Tag Archives: Muteppou


It’s been a while since I wrote something really inspired, but this Tuesday offered plenty of topics. After a nice sleep of 13 hours I was completely revitalized after my weekend mishaps and decided to browse local outdoor basketball courts. What drove me to this was my lack of proper conditioning which could prove fatal to the Epic ASM’11 Basketball Team in as little as two months’ time. A harsh training routine was therefore in order. Thanks to courtsoftheworld.com, two locations were quickly identified: the famous Yoyogi park as well as a more obscure and smaller Jordan court in Mitake.

I had my doubts about the latter, and although it was slightly closer to work, I was fully prepared to go to Yoyogi, were Jordan park to turn into a disappointment. My fears were not completely unwarranted, as a despicable standard practice in Japanese society raised its head. The Jordan court was only open during work hours, i.e 10 to 5, after which the caged streetball court was closed, locked and left to rot. I walked around the court a couple of times cussing loudly in disbelief. I did it all in Finnish so it accidentally opened a portal to hell. Moving on. Basketball courts are already a rarer commodity in Japan than cheese, yet decision-makers feel like preventing people from using public facilities more than 7 hours a day. What the fuck, honestly.

All work and no play makes Jack... pretty damn irritated

I subsequently resumed my scouting trip and headed to Yoyogi park, a supposedly bulletproof option. On the way, I crossed the path of the Girls’ Generation marketing bus that was playing the Japanese version of Gee Gee at full volume in the streets of Harajuku. I cycled beside it and stopped in traffic a couple of times to take pictures, effectively strengthening my established position as possibly the worst nerd ever. In my defense, there were many local otakus around trying to claim that very spot. As far as actual music was concerned, the Japanese version couldn’t hold a candle to the original.

Gee Gee Gee Gee Baby Baby Baby Baby (sit se luuppaa)

After that brilliant coincidence I finally made it to the Yoyogi basketball area where lots of Japanese several years younger and many times more adept at the sport than me were gathered to shoot trickshoths. Lacking a ball of my own, I sneaked in to play with some koukouseis who claimed to be beginners. Their definition was, amazingly, correct, and not just false modesty. It was uncharacteristically cold and windy for late May, and my sleeveless second hand shirt was not enough to keep me from freezing, so after a few 3 on 3s and OvDs I was back on my way. Although I then proceeded to go to the weekly Muteppou dinner and head straight to the gym afterwards, I’ll instead post an anachronistic picture of the Tetsuya shouyu ramen meal from a few weeks prior. It was delicious.

I am gonna miss these so much in two months

The updates have been erratic and shorter than usual for a while but I’m going on a work trip to Hiroshima on Monday so that should open some fresh blogging topics that may, or may not interest anyone.


“Say ‘Nevermore,'” said Shadow. “Fuck you,” said the Ramen.

The “early to rise, early to sushi” plan ended up in a disaster twice as I don’t really enjoy waking up in the middle of the night. Nevertheless, the hopeless attempts will resume when Tsukiji reopens.

In other news, ramen. I’ve tested three new places during the first half of Golden Week and a two thirds can be labeled as worthwhile visits. Right after leaving the One Piece Dome Tour I stumbled into a noodle chain that I had pre-scouted and was aching to try. Garufu Ramen (我流風ラーメン) had been mentioned in a couple of ramen blogs earlier as a Kagoshima-style ramen shop with a tonkotsu broth and high-quality pork. I have a very pragmatic approach to ramen, and therefore have no idea what Kagoshima style really incorporates, but tonkotsu and pork are the few requirements that need to be filled for me to start frothing. It really doesn’t take much.

Scorch pork slices -> ??? -> Profit

The place had a small queue, although there was clearly a lot of space at the counter, so I guess they were just busy. Once seated five minutes later, I ordered the tonkotsu ramen with extra slices of aburi chashuu. Aburi chashuu appeared to be high-quality fatty pork that had been slightly grilled in some way (later investigation points towards the use of a blowtorch). The noodles were pretty standard-sized straight noodles and the broth was really bland tonkotsu when compared to Muteppou, but then again, so is every broth. The true substance of the meal was clearly the chashuu, although it did not completely justify the ¥1280 price tag. Garufu remains, however, a positive experience as a whole.

After failing to wake up early on the 30th and in order not to waste the day completely I devised another culinary adventure, this time to another highly touted noodle shop. The very_appetizingly_named Junk Garage was located far north in Saitama, so the lunch ended up being quite expensive. The place is known for their soupless noodles, or 特製まぜそば (tokusei mazesoba), which essentially resemble a pile of leftovers thrown into a bowl.

