Why Does Osaka Have so Few Ramen Shops?
Osaka, the city at the center of Japan's second-largest metropolitan area, is surprisingly known as a ramen wasteland. Sure, you can find good ramen there if you know where to look (see below), but the ramen shops are surprisingly sparse when compared to the rest of Japan. Read on to find out why.
Throughout all the prefectures in Japan, Osaka is 3rd from the bottom when it comes to the ratio of ramen shops to population
Out of the 47 prefectures in Japan, Osaka is ranked 45 for number of ramen shops for every 10,000 people. When it comes to the average amount of money a household spends on ramen every year, Osaka ranks even lower, at 46th place!
Osaka is known for its lively food culture, yet ramen never caught on there as it has throughout the rest of the country. Just why is that?
In Osaka, the noodle dish of choice for more than 400 years has been udon, which has reigned as the champion soul food for Osakans. Since a bowl of udon can be enjoyed for about ¥200, the much more expensive price of ramen has seemed unreasonably high to people from Osaka, who cherish their cheap yet delicious foods.
Also, dashi (broth) made from konbu and katsuo (bonito) is a staple of Osaka food culture, so the chicken and soy sauce broth of classic 'chuuka soba' ramen was initially too unfamiliar to suit the tastes of people in Osaka. In contrast, richer broths such as tonkotsu and miso were too strong, hiding the taste of the dashi.
Additionally, Osaka is the birthplace of 'Nissin,' producer of the world's first instant noodles, so the image of ramen as an instant food is quite strong there.
All of these reasons explain why ramen culture has never quite taken off in Osaka.
The shop's iconic bowl is the 'Osaka Black,' a jet black soy sauce ramen with a seafood base.
The shop has persevered by aiming to make the best shoyu ramen in the country, even while many said that it would never become popular there.
This year, Kinguemon celebrated its 20th-year anniversary. Many ramen chefs who trained at Kinguemon are starting to open their own popular shops which are beginning to breathe life into the Osaka ramen scene. It might not be too long before Osaka transforms from a ramen wasteland a ramen hot spot!
- I live in west Tokyo and spend most of my time thinking about food or going bouldering.