Ichiran arguably makes the greatest mass-produced ramen in the world.
My first encounter was back in Osaka around September 2014. Yes, this was the one near the bridge by the riverbank. And yes, this is the one where troops line up for hours. Being so, I gave up and settled for somewhere forgettable.
Now that I live here, Ichiran is part of my regular ramen rotation. In Kyoto, there is one in Shijo. In Osaka, there are 2 in the Namba/Dotombori area (shhh, the 2nd one is a secret).
The sole resonating point of why you should eat at Ichiran is customization. After popping 790 yen for the basic ramen, the staff should hand you a white paper with a lot of options. Some include: amount of spring onions, noodle firmness, pork cutlet option, amount of Ichiran sauce (i think this ranges from 1-infinity), and so on. It’s like one of those painting stalls you can find in malls. You can buy a pre-designed canvas and go crazy painting over it. There must be thousands of combinations for an Ichiran bowl of ramen. I have been there more than 10x already and I swear that I have tried different sets every time. You can even have noodle refills for an additional fee!
I recommend getting seats in the bar-like area. It just creates an atmosphere unlike any other ramen joint.
If there’s one thing about lining up for food in Japan that I have learned: it is worth it every time.
If you want to know where we stayed and how we got here, Part 1 will guide you through.
First off, buying a train pass comes highly recommended. There are a number of passes available to tourists and non-tourists. After reviewing all the bus passes, train passes, and bus and train passes, we decided to get the Common One-day Ticket for Tokyo Metro & Toei Subway. Since our hostel was near to a subway station, we didn’t really need access to buses or JR Lines for that matter (although there was a JR station about 15 mins away).
The tickets exactly look like the ones on the right side of the photo below (credits to the owner) and are available in almost all ticketing machines. Don’t forget to press ENGLISH first. It costs 1000 Yen (500 Yen for kids) and is valid only on the day of purchase. Since we started early on day 2, we were able to maximize the pass and probably used the subways more than 10x (considering the average fare was around 200 Yen).
Our first stop was the Asakusa area. We strolled down Kototoi Dori for about 15 minutes and found ourselves hearing screams. Yeap, screams. In the middle of the city. Turns out that one of the oldest amusement parks in Japan, Hanayashiki, was there. If you ever hear screams while walking, you are on the right track.
After this, we just walked straight and ended up on Nakamise Dori which is a popular tourist trap. The street is lined up with a lot of shops where you can buy native Tokyo eats and things.
Using the powerful subway ticket, we boarded the Ginza Line, got off at Shiodome and walked to our next destination: Hama Rikyu Gardens. Shiodome Station itself was a huge building and offered fantastic views of the whole Asakusa area. Just cross the bridge and you will see a big park across. The entrance fee is 300 Yen. What you can find inside will make you forget the entrance fee.
Fields of (Yellow) Gold! Literally. What a sight. I can only imagine what the whole park looks like during the climax of spring!
Plum blossoms were blooming!
Now after the walking we have done so far, we were hungry. Good news! The famous Tsukiji Fish Market was nearby (maybe a 10-min. walk). Most blogs and guides say that it is best to go during 6-9AM and line up for auction passes. But, seriously? We are just in it for the sushi!
Sushi joints in the “inner” loop of the market are generally more expensive and usually cost upwards of 5000 Yen for a set. The shops in the outskirts of the market are better value and are of the same quality (they come from the same market!). The premium comes from 3 things: name, chef, history. This was from Ryu Sushi, if I read the characters right.
This was how our set looked like and it cost around 2500 Yen. As with most of the food in Japan, we were left wanting. (tummy still grumbling).
After leaving still hungry, we retraced our steps back to Shiodome. We wanted to use the elevated train (Yurikamome Line) to our next destination: Odaiba. In doing so, we were unable to use our train pass and had to pay 440 Yen for the privilege. It was worth it: the train will give you breathtaking 360-degree views of Tokyo Bay.
Alight at any station after the bridge. The whole island is pretty much walk-able and will take a better part of your day.
Palette Town had a nice mall named Venus Fort (will keep the females occupied) and an amusement park to boot. Furthermore, Toyota’s Mega Web (will render males unconscious) theme park was here! In here, you can test drive (if you have an international permit) virtually anything from Toyota’s current vehicle roster, see a sea of Toyotas, buy limited edition racing stuff, and browse through a curated historical garage.
Due to the sheer amount of things to do in this island-city, we were unable to visit SEGA Tokyo Joypolis, Leisure Land, and a whoooole lot more. I highly recommend setting aside a full day (AM-PM) if you want to visit all of the spots.
It was a lof of fun, Odaiba!
That’s it for part 2 which pretty much covers the Asakusa and Odaiba areas.
Every week I make it a point to go hiking here in Kyoto, well, because I can! The city is surrounded by mountains and one of them is fairly accessibly by bike.
Daimonjiyama is just a 20-minute bike ride from Kyoto station or you can take a bus that will take you to Ginkakuji temple. Once you get to the front of Ginkakuji, make a left and then turn right on the first street. Follow your way up a steep hill and make a right on the first road you see. This will lead you to the trail.
It will take you about 30 minutes to get to the top, depending on your conditioning. Better strap on some hiking boots and pack some water.
Getting to the top just gives you an awesome view of the entire city! It’s all free by the way!
I redid my video today! Hope this can guide you on how to get to the top!
For the last part of oshogatsu (winter break), me and my friends decided to head on to nearby Nara. Nara is most popularly known in Japan for its free-roaming deer but the city also has a rich past. It is the first imperial capital of Japan and was established around 710. You can easily compare and contrast the shrines and structures here with those in other parts of Japan.
The city is small and easy to navigate for a day trip. From Kyoto, you can take the JR Nara line for 710 yen one way. The train ride is about 55 minutes long via the rapid train and about 1.2 hours via the local train. Getting around is best done on foot. For those who are in a rush, you can take the “Gurutto” bus (color red) which goes around the major tourist attractions for 100 yen per trip.
If you have ever dreamed about what it feels like to be in Memoirs of a Geisha and Rurouni Kenshin, then this is the shrine to go. It is considered as one of the big 3 shrines in Japan, alongside Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine and Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Taisha.
Any trip to Japan would largely be trivial without visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine (and Kyoto!). There is just nothing in the world like it.
Here’s how hatsumode (first Shinto shrine visit of the year) is done in Kyoto!