About an hour’s drive south of Fukuoka city, there’s a small family run ramen restaurant my wife has been raving about, which her family have frequented for years. So on our last day before flying back to Australia, my wife decides we should drop in for lunch, I’m not too sure what to expect, other than being a strict vegetarian I doubt I’ll be eating – but I’m keen to take a look either way.
We pull up in the car park and as I try to figure out where the place is I’m led to a door, which looks anything but a restaurant could be on the other side.
We head on in and the overpowering smell of pork bone broth, soon takes a back seat to the character and charm of the place. There’s nothing in particular that’s special here, so much so that it’s near perfect.
As my wife fronts up to the counter I can’t help but think this is the Japan tourists should be putting on their itineraries. An unpretentious place not trying to be anything other than what it has set out to be, while giving you a glimpse into daily life.
I begin to take it all in. The Father overseeing the restaurant from out the back, briefly making an appearance to see how many people are coming through the door. The Mother making sure customers are attended to and all is as it should be. The ‘forever apprentice’ son cooking away under watchful eyes.
The 3 employees (family friends) are sitting down at the table peeling garlic preparing for a busy night ahead, in between watching some NHK drama on the television.
The customers while we are there are known by name and also exactly how they like their ramen. It’s not a young crowd and this is not exactly a new hip restaurant. It’s fair to say I didn’t see any phones coming out to photograph meals prior to eating. As conversation ebbs and flows around the room it’s soon met by silence as their ramen promptly arrives.
As for the taste? Well my wife and father-in-law say it’s as good a bowl of ramen as you’re likely to eat – I’ll take their word for it.
On exiting the restaurant I’m greeted with the feeling you get when you’ve just lost yourself in an early session at the cinema and you realise it’s still daylight and you’re not too sure what’s just happened to the time.
As a frequent visitor to Japan, It would be nice to see a bit more of the ‘everyday Japan’ promoted overseas. A simple visit to a ramen stall like this can be a refreshing change far removed from what you’re likely to read about as a tourist draw card. This is a place that’s memorable because it’s ordinary, a place for the average and a place for anyone and everyone who has spare-time to throw a bowl of ramen down their throat.
So if you are ever visiting Japan, make the effort to dig a little deeper and I’m sure you will be rewarded.