The most sofisticated looking meal east of Kuopio

I wasn’t fully prepared for the effort, and therefore only managed to ask for fat and garlic as extra toppings, as I both didn’t know what was available and didn’t dare inquire. The older connoisseur next to me ordered all toppings with additional double garlic and gave me a lingering feeling of inadequacy in the process. Although the looks of the meal had earlier been described as “the wrong end of a hangover“, the taste was indirectly proportional to the visual appeal of the meal. The medley of noodles, fat, soy sauce, oil, mayonnaise, chashuu, egg, sprouts, onions and spices really hit the spot. I might not conduct a business lunch at Junk Garage, but that’s more due to the mechanics surrounding business meetings in general than personal preference. Delicious junk.

In preparation for Monday, I had located another supposedly delicious ramen shop in Nakano. Kiraboshi Manten (きら星満天) had been specifically recommended to me by the tenin of Muteppou when I had complained about the latter being closed on Mondays; expectations were high. The weather could best be described as ideal and the cycling distance of roughly five kilometers served as a sunny, appetite increasing hors d’oeuvre.

From left to right: chashuu on rice, fishy ramen and hidden kara-age

Difficulties began upon entering the shop. Although the ticket-dispenser offered a bowl of tonkotsu ramen together with one piece of kara-age as a cheap set, there was no apparent way to order additional slices of chashuu. I was left with the next best option, chashuu in a bowl of superfluous carbohydrates that the Japanese so love, rice. On the positive side, the price of the meal was acceptable at ¥1050 (830+220) and the large piece of kara-age was incredibly tasty. The problem lied herein: the tonkotsu ramen was accompanied by a dollop of grey fish paste that left the entire bowl with an intensely salty and fishy taste. In addition to not being exactly the flavor I was looking for in a pork bone broth, the shop itself was swimming in this pungent odor. While certainly effective as an insect killer, it also somewhat made me lose my appetite. Out of all the ramen I have eaten to this day, Kiraboshi Manten offered the first iteration of something that was clearly not devised for my taste buds. I would return there to feast on the kara-age, though.




La complainte de l’heure de pointe

Cycling produces so many stories daily that it would kill me to report them all, but what happened on Thursday alone caused me to generate enough bile to be worth mentioning. It appears that unified regional elections are coming up in Japan, something which can no longer be ignored anywhere when traveling around. This is due to the fact that Japanese live in a world torn in two: In the world of balance nobody says a thing, and in the world of ruin all communication consists of yells and grunts. The vans that drive around the city with loudspeakers repeating the name of their supported political candidate forever are part of the fucking world of ruin.

My day started on a really bad note when I got stuck in traffic behind a slow-driving bullshit-spouting van just before arriving at work. I know that after what happened in Finland a week ago it’s just a pot and kettle issue but is there seriously any merit in campaigning by only raising awareness of a candidate’s name? Especially when the method raises irritation levels accordingly. “Ooh, a name! Sounds great! I’ll vote for that name!”

The part that completely destroyed me and almost made me fall of my bike was when I ran into three campaign assistants in my neighborhood later in the evening. Again, their sole purpose was to wave, smile, and repeat the name of their candidate in keigo while riding bikes. Only, this time, there was nobody out to hear them, which made into a spectacular performance in futility.


I have alluded before to the fact that cyclists are essentially above the law in Japan, not entirely unlike Steven Seagal is in his movies. Traffic lights don’t apply to cyclists, and neither do car lanes. The pavement is essentially a no man’s land where survival of the fittest is the reigning life philosophy. While I take advantage of these characteristics all the time, I do take great pride in seeing where I’m going. I can’t stress how important this is. Many a day have I had the urge to yell at people unable to leave their goddamn mobile phones alone while cycling and who consequently swirl wildly in every direction.

Today, there was a different type of retard who just suddenly swerved from the pavement to the car lane without looking and almost run into me. The guy didn’t bother turning his head to see if there was someone coming from behind and, in addition, he had noise-cancelling earphones on. What the fuck? There are two senses needed to know what happens around you when riding a bike, vision and hearing. If you can’t bother using the former and just arbitrarily cancel the other, I am required, by law, to run you over. Why do people have to behave like tools?

Luckily, one cyclist managed to provide me with entertainment as well. As I was cycling home from my weekly Muteppou ramen dinner, I was overtaken by a policeman who was hauling ass on his bike. It was dark so obviously no front light – which is required by law – was needed. Clearly this wasn’t standard procedure, as only seconds later he burst into ongoing traffic and ran through a red light just to prove my earlier point. What I realized two minutes later was that he had caught up with a car and was reprimanding the driver about something or other. It didn’t really occur to me to pull over and ask for details.

