He will introduce us to some of the latest ramen trends in the world. Ramen Guide Japan is currently serving as a Guest Editor at Ramen Hero. He introduce Japanese cutting-edge ramen trend in the world. If you are interested in his other content, you can check out Ramen Guide Japan!
One of the things that makes ramen so interesting is how open the dish is to different styles and iterations. There are countless ramen styles in Japan and many of them are specific to one of 47 prefectures of Japan. For example, the Hakata ramen traces its roots to Fukuoka prefecture where the style reigns supreme as well as the creamy pork based Tokushima Ramen with a raw egg yolk, a favorite among Tokushima residents with countless shops serving the style there.
However, one of the problems with having such a vast and unique ramen culture spanning the 47 prefectures is that it is difficult (and expensive!) to travel to all of these different locations. Fear not however! While I do still recommend trying to make your way to the source of these countless ramen varieties, Tokyo is essentially the ramen capital of the world and is home to many shops serving these styles originating from the other 46 prefectures. In this series of top five ramen lists, I hope to introduce the best shops the Tokyo has to offer for a particular prefectural ramen style, or ご当地ラーメン (Gotouchi Ramen).
For this article, I figured I would start with the far north featuring the ever popular Sapporo Miso Ramen made famous by shops in Sapporo of Hokkaido prefecture. While, again, it is best to try these ramen styles at the source, here are 5 shops in Tokyo worthy of visiting to sample great Miso Ramen without making a flight up north!
A brief history about Sapporo Miso Ramen before we get started. The style was said to have originated in a small shop called 味の三平 (Aji no Sanpei) in Sapporo in 1963 after a lot of trial and error. The thought was that miso should be more heavily used in various ways with ramen being one possible idea. Aji no Sanpei tested a wide array of miso before finalizing a “Miso Ramen” menu item which exists today. Since then, the style has populated all around Sapporo with すみれ (Sumire) being one of the main shops to kick start its popularity to the rest of the country. Sumire is one of the most famous shops in Sapporo and is world renown for their Miso Ramen recipe. Their ramen consists of a pork femur, niboshi, and vegetable based broth which is then incorporated with a miso tare that is wok fried before serving. Generous serving of minced pork, vegetables, and miso tare is stir fried in a heap of lard which keeps the soup piping hot throughout the meal. Sumire’s process in making their Miso ramen is more or less the standard for Sapporo Miso nowadays. Many have trained here and gone off to open Sapporo style miso ramen shops of their own. Some of them, right here in Tokyo!
First up is Santora which is actually a Noren-Wake, or disciple run shop, of Sumire where the master trained for over 18 years. After spending time at the now closed Ramen Museum location of Sumire near Shin Yokohama station, the master opened Santora in late October of 2019. Located in central Tokyo near Edogawabashi station, Santora brings in huge queues daily with customers waiting an hour or so before opening to have a bowl of Santora’s fantastic bowls.
The process is more or less similar to the one described at Sumire with the key difference being the use of a miso blend composed of two secret miso varieties for Santora’s tare. Santora claims the two miso gives it both a sweetness and rich fermented soybean aroma that differentiates them from his competitors. For anyone looking for authentic Sapporo Miso ramen with a personalized twist, Santora should definitely be on your radar.
While Santora received blessing from Sumire to open after years of rigorous training, it actually wasn’t the first to do so in Tokyo. That recognition goes to Ooshima, located a short walk from Funabori station. In Eastern Tokyo, Ooshima has been spreading the gospel of Sumire lineage Sapporo Miso ramen in the Kanto area since 2013. As opposed to Santora, Ooshima puts a more distinct twist to their ramen and while it strongly holds its Sumire miso ramen roots, the ramen is also distinctly “Ooshima”.
While Sumire and Santora relied on a pork bone and niboshi soup, Ooshima uses a pork broth with no Niboshi and sources their noodles from a separate noodle manufacturer. Flavors and methods remain largely the same as the one established by Sumire, but has a lighter profile as it doesn’t use as much lard as its predecessor. What you’ll get at Ooshima is the DNA of original Sapporo Miso Ramen, but with a twist unfound in Hokkaido so definitely a shop for the more advanced ramen eaters.
Asahi Chounaikai (あさひ町内会)
Next up is Asahi Chounaikai, another shop run by a long time disciple of Sumire. The master here trained under Sumire for close to 13 years before finally branching out on his own to open his own Sapporo style miso ramen shop in the Itabashi area of Tokyo. Opened in February of 2020, the shop is the newest on the list, but comes with a ton of high hopes and pedigree. The broth base of pork bones and niboshi is close to the broth of Sumire, but the soup is a bit milder and not as creamy stemming from a lighter miso paste as well as a restrained use of lard. The unique rendition of the traditional Sumire style miso ramen has many Tokyo ramen fanatics intrigued and therefore command long lines daily so plan accordingly.
In addition to a lighter miso, Asahi Chounaikai also uses a different noodle manufacturer for a reminiscent yellow, springy Sapporo ramen noodle feel, but with a unique texture to pair with their milder soup. A bit of ginger, which is common in all Sapporo miso ramen, makes the soup even more refreshing than it already is. While it has a lighter flavor profile than the previous three shops, the base is consistent with the others making for a solid introduction to Sapporo style miso ramen.
Aburi Miso Ramen Shinbusakiya (炙り味噌らーめん 麺匠 真武咲弥)
Probably the most conveniently located shop on the list, Shibusakiya is a popular Sapporo style miso ramen shop right in the center of Shibuya. This particular location first opened in 2010 and has since become a favorite among tourists for their vegetarian and gluten free ramen options (both of which are quite rare in Japan). However, their main attraction is their miso ramen of which the recipe hails from their original location in Hokkaido.
The ramen itself is a bit lighter than the other shops, but what it lacks in creaminess it makes up for in punch as they load up the ginger notes for a nice refreshing kick. So Aburi is Japanese for roasted and as the name suggests, they fry up the miso tare before mixing with the soup. What results is a smoky, aromatic soup brimming with phenomenal flavors. Bean sprouts and negi make a mound in the middle with chashu slices and menma bamboo shoots leaning against it. The ramen is finally topped with a spoonful of grated ginger and is sure to satisfy your Sapporo miso ramen itch in between shopping in Shibuya!
Sapporo Ramen Kuwana (さっぽろラーメン桑名)
Final shop on the list is Sapporo Ramen Kuwana with locations in both Itabashi city near Tokiwadai station and Shinjuku, a short walk from Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Just like Shinbusakiya, the Kuwana locations in Tokyo are actually branch locations of their original shop in Hokkaido. With Kuwana’s roots firmly in the home of the style, you could argue this is one of the most authentic Sapporo miso ramen to get in Tokyo.
What makes Kuwana so special is their homemade tare using additive free miso that they age for three months before using. The soup in turn has a mellow, yet creamy characteristic which soothes you right down to your core. Noodles are outsourced, but are made specifically for the shop and pairs perfectly with their aged miso tare soup. Rosy pink chashu and a mound of negi top the bowl with a spoonful of ginger to finish. After a walk around the iconic Shinjuku area, Kuwana is the perfect place to experience some authentic Sapporo miso ramen!