Tag Archives: Hiroo

Instance Noodles

You Are Not Prepared!

I spent most of the midsummer days preparing to move house from Nakamurabashi to Hiroo. After a tedious dragging of luggage around the city on Saturday, I relaxed for a couple of hours before heading to Heiwajima Park for a Finno-Swedish midsummer party complete with bonfire, sauna, barbecue and drinks. As I couldn’t be certain whether or not anyone would be attending, I entered the premises empty-handed and needed a quick trip to the ever-so-useful nearby Don Quixote to replenish my resources.

During the long evening I managed to meet several nice and interesting people. Besides encountering a couple of Japanese girls who were part of the national women’s floorball team (out of maybe 100 practitioners of the sport here in total) and were moving to some kind of Köping in Sweden to get better at the trade, the evening was a relatively standard Nordic estival drinking session. In addition, it served as a catalyst for some more culinary adventures. The rest of this post will be a storyteller’s nightmare, mainly because I will be posting pictures of unrelated ramen dishes in a seemingly arbitrary manner until my phone’s memory is empty again.

Becoming a Pastafarian

A couple of weeks ago, I managed to avoid my weekly Muteppou trap and found a new tonkotsu ramen place worth visiting, Yottekoya at Ebisu station. Their tonshio (pork-salt broth) ramen was excellent, and I went out on a limb again by purposefully ordering the dish with double chashuu slices. Although I have no complaints about the rest of the bowl whatsoever, what really made my day were the said thick slices of pork. Extremely tasty and fatty, they had been lightly broiled and were by far the best chashuu in any ramen restaurant I’ve visited so far.

My only regret that day is that I managed to bypass another type of broth on the menu until after I had finished my bowl: The ジェノバラーメン (Jenova ramen). That’s my own romanization. There is close to no chance that the meal was actually referring to the Calamity from the Skies, but as a Final Fantasy reference-nerd I now have two reasons to return to Yottekoya, pronto.

Salivation, salivation, salivation is here.

My next ramen discovery had been sitting next to my home station of Nakamurabashi the whole time, but I had never been courageous enough to enter the small, homely shop before. Also, it had been closed most of the time. I don’t even know the name of the place. Faithful to my ways, I ordered the tonkotsu bowl with double chashuu slices and dug in. Although the food was enjoyable, the shop could not keep up in quality with the more famous ramen restaurants. The chashuu was straight from the refrigerator and tasted like anything I could have found in the nearby Seiyu supermarket. The broth was quite salty and the noodles were closer to the instant variety than fresh ones. All in all a decent bowl of salt and grease after a night out, wouldn’t return for taste.

Full speed ahead, captain.

Returning to the midsummer weekend, one of the Finnish attendees who had lived in Japan for north of 10 years told me about a famous Hakata ramen chain called Ichiran. Supposedly “the best”, Ichiran takes the antisocial aspect of ramen eating so far that restaurants give a small walled piece of counter to each visiting enthusiast. Functioning in a way similar to horse blinders, the visual and physical seclusion from the outside world ideally allows for people to concentrate solely on the greatness of ramen. The idea intrigued me.

Yesterday, during my afternoon exploration walk in Azabu-Juban and Roppongi, I eventually realized I was close enough to the local Ichiran branch that I could try finding it without a map. Long story short, you don’t find stuff in Japan without a map. What did happen, though, was that I walked past a very appetizing noodle shop called Kohmen. I thought it was a tsukemen shop, but what I ordered, the 熟成光麺(jukuseikohmen) with all toppings, was something I can’t quite define. Noodles in a standard ramen broth, with all toppings set aside on a separate plate. Kohmen’s homepage qualifies the place as a Chinese style noodle shop, which basically translates to ramen. Only the presentation was different. And since I just shoveled all the toppings straight into the broth bowl anyway, the difference was limited to Kohmen dirtying one extra plate.


As a disclaimer, I was pretty damn hungry. The light, salty broth and thin, curly noodles tasted excellent and fit perfectly together. The plate of toppings included half of a 味付け卵 (seasoned egg), two thick slices of fatty chashuu, bamboo shoots, spring onion slices, a sheet of nori and some crisp, oil-cooked garlic slices. I was also allowed to choose one additional item from a service menu and opted for an extra egg. Other choices included an extra serving of noodles, a small bowl of rice, a small dessert or something weird that was sold out but had been left on the menu to make children cry. I could still have used more toppings, but the quality of the meal coupled with its reasonable price (¥990) made me a believer. Upon leaving I also received a ¥100 coupon to make sure I return to Kohmen. That would not have been necessary.




Yesterday evening I was at home watching Tokyo University entrance results on television and immensely enjoying the fact that the general reactions of students seemed to coincide with what I had read in several shounen manga stories. Today, I was supposed to spend a generic day at work and go to the local Hiroo 7/11 afterwards to inquire as to why there had been a goddamn toenail in my bento box on Tuesday.

As all of those who have followed the news lately can probably foresee, that was not going to happen. When I say foresee I mean blogifically, not historically.


I had felt an insignificant tremor on Tuesday, something that I had at first believed to be a co-worker rubbing a pencil eraser vigorously on the table at the other side of the cubicle wall. While I did eventually correctly identify the phenomenon as a slight earthquake, it had not prepared me in the least for what was to occur on Friday.

