Depending on where you’re from, ramen stirs up totally different ideas in your head. In America, it’s known for getting college kids through the week when they have $3.50 left to their name. In Korea, a block of noodles is smashed into chunks, seasoned with flavoring and sold in stores like a bag of chips. But in Japan…..ramen is so much more. If you’ve never experienced Japanese ramen before – you’re in for a seriously good meal. But if you really want to do it like the locals do, you’ll need to know how to navigate the slightly intimidating world of vending machine ramen in Japan. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know.
What is Vending Machine Ramen:
It’s almost exactly what it sounds like. You’re not actually getting your meal from a vending machine, but you will use one to place your order. The machine will give you a ticket, and you take it inside to have your order cooked up.
Finding A Good Spot:
There are a few things you’ll want to look for when choosing where to go.
First things first – look for a small (and I mean tiny) restaurant with max 15 seats. Most of your really great, hole-in-the-wall ramen restaurants will only seat a very small amount of people. The one we ate at had a “bar” facing the chef, and then 3-4 small tables up against the wall. Luckily, people come and go pretty quickly so this usually isn’t a problem (more on this later!).
Secondly – is there a line outside? There should at least be people in the vicinity, and hopefully others ordering from the machine. If you hang around for 5 minutes and no one comes or goes, it’s not the best sign. The longer the line, the better the chance that you’ve stumbled on a great place.
Basically you put your money in and press the button for what you want. It’s really that simple. If you’re a first-timer, you can look for machines that have English below the Japanese names. Otherwise, just go by the pictures and get whatever looks good. If worst comes to worst and your restaurant’s machine doesn’t have photos – just pick one. You can’t mess up too much – everything is a bowl of noodles!
Slurp & drink from the bowl. Those are the main rules. You’ll eat the noodles, egg, pork etc with chopsticks – but when you get down to just the broth, simply tip up your bowl and drink the soup with both hands. Also, it’s considered GOOD MANNERS to slurp down your food. Strange, but that’s how it is.
Another thing to note is that ramen restaurants are known for being in-and-out spots. This is why having only 8 seats isn’t a problem – you order, eat, and leave. That’s it. They aren’t for hanging out, catching up, sipping a beer… you’ll get some stares if you’re sitting around without any food, so just don’t do it.
And those are pretty much the basics! If there’s anything important that I missed, please let me know! For more on Japan – check out these 12 Spectacular Things You Absolutely Can’t Miss in Tokyo!