Let’s recapitulate: He drove at the maximum speed his legs allowed with no protection or lights while breaking every imaginable traffic law within the time span, only to catch up with someone who had presumably committed a minor infraction. That’s either an incredible expression of diligence or a ridiculous attempt to exert authority. I’ll never know which, but in any case I couldn’t contain my laughter for a good while afterwards.

Update: JapanProbe also posted an article that proves I’m not alone with my opinion on the campaigning methods of Japanese politicians. One of the finest examples of drunken gaijin behavior.


Suddenly, Ramen – Part Deux

The world of ramen should be a nice place, so in order to make up for lashing out last time I’ll focus this post on praising a couple of my favourite noodly entrepots. Well, only one, really.

Muteppou was an incredible find. I stumbled upon it during my not-so-short exile in Osaka. Not physically, though, I found it on Google Maps, which isn’t quite as romantic. Yet little did that change the ultimate outcome of my first visit, which led me to falling in love with the place. After initially locating the venue, I moseyed there only to find a queue of people standing in the street for no apparent reason. I walked past a few times looking like an idiot just to make sure they were doing the exact thing I was frightened of, queuing for my noodles. That was not a euphemism, by the way. I was more curious than hungry at the time so I queued for half an hour and eventually enjoyed slurping the best noodles in my life so far. I left the premises stuffed, burpy and wondering if I would ever feel like going there again. Then I repeated the procedure on the following day. And the day after that.


My visits to the Muteppou in Osaka were all quite interesting. At the time I had just began getting over my flu, and therefore my nose was slightly less clogged up each day, leading me to gradually get a better taste every visit before eventually going back to Tokyo.

It’s also quite ridiculous that there is exactly one Muteppou in Osaka and one in Tokyo. The one in Osaka was next to my hotel in Nipponbashi, and the one in Tokyo is on the way home from work, in Egota. These cities can’t really be classified as the smallest in the world, either. It’s like winning the tonkotsu-lottery. Twice. I know if something like that did exist, I’d be the first – and probably only – one to participate.

Muteppou offers a tonkotsu broth that is, for lack of a better word, rich. This is partly explained by the restaurant using 300 kilograms of meaty pork bones for broth each day. As you sit at the counter you can observe the huge vats of raw pork bones in their kitchen for kicks. The result of this grotesque amount of bones is that the broth at Muteppou is so thick and rich that it’s far closer to gravy in consistency than to standard ramen broth. And this is not an exaggeration but an objective observation.

The stores function in exactly the same way in both locations. There is a vending machine at the entrance for picking the desired meal. Once you have ticket in hand to submit for your favorite noodle feast you will be asked a question in three parts. The inquiry goes “how would you like it?” and refers to the chewyness of the noodles (katame = al dente / normal / yawarakame = overcooked), the richness of the broth (kotteri = rich / normal / assari = bland) and the amount of spring onions you want thrown in. Because apparently the broth isn’t meaty and greasy enough as is, they also throw some pork back fat on the top for good measure. Exquisite. I’ve found heaven, too bad there’s a queue.

Close-up of spring onions and fat at Egota. Actual noodles are well hidden underneath

My personal favorite and coincidentally the only one I’ve ever tried, the chashuu tonkotsu ramen, costs ¥900 in Osaka and ¥1000 in Tokyo. It includes a large bowl of  meaty pork bone broth, around 12 slices of chashuu (they count them, not me) and a normal serving of noodles. Kaedama (extra serving of noodles) cost ¥100 per serving, or ¥150 with some added chashuu. The taste is exactly the same at both shops, and the advantage of Tokyo is that until now I have not yet encountered a real queue.

In addition, one of the ten-ins at Egota is slightly too enthusiastic and wants to make sure that the gaijin curiosity fully enjoys his meal. He repeats the performance with every customer to some extent, but he actually follows me out in the street every time to ask for feedback on how the broth tasted on that specific visit. I guess the remote location doesn’t really attract foreigners, especially in this day and time. He also seemed quite impressed at my limited knowledge in famous tonkotsu ramen shops as well as flattered by my repetitive praise of their noodles. It would be more difficult for me not to praise them. It is by far the best noodle broth combination I have eaten anywhere. The shop clerk actually asked me if I’m not beginning to get tired of the taste. I retorted that two visits a week is perfect. I can hardly wait for tomorrow.