Translated by Takuya Erik Watanabe
Popular Around The World! Ichiran's Natural Tonkotsu Ramen
Ichiran is a tonkotsu ramen restaurant chain that is popular in Japan and overseas. In this article we'll be taking a look at their Ikebukuro branch, where they have a multi-language ticket machine and a unique ordering system.
Written by Inubushi Yoshiyuki
Ichiran is a restaurant specializing in natural tonkotsu ramen. It's popular in Japan and overseas as well.
Today, we'll be introducing the Ikebukuro branch, located just two minutes on foot from the station. Ikebukuro is an area with a strong otaku culture like that of Akihabara, and a spot where many tourists from overseas like to visit. This may be part of the reason why many visitors stop by Ichiran after enjoying a day of shopping. The store recently seems to be enjoying more attention from travelers from abroad.
* Tonkotsu ramen: ramen that uses soup made from dashi broth from stewing pork bones for a long time or at a high pressure and high temperature.
Ticket Machine Available in Various Languages
Upon entering the restaurant, you can check the vacancy board to see how full the place is at the moment. On either side of the board are noren (a cloth found at the entrance of a shop bearing its name and symbol) which you will pass through to find your seat.
Before taking a seat, you will need to buy yourself a food ticket. Entering the store you will find the ticket machine to your right, and the menu is available in four languages, Japanese, English, Chinese (traditional), and Korean. There are also photos to help you see what you're ordering. The main dish you will find is the Natural Tonkotsu Ramen (since foundation) (790 yen), and it's easy to see that the restaurant specializes in tonkotsu ramen.
On top of the ticket machine is a guide to help you figure out how to use the machine. There are numbers conveniently in order and pictures showing the dishes.
After you've got your meal ticket, you will look at the board for a vacant seat and then make your way there. At the Ikebukuro branch, the counter is separated into private carrels called Ajishuchu Counters. These seats were specially-made so guests can concentrate on enjoying the taste of the ramen.
Once you've taken a seat, you'll find an order paper where you can specify the richness of your ramen and firmness of the noodles. Circle your preference and hand the sheet to the staff. For first-timers, we recommend the standard taste. You might want to adjust the flavors on your next visit.
No Trans Fat! Natural Tonkotsu Ramen
Now let's dig in. This whitish soup is unique as it consists mainly of natural collagen. It's a rich and mellow tonkotsu soup, but the characteristic odor of tonkotsu is nonexistent, and it's rather refreshing. On top of that, they say it's the world's first trans-fat-free ramen. Maybe because it can be eaten with no worries, many people drink the soup broth until it's all gone.
The thin and straight noodles are also unique. They will slip down your throat smoothly and are easy to eat. Despite being thin, you will still be able to enjoy the chewiness of the noodles, which are a perfect match with the soup. You won't be getting tired of this taste anytime soon.
The red "secret sauce" on top is specially-made from over 30 different ingredients, mainly pepper. The more you mix it into the soup, it will not only give the ramen some spice, but also will bring out the sweetness of the soup. You can order how much of this sauce you want with the order sheet, for example if you aren't a fan of spicy foods, you can exclude it completely, or if you are a spicy-food-lover, you can ask for twice the standard amount.
Kae-dama (Noodle Refills)
If you're still not full after eating your ramen, you can order a kae-dama (190 yen). A kae-dama is an extra order of noodles (no extra soup or toppings). You can purchase a meal ticket for a noodle refill beforehand at the ticket machine, or you can just ask for a kae-dama at your seat. If you're ordering from your seat, you will find information about kae-dama on the second sheet of the order paper. You can choose your preference of noodle firmness when ordering.
If you're just wanting a little extra, there's also a han-kae-dama (half-kae-dama) available (130 yen). Of course, you can also ask for other dishes as well. You can order with cash at your seat, so don't forget to bring some with you.
To order, you will press the button found in the left corner of your carrel and a staff member will come by. Hand them your order sheet and money. If you're not too skilled at eating with chopsticks, you can also ask for a fork to eat your ramen with.
Other than the ticket machine being available in various languages, some of the staff at the Ichiran Ikebukuro branch can speak in English and Chinese, although they aren't always there. If there's something you need help with, you can call someone over.
The restaurant also offers souvenirs. You might want to purchase some to take with you and enjoy Ichiran in your home country.
Address: Tokyo, Toshima ward, Higashiikebukuro 1-39-11, Sunnyside Building 102
Hours: 24 hours
Other Languages: English, Chinese (depends on day)
Menus in Other Languages: English, Chinese (traditional), Korean
Nearest Station: Ikebukuro Station (JR Yamanote Line, JR Saikyo Line, JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line, Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line, Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line, Tobu Tojo Line, Seibu Ikebukuro Line)
Access: 2-minute walk from Ikebukuro Station East Exit
Price Range: up to about 1000 yen
Phone Number: +81-3-3989-0871
Official Website: Ichiran