a tremendous fan of yakitori in general, but what we did have was tasty enough.
Shibuya also has a pretty active red light district from the looks of it, but nowhere near as large and dense as Kobukicho. We kept wandering around aimlessly until Erica’s parents got tired and decided to go back to the hotel first, before moving onto explore the red light district. It’s no where near as fun or colourful as Kobukicho but still kept us entertained. For all you tourists, if you see a big gawdy pink and blue sign that says “Shibuya Information Centre”, do not go there looking for where is the best place to eat or stay. However if you happen to be looking for advice on which schoolgirl arguably gives the best handjob in town, then you may have some luck here.
There’s not all that much else to say really. If you’re looking for a place that has a active night life and is popular with the youth crowd, head to Shibuya. It’s got stacks of cafe’s, restaurants, and all manner of other things to keep you entertained for a nice casual night of random walking. Peace out and remember to try the Jiro