Ichiran Ramen

Kyoto, Japan | C.1960

Photo Credit: @hoaxymore

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This Japanese ramen restaurant is one of a vast chain that can be found all over Japan. Established as a humble ramen stall in Fukuoka 1960 called “Futaba Ramen”, this food service specialized in Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen made with a pork bone broth.  The original Futaba Ramen was so exclusive that it required a membership in order to dine there.

Futaba Ramen became Ichiran Ramen in 1966, and would serve food from just one location for three decades before opening a second location in 1993 that would serve as a template for the 65 shops that dot Japan today.

Each Ichiran restaurant is designed to block out distractions so that customers will concentrate solely on appreciating the ramen. Only counter seating is available, and each seat is compartmentalized with dividers on each side and a set of bamboo curtains in front so that you barely see the wait staff behind the counter. Traditionally, you were supposed to be able to order without seeing or talking to anyone.

Ichiran would not make it to the U.S. until 2016, when a noodle factory and restaurant was opened in Brooklyn, New York City. The restaurant imports all of its ingredients from its native Japan, which made it difficult to expand to a U.S. market that has strict regulations and logistical challenges. Other than New York, Ichiran has only expanded to Hong Kong and Taipei.

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