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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Stories From Japan: Where's the Ramen?

Here's another story from Japan, back when I studied abroad in Kyoto for the summer in 2010.

This story takes place in the first week of my study abroad program. One of my goals going to Japan for the first time was to have a true "ramen experience." The only ramen I knew of at the time was the cup ramen and the packet ramen everybody in high school ate dry (still never understood that phase). I've seen ramen in Japanese dramas and anime, so I wanted to get a bowl of real ramen in Japan. This was before pocket wifi and sim cards were popular for your phone usage while traveling. I had to look for ramen the old fashion way.

I went out exploring the shopping district in Kyoto with a few classmates of mine. We first went to check out the huge department store we had passed on our tour of Kyoto. This store had about 8 floors to discover, including a floor that sold kimono and yukata. I didn't buy anything that day but one of my classmates bought a hat.
The department store we went in before searching for ramen.
After we were done there, we were starting to get hungry. We already knew we wanted ramen and we've heard rumors from some other classmates that there was a really good place near the shopping district of Shijo (we didn't know at the time, but we were on the wrong side of Shijo). So the four of us are just roaming the streets, not really knowing where we're going. We were pretty much just searching blindly for this ramen place. Instead of wasting anymore time we decided it would be a good idea to start asking people where to go. At the time my Japanese wasn't great and there were two other classmates with either no or very basic Japanese, so that left out only one other person and he actually had a really good grasp of the language before coming on this trip.
We took a wrong turn  and ended up getting lost somewhere in the back streets.
He ended up approaching two Japanese girls who were shopping and asked in Japanese where he could find ramen. For those of you who may or may not know Japanese, ramen has an extended "a" sound when pronouncing the word (ラーメン). My friend did not extend the "a" sound when he asked the girls, so they were looking at each other. They would repeat exactly what he said multiple times and continue looking puzzled at each other. My friend told me he said it right, and that he didn't understand why they were confused.

I told him to try again. He listened, but this time he extended the "a" sound, not to be correct but to emphasize that we were looking for "raamen." Once he said that, the girls looked like they finally knew what he was talking about. "Oh, raamen!" the girls said to each other. My friend turned back to me and the others in shock. We were just as shocked as he was. Who knew an extended sound would make the pronunciation correct. The two girls pointed in the direction ahead of us and told my friend the directions. He thought he understood most of it, but we ended up stopping at a 7-eleven to asked the clerk for further directions.

We finally found a place that sold ramen. It was a restaurant with a nice modern interior. The host brought us to our table and passed the menus. "I don't think this is the place guys," my friend said. All of us agreed that we had made a mistake somewhere trying to find the ramen place everyone was talking about. But it was getting late and we were very hungry, so we ended up staying at the restaurant and enjoying their beef ramen.
Everyone with their bowl of ramen. First ramen experience in Japan.
A week later, I went looking for the ramen shop we were trying to look for the first time with other set of people. That's when I realized we were on the wrong side of the street in Shijo. We needed to be on the Gion side of Shijo and follow the small canal, alleyway. I featured the ramen shop in my "12 Places to go in Kyoto" blog.

I hope you enjoyed this story. I really love telling this one to people because of how ridiculous it sounds. Even if you study Japanese and think you're really good at it, there is always room for more studying.

Thanks for reading! For more Japan related content, follow my social media: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I like to talk with everyone about Japan. Until next time!