Tokyo's Oldest Living Ramen Shops

Tokyo's Oldest Living Ramen Shops

Have you ever wondered what the very first Japanese ramen might have tasted like? Or what the atmosphere in a Tokyo ramen shop would have been like in the 1930s? Well, you can actually still come pretty close to experiencing these things today. Thanks to Japan’s reverence for mastery and tradition, several legendary shops, whose history dates back to the very beginnings of Tokyo ramen culture, remain fully in operation, with chefs serving the same soup recipes that were invented by their fathers or grandfathers decades ago. 

Much of Tokyo’s new wave ramen scene is commendably preoccupied with pushing the cuisine forward, using cutting-edge technique and ever more rarified ingredients. Although these old school shops may seem simple by comparison, we tend to hold them in high regard. There is often a simplicity at work in these bowls that is plainly profound. And knowing that they are the roots of Japanese ramen culture, you can't help but marvel at your meal. After all, if the recipe hasn’t changed for decades, there’s probably a very good reason for that.  

Here are seven of our favorite semi-ancient ramen shops in Tokyo — step through their entryways for a peek into the past; sip their soup to quite literally taste history.


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Style: Tokyo Style Shoyu
Bowl to Crush: Chuka Soba | 中華そば

Harukiya is one of Tokyo's longest standing serious ramen shops. Harukiya Honten began in 1931 as a simple soba shop. Shortly after World War II, the original master Itsuo Imamura re-launched Harukiya as a ramen shop. It has been open for business in the same location since 1949. Today, the shop is run by the founding master’s son, Kouichi Imamura. Throughout the generational handover Harukiya has continued serving some of the city's finest old-style chuka soba, chashumen and wontonmen. [Read full review]

Opening Hours: 11am-9pm
Days Closed: None
1-4-6 Kamiogi, Suginami-ku, Tokyo
東京都杉並区上荻1-4-6


Style: Tokyo Style Shoyu
Bowl to Crush: Chūka-men (nama-tamago-tsuki) 中華麺(生玉子付)

Eifukucho Taishoken is an institution, serving a classic Tokyo shoyu ramen with thin, curly noodles, menma, chashu, and a small piece of yuzu for flavor. The serving size is enormous by Tokyo standards. We recommend ordering a raw egg (nama tamago) on the side. Crack the egg into a side dish and give the noodles a yolk dip before slurping them down with the enormous spoon for support. This is the typical Japanese way of eating sukiyaki. Although once common with some styles of ramen, it's relatively rare in the ramen world these days — a tasty and intriguing throwback to traditional ramen culture. [Read full review]
 
Opening Hours: 11am-11:30pm
Days Closed: National Holidays
東京都杉並区和泉3-5-3
3-5-3 Izumi, Suginami-ku, Tokyo


Style: Tokyo Style Shoyu
Bowl to Crush: Moyashimen | もやし麺

This historic Tokyo ramen-ya is located right off Dogenzaka Street in the seedy heart of Shibuya. Kiraku has been open for over 60 years and serves old school Tokyo-style shoyu ramen, with chewy house-made noodles and fragrant dried onions. The tiny two-floor shop is crammed with tables and chairs. Some of the dudes working in the kitchen appear to be pushing 80 years old. The shop has changed little since it opened. Much like Eifukucho Taishoken, Kiraku has a deep cult following. [Read full review]

Opening Hours: Thurs-Tues: 11:30am-8:30pm
Days Closed: Wednesday
2-17-6 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
東京都渋谷区道玄坂2-17-6


Style: Tokyo Style Shoyu
Bowl to Crush: Ramen | ラーメン

Tucked down a narrow alleyway in the historic district of Asakusa, the shop entrance to Raishuken is easy to overlook, but step inside and you’re instantly transported to another era. Raishuken began as a noodle company in 1910. In the 1920s, the company branched out to open its first Chinese restaurant and over time the lineage extended into other restaurants around Tokyo. In 1952, the Asakusa branch specializing in ramen opened its doors, and not much has changed since — a rustic kitchen, funky old decor and the walls covered with autographs from the countless Japanese celebrities who have visited over the decades. [Read full review]

Opening Hours: 12pm-7pm
Days Closed: Tuesday
2-26-3 Nishi-Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
東京都台東区西浅草2-26-3


Style: Shoyu w/ Fried Rice
Bowl to Crush: 半ちゃんらーめん

Stepping into Sabu-chan — more of a shack than a shop — you’ll get the impression that very little has changed since the shop debuted in 1966. The original chef and proprietor, lord Sabu-chan himself, still mans the kitchen, working behind a small L-shaped counter and a few simple stools. Decidedly of the Tokyo old school, he’s often smoking with one hand and flipping noodles out of the boiling cauldron with the other — all while cracking jokes and chatting up his regular customers. A living Tokyo legend, Sabu-chan probably has just a few years left before he hangs it up — pay respects while you can. [Read full review]

Opening Hours: 11:30am-3pm, 4:30pm-7:30pm
Days Closed: Sunday, Monday & Holidays
2-24 Kanda Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
東京都千代田区神田神保町2-24 木下ビル 1F


