What is your favorite place in the world you’ve traveled to and why? Kyoto, Japan, hands down. The food is the best I’ve ever had in my life; you can wander into a little vending machine noodle shop and have the best bowl of ramen you’ve ever had in your life. – Brianne Garcia
Welcome to the future! At Ichiran, diners experience minimum human interaction. The process is simple: guests buy a meal ticket from a vending machine located at the front of the restaurant, find a vacant seat, customize their ramen soup order, press a button on the table and hand their order to wait staff.
While other ramen restaurants offer a jumble of ingredients like chicken or duck, Ichiran specializes in just one broth base: tonkotsu, a salted pork stock, which has served as the flavor foundation at this Japanese food chain since the ’60s. Diners can blend tonkotsu with homemade noodles, fresh vegetables and Ichiran’s Original Red Sauce, whose recipe is a well-guarded secret. Each bowl of ramen costs around $7.50, making Ichiran an affordable option for travelers on vacation.
Ichiran has eateries in 15 Japanese prefectures, the bulk of which are located on Honshu, the mainland. In Kyoto, a metropolis famous for its UNESCO-approved temples and stunning shrines, the restaurant group occupies a city-center location three minutes from Kawaramachi Station. A second restaurant, housed in a detached wooden building, is situated 14 miles away in Yawata, a small coastal city with an abundance of steel mills. Both of these Kyoto Prefecture establishments attract hungry vacation-goers who want quick, fuss-free grub in a casual setting. The decor is just as informal: hardwood floors, red stools and private booths. Ichiran restaurants are open 24 hours a day.
Address: Takoyakushi OKI Building 1F, 598 Uraderacho Higashiiru Takoyakushidori Nakagyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu, Japan, 604-8041
Address: 106-3 Yawataminamiyama Yawata-shi Kyoto-fu, Japan, 614-8054