Ramen 101: What does Honkaku mean?

Ramen 101: What does Honkaku mean?

Welcome to Ramen 101, an ongoing series that lays out everything you need to know about ramen to go from instant-only experience to full-fledged expert.


Just stare at that word for a bit. Really take it in. It’s about to change your life - or at least the way you eat ramen.

Honkaku is a common word in Japan that will become more common in the US as ramen becomes more popular, which means after reading this post you’ll officially be ahead of the curve.

So without further ado, what does Honkaku mean?

To start, Honkaku is most commonly translated as “authentic,” and you might also see translations like “fundamental,” “genuine,” or “original.”

But while those are all essentially accurate definitions, they don’t really capture the spirit of the Honkaku, and that spirit is essential. Honkaku isn’t just a word, it’s an ethos, a way of living and working that carries a commitment to always doing your very best without compromises or shortcuts.

Ramen Hero Honkaku ramen
Photo by Caroline Attwood

Here, maybe it will help to use some real world examples.

  • Lebron James is already one of the greatest players ever, but he’s still obsessed with his health and constantly works on improving so he can give the sport he loves his all. That’s Honkaku.
  • The painter Yves Klein devoted much of his work solely to color, spending years painstakingly creating exactly the precise shade of blue he envisioned. That’s Honkaku.
  • Prince played 27 instruments on his debut album, For You, so he could ensure every note sounded perfect. That’s Honkaku.
  • The way your mom cooks her famous apple pie when you visit for the holidays. The way an expectant parent carefully folds the baby’s clothes in preparation. The way we slow cook each batch of ramen broth for 12 hours. Everything done with that uncompromising sense of dedication and care is Honkaku.

Honkaku isn’t inaccessible or elitist, anyone can be Honkaku - if they’re willing to put the work in. After all, Honkaku is about more than just the result, it’s about the process; although the best results tend to come from the most uncompromising processes.

Honkaku is also a guiding principle for Ramen Hero. It determines the way we make our ramen, the way we treat our employees, and the impact we strive to have on the world. Every noodle, every topping, even every picture we post, we’re constantly striving to be as Honkaku as possible at all times. Most importantly, we invite you to join the movement. The only thing you need to start is to find your inner Honkaku and let it shine.

We hope that gave you a solid foundation in all things Honkaku. Stay tuned for our next Ramen 101 post where we’ll go deep on what specifically makes ramen Honkaku, or not. Until then, happy slurping!

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