Translated byHilary Keyes
Writer, translator, designer, weirdo.
Gotōchi ramen are dishes that have been made in the same area for ages, have helped to revive an area, have been made as an attraction for that area or are completely unique types of rāmen.
Perhaps as well known as sushi is the Japanese noodle dish rāmen. In recent years famous brands such as Ichiran and Ippūdō have begun sales overseas with their shops gaining recognition abroad.
However, people outside Japan are still missing out on some of rāmen's charms!! Unique types of rāmen have evolved all across Japan; these are known as gotōchi rāmen, or local ramen. Today let's take a closer look at some of the gotōchi rāmen that are still only know of in Japan.
One of the leading examples of gotōchi rāmen is Hokkaido's Sapporo ramen. With miso, soy sauce or salt-based broth to choose from, the noodles in this type of gotōchi rāmen are quite thick. These noodles are made from a good quality, strong type of flour, making them slightly chewier and more textured than other noodles.
Fukushima prefecture's Kitakata ramen has a refreshing soy sauce soup base and wide noodles. The wave-like curls of the noodles within this soup are very distinct.The soup itself is made from a combination of tonkotsu (pork bone) and niboshi (small dried sardines) bases that are made separately then combined. Though the main base of Kitakata rāmen is soy sauce, there are some shops that have salt or miso-based rāmen as well.
Kanagawa prefecture's Yokohama Kakei ramen has a rich dark brown soup base, made from tonkotsu, chicken broth and soy sauce; it has a deep, strong flavor that some say is quite addictive. The majority of shops selling this Yokohama specialty allow you to choose how strong and oily you would like the soup as well as the firmness of the noodles.
Hyōgo prefecture's Banshu ramen has a soy sauce base as well, but comes with very thin wavy noodles. The soy sauce made in Hyōgo prefecture tends to be rather sweet; a taste you can notice even in this soup.
Fukuoka prefecture's Hakata ramen is counted as one of the top 3 types of rāmen in all of Japan, and is best known for its white cloudy tonkotsu soup base and long white, thin noodles. The majority of shops selling this famous dish allow the customer to choose the firmness of the noodles they want, a further distinction of Hakata rāmen.
If you would like to try authentic gotōchi rāmen, it's best to travel to the area in which it originated. Of rāmen fans, there are many people who use their love of rāmen as a reason to travel around Japan, sampling the various types of gotōchi rāmen out there.
For those who would like to travel and taste all the different types of gotōchi rāmen that they can, but have a tight budget, we recommend purchasing the JR Seishun 18 Tickets (seishun jūhachi kippu) in the five-day variety, which you can use to ride any locals trains all across Japan all you want for those five days.
Though the name for these tickets translates to "youthful 18 tickets", they are available to anyone. Originally aimed at students, these tickets are only sold during the spring, summer and winter, near the typical school holiday times. With a Seishun 18 ticket, you can reasonably travel from Tokyo to Hakata, making stopovers in Yokohama and Kyoto along the way. However, these tickets are only accepted on regular trains, not the shinkansen or bullet train, so if you would like to travel this way, make sure that you have plenty of time in your schedule to travel.
For those who don't have the time or the money to travel all over Japan, or for those who want to try all the gotōchi rāmen in one place, please check out the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. Within this slightly older Japanese building, you will find shops all the way from Hokkaido in the north to Kyūshū in the south gathered here in one building to sell their prefecture's famous gotōchi rāmen.
Shin-Yokohama Rāmen Museum is found a short walk north from the heart of Yokohama. With a zoo, Yokohama's Landmark Tower, the Red Brick Warehouse, Chinatown and Hakkeijima Sea Paradise also relatively close-by, why not plan a day trip to Yokohama and enjoy gotōchi rāmen and these other incredible spots together?