Chuka Soba Mitaka | 中華そば みたか
Style: Tokyo Shoyu
Bowl to Crush: Ramen | ラーメン
Chuka Soba Mitaka is a neighborhood legend. Originally named Eguchi, the shop was founded by master Takayoshi Eguchi not long after World War II in the city of Mitaka on the western side of the Tokyo metropolis.
It's generally believed that Japanese ramen descends from an older and simpler noodle soup dish from China. Although Japanese versions of the dish began popping up in the early 1900s, the cuisine became popular in Tokyo during the post-war era, when cheap American wheat imports flooded the market, making flour for noodles as cheap as local rice. At the same time, many Japanese soldiers were returning from the warfront in China with a taste for Chinese cuisine. And as Tokyo began to rebuild, legions of laborers needed inexpensive, carb-rich meals on the go to fuel the reconstruction of the city skyline.
In light of this history, Eguchi-san is like a missing link. The master learned to make ramen from a Chinese immigrant chef in the city of Okachimachi in the late 1940s. Chuka Soba Mitaka, and the simple bowls of chuka-soba that Eguchi-san served, came to be seen as an integral part of the growing community of Mitaka, an area that gradually changed from farmland to a residential bedtown throughout the 60s and 70s. The master carried on for nearly two decades, before passing the shop on to his son, Masanao Eguchi, who ran it until his death on Dec. 29, 2009. In tribute, the junior Eguchi-san's apprentices kept the shop going for about a month after his passing. According to locals, on Eguchi's final day of service, Jan. 31, 2010, the line to get a seat stretched over six hours long — the shop was simply beloved.
Not long after the closure, Eguchi-san's fans began to petition his apprentices to reopen. Mazayuki Kusumi, a famed local author, even wrote a novel set in the original Eguchi ramen shop around this time.
Eventually, one of the apprentices gave in… Shigemitsu Hashimoto, who had worked at Eguchi with his wife Chinatsu since 2004, relaunched the shop as Chuka Soba Mitaka in the same location, serving the same soup recipe, on May 1, 2010. A portly, smiley guy who looks a bit like a ramen chef version of Pikachu, Hashimoto-san heads the shop to this day. He hired a friend and fellow Eguchi fanatic, Satoshi Mezato, to run the reincarnation by his side.
The shop is hidden in the basement of an old commercial building on a corner of the main drag of Mitaka, about a five-minute walk from the station. You'll know you're in the right place if you see a line of customers stretching up the stairs. The shop itself sits in a small glass-walled room, with just a few stools around the counter. Hashimoto-san and Mezato-san work their magic in the center, in full view of the customers. The atmosphere is as homey and old school Tokyo as it gets. (hot tip: check out the kisaten next door for a coffee after your meal — it's another relic oozing history and atmosphere).
The ramen here is as simple and straightforward as you'd expect from a dish that hasn't changed much since the 1940s. And the price hasn't changed much either — at just 450 yen for a bowl of the recommended shoyu ramen, the cost performance at Mitaka is amazing.
The shoyu soup is made with pork, potato, onion and ginger — with a generous whiff of konbu. Soulful. The noodles are house-made and have a unique, soba-like texture. The chashu topping is simple and old school. Wontonmen and a couple side dishes are also on the menu for a few hundred yen more, as is ice-cold beer.
This is the kind of workaday bowl you can crush anytime. It won't knock your socks off with any newfangled gourmet technique, but you will never leave less than satisfied. Young families, busy salary men and elderly folks from the neighborhood have been coming back for generations — the place is a gem.
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