Open 24 hours 7 days a week, Ichiran is probably the only ramen chain that I’d suggest you go if you’re ever in Japan. Despite the negative connotations that chain restaurants usually get, I definitely recommend you eat at Ichiran. Although there are Ichiran ramen shops all over Tokyo, I’ll be talking about the location in higashi or east Ikebukuro.
When you enter the shop, you’ll be faced with a ticket vending machine. If you’re new to Japan, these vending machines are pretty much a substitute for a cashier. But instead of paying at the end of your meal, you pay for a ticket in the beginning and hand the ticket to a worker. Oh by the way, if you’re ever at a restaurant that has a ticket vending machine like this, but there’s no pictures and it’s all in Japanese, I recommend just picking the item on the top left corner. Why? Apparently restaurants usually put their most popular dish on the top left corner. So if there’s no pictures and you can’t read Japanese, your safest bet is probably to choose the top left button. So first you insert your cash or coins into the machine. The digital 0 will turn into the amount of value you put into the machine. After insert your money, you push the button that you want. A ticket will then come out and the number will subtract the amount of the button you pushed. From this point, you can either order something else if you have enough money, or you can push the lever to collect your change. Oh, I recommend getting an extra portion of noodles because the portions are slightly small at Ichiran.
After getting your ticket, look for the seating chart on the wall. The digital seating chart shows you which seats are open via a sensor. This allows you to know which seats are free without actually going in for yourself. After you get seated, you’re handed a sheet of paper by the worker. I think they have several languages to choose from, including English. On this sheet, you can customize your ramen such as flavor strength of the soup, texture of the noodles, spiciness, etc. After finish filling out the sheet, you hand the ticket and sheet to the worker.
One difference between Ichiran’s tonkotsu ramen and other ramen shop’s ramen is the amount of oil in the soup. Unlike most ramen restaurants out there, Ichiran’s soup contains less oil. This may not be a big deal to most of us, but there are some people who get stomach aches if they eat food with too much oil. As for the ramen itself, it’s amazing. But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself. If you’re unsure of what to choose for the customization sheet, just check off the middle box to be safe. So if you’re ever in Ikebukuro and craving for some ramen, but don’t want to wait in a long line like at Mutekiya near the south exit, then check out Ichiran.
1-39-11 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima, Tokyo