Japan’s very first ramen restaurant reopens


Ramen can be considered Japan’s national dish and it is well-loved worldwide. But the ramen we have today has undergone over 100 years of innovation and improvement. The spectacular ramen history all began with Rairaiken, the first ramen store to open in Japan.


History of Rairaiken


Rairaiken reopening 1 - old Rairaiken store in 1910
Image credit: @Press

Japan’s first-ever ramen restaurant, Rairaiken, opened in 1910 in Tokyo’s Asakusa district. Founder Kanichi Ozaki and his team of 12 chefs, handpicked from Yokohama’s Chinatown, had tremendous success in their ramen venture. On average, Rairaiken attracted 2,500 to 3,000 customers daily. 

Rairaiken reopening 2 - Rairaiken shoyu ramen
Image credit: @Press

Out of all the dishes sold at Rairaiken, its shoyu (soy sauce) ramen was its best seller. With its salty broth and toppings of pork, bamboo shoot, fish cake and an egg, Rairaiken’s shoyu ramen  rapidly stole the hearts of customers and spread the love of ramen throughout Japan. 

Rairaiken reopening 3 - old Rairaiken store
Image credit: @Press

Despite its early success, Rairaiken had its ups and downs over the years. After more than 30 years of selling ramen at Asakusa, the restaurant had to close down in 1944, during World War II. Later in 1954, Rairaiken reopened in Yaesu. It then moved to Kanda in 1965, before finally closing down in 1976. 


Rairaiken reopens at Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum


Rairaiken reopening 4 - new Rairaiken store
Image credit: @Press

44 years after its closure, Rairaiken is making a comeback at the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. The museum has conducted intensive research to accurately recreate the flavour of authentic Rairaiken ramen with the assistance of Kanichi’s grandson and great-grandson, Kunio Takahashi and Yusaku Takahashi. 

Rairaiken reopening 5 - curly noodles
Chijiremen, curly noodles commonly used in shoyu ramen
Image credit: Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum

Through their combined efforts, they have successfully tracked down all the ingredients Kanichi had used for Rairaiken’s noodles and toppings, going as far as pinpointing the modern equivalent of the flour used. 

After figuring out the ingredients and the preparation process to make Rairaiken’s original ramen, the museum will be reopening this legendary restaurant in Fall 2020.  

Rairaiken reopening 6 - Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum
Image credit: @Press

Apart from the soon-to-be-opened Rairaiken, the museum also hosts many other ramen restaurants that are famous in their own regions. Taking a trip to the museum will be worthwhile for ramen lovers as you get to taste different regional flavours without having to travel to more than one location. 


Rairaiken spin-offs


Rairaiken reopening 7 - Shinraiken ramen
Image credit: TripAdvisor

In 1968, an apprentice of Kanichi Ozaki opened a ramen store called “Shinraiken” – literally “new Raiken” – located in Chiba Prefecture. This is one of the many Rairaiken spin-offs that serve shoyu ramen, made famous by the iconic restaurant, and it’s possibly the most authentic as it was founded by Kanichi’s direct apprentice.  

Rairaiken reopening 8 - Yutenji Rairaiken store
Image credit: Yakitan

Other than Shinraiken, there are many other ramen places also associated with Rairaiken. Yutenji Rairaiken, located in Yutenji, Meguro Ward, Tokyo, was founded by a chef named Fu Xinglei. The Cantonese founder has a personal connection to the original Rairaiken store – he was one of the twelve cooks there in 1910.

Rairaiken reopening 9 - Yutenji Rairaiken ramen
Image credit: ウィキ太郎 (Wiki Taro)

Yutenji Rairaiken sells more than just ramen – it also has dishes such as yakisoba (fried noodles), wanton noodles, and even sushi.   


First ramen restaurant in Japan makes a comeback


Foodies will be excited to know that Rairaiken, the genesis of Japanese ramen, is finally coming back thanks to the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. The exact opening date has not been confirmed yet, but it is expected to be sometime in Fall 2020.

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum
Address: 2-14-21 Shinyokohama, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama-City, 222-0033, Japan
Museum opening hours: Mon–Sat 11AM-10PM, Sun/PH 10.30AM-10PM (last order is 30 minutes before closing)
Admission: 1-day ticket costs ¥380 (~USD3.60) for adults, ¥100 (~USD0.95) for children (6-12 years old) and senior citizens (60 and above). Kids under 6 years old can enter for free.
Telephone: 045-471-0503
Website

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Cover image adapted from: @Press