It is very difficult to me to accurately depict the chain of events that happened closer to the epicenter, so I will content myself with reporting what I experienced at our office in Hiroo, Tokyo. I began writing a quick update to this blog at 14:48 local time during my late lunch break in order to notify people that I had finally managed to get the old Kansai material back online. Simultaneously, a shaking very similar to the one I had gone through a couple of days prior, began. It rapidly escalated into a more serious type of trembling that prompted me to stop my current activities and seek some instructions from the few co-workers present in the building at that specific moment. I also realized by that point that I had gone through no procedures concerning potential earthquakes, and while I did know where the escape route was, I had not properly grasped the magnitude that a quake needed to attain before the secret passage could be used.

Luckily, soon after I had finished putting my shoes on as a preparative measure, we were all given the suggestion to evacuate to the ground level from our 6th floor office. The interpretation was different depending on the party involved, however. A couple of co-workers rushed down, while another colleague suggested that I could go down as well. Or not. Apparently it was up to personal preference. For some reason, one of our employees stayed at his desk and continued working, content and uninterrupted. After a couple of minutes spent outside to (incorrectly) assess that the worst had passed, the rest of us also returned to the office and resumed whatever we had been doing.

It did not take long for the earthquake to counterattack, however, and in less that half an hour we found ourselves on the streets again, this time also accompanied by the heroic colleague who had silently refused to descend the first time, all trembling due to adrenaline reserves having quickly become depleted. I say all not to sound like a pansy but it could just as well only have been me. I actually needed a soda from a nearby vending machine to muster enough energy for the tedious climb back up. It is inferred in the previous sentence that we did climb back up again. Here, I just spelled it out for you.

Once again, we were at the office and all four of us returned to our daily chores, not bothered about what had just happened. Twice. Eventually, though, as an increasing number of public announcement cars were driving around the ward warning inhabitants about tsunamis and ambulance sirens were getting ever louder, someone introduced us to the idea of everybody returning home.

The Aftermath

I was originally supposed to meet Basti at 6:30 at the Hachiko exit in Shibuya for a couple of standard Friday beers but he had been unreachable since the beginning of the earthquake and supposedly working on the 27th floor in an unknown building somewhere in southern Tokyo. In retrospect, I should never had assumed that the original  plan was still in motion, but at that time I failed to realize how a seemingly minor earthquake like that could prevent us from enjoying a few beers. How wrong i was.

According to anyone I asked, nobody had ever experienced an earthquake like this. Neither in magnitude nor length. And to put things in perspective, the Japanese earthquake scale goes up to 7, and while it was 7 in the regions which were close to the epicenter, it only reached a 5 within the Tokyo metropolis. To put it bluntly, we had been lucky.

Realizing that by that point all trains had been canceled and the streets were jammed with panicky citizens trying to drive or take cabs home, I really had no other alternative left than to go to Shibuya anyway and try to pass the time until trains would begin running again.Walking towards Shibuya station in this ethereal atmosphere was indeed a novel experience. Japanese people were incredibly calm, and the only reason to suspect this was a day different from any other was that there were many times more people on the streets than usually, and an incredible amount of people, even by Japanese standards, were texting while walking. One technology zealot went as far as attempting to text with two phones at once.

I arrived at Shibuya station about an hour and a half before I was originally supposed to, so I decided to have a snack and savour the general atmosphere for a while. In order to avoid sounding like an insensitive prick at this point, although it might already be too late, I have to emphasize that I had no idea of the gravity of the situation; I had been cut from all international media outlets since leaving the office and Japanese TV broadcasts did not really get through my thick skull.

Shortly after hearing an announcement that nothing train or metro related would improve for at least a “couple of hours”, I bumped into a random Canadian guy who I ended up befriending while waiting for Basti to potentially show up at the rendez-vous point. After watching the disaster news at a nearby bar for close to an hour, we decided to go for dinner. It only took us a couple of minutes outside before we ran into Basti and a friend of his by sheer coincidence. He had assumed the plan had automatically been called off when the biggest earthquake in Japanese history hit, but I was not so lenient. Appointments need to be kept no matter the circumstances.


The rest of the night was interesting but deviates too much from the main story to be told in detail. We enjoyed a couple of beers, met up with a pathological liar who was “an architect” and “worked over there”, notions he repeated at least half a dozen times during the evening for a purpose that remained unclear to me, and eventually split up to head home.

The problem about heading home was that trains weren’t running and I didn’t really feel like walking 16 kilometers back to Nerima. Instead, I opted to walk back to the office and hope for either the emergency exit still to be open or the elevator to be reinstated. I stopped at several 24/7 combinis on the way only to realize that shelves had been emptied of all lunchboxes and other instant foods by foraging citizens who had slowly spiraled into panic and gone properly mad with overestimating their nourishment needs. For undisclosed reasons, nobody had bothered buying some of the most nutritious products available such as almonds and nuts, which were left for me to scavenge.

Around midnight I finally reached the office, which was still open thanks to a colleague who had stayed behind. We enjoyed some instant noodles before I decided to spend the rest of the night writing about the events of an exceptionally unique day while they were still fresh in my mind. There are still constant aftershocks as well.


P.S. I was also interviewed for Le Temps in French but I have no idea if they will ever use any of that material.