A few days before my trip came to an end, my friend returned home to relieve me of my pet sitting duties. We exchanged news, catching each other up on the going ons in Hawaii and Japan, respectively. She was still on break from her teaching job, so she was kind enough to take me out on a local’s tour of Fujimino.
That night, while deciding on dinner, we came to the conclusion that we were both rather poor from the holidays. My friend scrounged through her drawers. “I have ramen.”
“I don’t like ramen,” I admitted with shame, for ramen is a staple not only in Japan but Hawaii as well. My friend wouldn’t accept such an answer, however, insisting that I’d never had really good ramen, and donning our winter wear we set off down the street to a tiny non-assuming ramen shop. After a short wait we were led to the bar, behind which several men cooked in large metal pots, partially shielded by a steadily rising curtain of steam. The menus were simple strips of paper with hand written symbols. I could understand the pricing but little else.
My friend placed our orders and it wasn’t long until our food was brought out. It was ramen as I’d never seen, thick noodles in a broth that seemed both creamy and meaty, garnished with a thick slice of pork, chopped green onions, and a whole sheet of nori. There was a large spoon for scooping broth, and of course chopsticks for the noodles. I tried slurping my noodles, as is the proper method in Japan, but it only succeeded in making a mess. It was delicious, of course, and I ate until I could eat no more, but even then I hadn’t managed to finish the enormous meal. I still don’t eat instant ramen, nor do I really care for the Hawaii gourmet kind, but I do look forward to eating authentic ramen once again in Japan.