All images ©John Hirai
As most of you might know, ramen is originally from China. The first ramen shop opened 1910 in Tokyo and spread around all over Japan after World War II. Almost every region or city has their own style of ramen. It has become a deep part of the Japanese culture.
Japanese are known for adapting something from another culture or country, refining it and making it better where it originally came from. The same happened with ramen and Tokyo is the only city in Japan, where you can try various types of ramen.
Since people around me know that I at least go to 100 new ramen shops a year, they always ask me for recommendations. “Which is the BEST tonkotsu or miso ramen restaurant in Tokyo?” or “Which is the BEST ramen shop in Shibuya?”, which is actually a tough question to answer because everyone has a certain preference when it comes down to ramen.
Also, the better ramen shops in Tokyo are usually not in the popular areas where tourists stay or go to. One of the reasons why is because of the high rent of these areas. A simple bowl of ramen is somewhere between 700〜800 yen (US $7 or € 6) in any area, so it’s not a smart business decision to open a shop where the rent is so high.
The normal ramen shokunin (chef) would want to spend more money on the ingredients rather than the rent. So, if you want to have a good bowl of ramen, you would normally need to take a good train or bus ride from where you are staying at.
Here is a list of my top 20 ramen shops in Tokyo excluding one’s with a star from Michelin:
DOTONBORI at Narimasu https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1322/A132204/13003812/
- Everything here is handmade by owner/chef all by himself. Ramen inspired by the famous Higashi Ikebukuro Taishoken but took it to the next level. Shoyu ramen with rich broth using pork, chicken, dried sardine, dried bonito and vegetables.
AOSHIMA SHOKUDO at Akihabara https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1310/A131001/13094776/
- Main store is in Nagaoka city, Niigata prefecture. Called Nagaoka style ginger shoyu ramen. Uses large amount of ginger for broth. Thinly sliced chashu. soft menma, flat wrinkled noodles and a bit of MSG.
RAMEN DAISHI at Ochanomizu https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1310/A131002/13042832/
- Owner is trying to create the pinnacle of simple Tokyo style shoyu ramen, which he has. Nothing seems special about this ramen but have a sip of the soup and you know that this is not your average Tokyo style shoyu ramen.
GOEMON at Nishi Hachioji https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1329/A132904/13019588/
- Hachioji style shoyu ramen. What makes Hachioji style different from other Tokyo shoyu ramen is the chopped fresh onions in it.
UCHOKU at Ogikubo https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1319/A131906/13229952/
- Opened end of 2018 serving tsukemen with noodles soaked in konbu (kelp) water. Sensitive shoyu dipping soup, which perfectly matches with the flat thin whole wheat flour noodles.
TAKINOGAWA TAISHOKEN at Ikebukuro https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1305/A130501/13180125/
- This is the sister shop of the famous Higashi Ikebukuro Taishoken, but the broth is richer and much tastier than the original shop. Side dish of MENMA CHASHU are a must order as well.
MEN TAKAHASHI at Akabane https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1323/A132305/13003780/
- Broth is similar to Dotonbori but uses much more katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and a bit richer. Most customers order tsukemen but their ramen is as good as well. Excellent meaty chashu.
RAMEN MINMIN at Kanegafuchi https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1312/A131203/13017949/
- Only opened during lunch, known for Shio ramen with paako (deep fried pork chops) and chashu. Bit oily so ask for little less oil in the soup.
MOTENASHI KUROKI at Akihabara https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1310/A131001/13127743/
- Famous for their delicate Shio ramen. Before starting his ramen shop, owner chef was executive chef of the one of the largest restaurant groups in Japan.
GORYOKAKU at Ogikubo https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1319/A131906/13154596/
- Serves Hakodate style Shio ramen. Super clear broth, full of konbu (dried kelp) flavor to it. Also IKA GOHAN (squid rice) another Hakodate dish, goes great with the ramen.
HATSUNE at Nishi Ogikubo https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1319/A131907/13000717/
- Almost 100% of the customer order TANMEN (shio ramen with stir-fried vegetables). Simple clear broth soup but stir-fried vegetables balances the bowl perfectly.
TONARI at Marunochi and other locations https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1302/A130201/13111899/
- Serves TANMEN but unlike Hatsune, their broth is milky tonkotsu. Tons of stir-fried vegetables in it. This is a 2nd brand of the famous tsukemen shop, Rokurinsha.
RAMEN JIRO at Koiwa and other locations https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1317/A131715/13010417/
- Fat, rich pork soup, extra thick noodles with lots of MSG. Each store owner has trained at one of the locations and every location tastes different from one another. My favorites are Kaminoge, Koiwa, Kanana Ichinoe and Jinbocho. Least favorite are the original store at Mita and also stores at Shinjuku and Ikebukuro.
SENRIGAN at Komaba Todaimae https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1318/A131811/13099150/
- Ramen Jiro inspired ramen. Normal ramen is great but their original HIYASHI CHUKA (cold ramen with vegetables) which is available only during the summer, is by far the best hiyashi chuka I ever had.
RAMEN HIIKI at Kamata https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1315/A131503/13217922/
- The best IEKEI ramen (Yokohama style pork/chicken broth ramen) in Tokyo. Until they opened last year, you had to go to Yokohama to have a good bowl of IEKEI ramen.
MENYA SHICHISAI at Hachobori https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1302/A130203/13184399/
- Only ramen shop in Japan which noodles are handmade every time there is an order. Originally known for Kitakata style shoyu ramen, but their NIBOSHI flavor ramen (dried sardine) is what you want to try. Great meaty chashu as well.
EZOGIKU at Okachimachi & Takadanobaba https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1311/A131101/13003636/
- First Sapporo style miso ramen to open in Tokyo back in 1968. Old school miso ramen but this place became the standard of Sapporo style miso ramen in Tokyo. Add some of the spicy miso paste on the table to give it a bit more flavor.
MENSOKEN KURENAI at Fuchu & Koganei https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1326/A132602/13114072/
- For spicy miso ramen, there is the famous Nakamoto with multiple stores in the city, but this is another place you want to try. Noodle cut in various shapes and thickness with boiled vegetables on top.
BINGIRI at Ogikubo https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1319/A131906/13126311/
- Serves KATSUURA TANTAN MEN (shoyu ramen cover with chinese chili oil, stir-fried ground pork & diced onions, leek and Sichuan pepper). Originally created by a Chinese restaurant in Katsuura city in Chiba prefecture. Has become the soul food for the people in Katsuura, but Binkiri’s is better than any shop there.
HASHIGO at Akasaka, Ginza and Toranomon https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1308/A130802/13022552/
- Open til 1am on weekdays, one of the most popular ramen shops to go to in the center of Tokyo, if you are still hungry after dinner and drinks. They serve DANDAN MEN, which is how they call it but it’s actually Tantan men (spicy ramen) without using any sweat sesame paste like most places do. You can choose the level of spiciness from not spicy to extra spicy. Try the one with deep fried pork chop, PAAKO DANDAN MEN.