Style: Shoyu & Yakisoba
Bowl to Crush: Ramen / Yakisoba | ラーメン / 焼きそば

This shop is as old as they come, located in Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho, a small smokey alleyway of shanties and shacks, sizzling yakitori shops and cramped drinking bars. Right smack in the middle of it all you’ll see the red noren proudly hanging at an entrance, advertising housemade noodles and yakisoba within. Wakatsuki has been here since 1948 and serving ramen since 1954, with a second generation husband and wife team currently in charge. A small bowl of standard ramen costs just 480 yen (about $4). Sit back with a beer, slurp down some time-tested noodles, and watch drunk salarymen, curious characters and the world pass by — it’s vintage Tokyo. [Read full review]

Opening Hours: 11am-1am
Days Closed: Sunday
1-2-7 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
東京都新宿区西新宿1-2-7 思い出横丁


Style: Tokyo Style Shoyu
Bowl to Crush:  Chuka Soba

Manpuku is one of the very oldest living ramen shops in Tokyo. Family owned and operated for generations, the shop has been serving the same soup recipe, from the same location in Ginza, since 1929. Kasahara-san, the OG master, worked until two years before his death at the age of 85. In the early days, he was known as one of the rare Japanese chefs who specialized in Western food, and the shop originally offered international dishes as well as ramen. Today, the menu is primarily ramen-based, along with a few classic Chinese dishes. Photos of Kasahara-san and shop memorabilia can be seen throughout the restaurant. Kubo-san, the master’s grandson, runs Manpuku today, keeping the old recipes cooking behind the shop's long, diner-esque counter. This bowl won't exactly knock your socks off. It's just simple, hearty salaryman fare. Most customers seem to be regulars and old-timers who live or work nearby. Many have been coming for decades. [Read full review]

Opening Hours:  11am-3:30pm, 5pm-10:30pm
Days Closed: Sunday & Holidays
2-13-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
東京都中央区銀座 2-13-13


Other Historic Shops Worth Checking Out:


Fukuju | 福寿 — 1951

Various trinkets, movie posters and dusty relics adorn the interior, which looks and smells like a portal to another era. The lone eccentric master keeps odd hours, boils noodles in a large wok, and is always up for a good conversation. You go here for the atmosphere, and what a unique atmosphere it is.    

Opening Hours: Mon, Wed-Fri: 3pm-9pm (or until the soup runs out); Sat: 1:30pm-9pm; Sun & Holidays: 12:30pm-9pm
Days Closed: Tuesday
3-19-1 Sasazuka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
東京都渋谷区笹塚3-19-1


Ikyo | 伊峡  — 1966

Family run for generations, a bowl of the standard ramen will set you back just 430 yen. Clear soup made from katsuo, niboshi, kombu, chicken bones and pork bones. Old school-style served with a side of fried rice.  

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 11am-7pm; Sat: 11am-6pm; Holidays: 11am-5pm
Days Closed: Sunday
1-4 Kanda Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
東京都千代田区神田神保町1-4 中一ビル 1F


Kusamura | 草むら — 1956

Kusumara, or “The Bush”, is a nostalgic, family-owned shop stretching back generations. Simple ramen noodles go into a clear, katsuo-heavy soup, ladled out of a pot that looks like it’s been in use for decades. The gyoza are outstanding, thick and plump, packed full of veggies and meat. Usually frequented by regular customers who live nearby. 

Opening Hours: Wed-Sun: 11am-6:30pm; Mon: 11am-5pm
Days Closed: Tuesday
1-1-1 Omiya, Suginami-ku, Tokyo
東京都杉並区大宮1-1-1


Maruchou | 丸長中華そば店 — 1947

A legendary old school Ogikubou shop with deep ramen and tsukemen lineage. Many of the customers that line up here have been coming for multiple decades. Shoyu tsukemen with a soup made from chicken, pork & vegetables. Shumai on the side. Only open for lunch for just a few hours a day.

Opening Hours: 11am-3pm
Days Closed: Wednesday & 3rd Sunday of Month
4-31-12 Ogikubo, Suginami-ku, Tokyo
東京都杉並区荻窪4-31-12


Mitaka | 中華そば みたか — 1949/2010

A beloved local underground shop serving super simple old school-style ramen for just 450 yen per bowl. Located in the basement of an old commercial building and now run by a former apprentice, the shop regularly draws lines of loyal customers waiting to get their fix. [Read full review]

Opening Hours: 11am-2pm, 5pm-8:30pm
Days Closed: Monday & every first and third Sunday of the month
3-27-9 Shimorenjaku Mitaka Tokyo
東京都三鷹市下連雀3-27-9 ニューエミネンス B1F


Sakaeya Milk Hall | 栄屋ミルクホール — 1945

Walking by this sparsely decorated shop, one might not realize the history dates back to 1945. Shoyu ramen, curry rice, and a popular hiyashi-chuka available in the hot summer months. Super simple fare; eating here will feel like a trip back in time.    

Opening Hours: Tues-Fri: 10:30am-5pm; Mon: 10:30am-2pm
Days Closed: Saturday, Sunday & Holidays
2-11-7 Kanda Tacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
東京都千代田区神田多町2-11-7


Tani Ramen | 谷ラーメン — 1967

Located under the train tracks near Yurakucho station and family-run for 50 years. The shop went through some minor renovations a few year back but still serves the original master's menu. Clear, 100% pork-based shoyu soup with medium curly noodles and cha-han on the side.  

Opening Hours: 11am-2pm, 5pm-8pm
Days Closed: Saturday, Sunday & Holidays
3-6-8 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
東京都千代田区丸の内3-6-8

 

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