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By far the plainest, most bare-bones name for a guy in Japan is Taro. Look at just about any sample application form in the country, and nine times out of ten the applicant’s name will be listed as “Taro.” When coupled with a girl’s name like Hanako it’s the equivalent of “Dick and Jane,” showing up in children’s stories and textbooks.

Nonetheless,the name Taro is something of a classic, and a common choice for first-born sons. But change the first kanji character Taro is written with and you get “Jiro,” meaning more or less “second son.” Jiro doesn’t have quite the cachet of Taro, as it has a perpetual little brother-like ring to it.

Restaurant chain Ramen Jiro doesn’t play second fiddle to anyone, though, especially with creations like this.

In recent years, some ramen restaurants have been tinkering with their menus by using milder, lighter ingredients and seasonings to draw in bigger numbers of health-conscious and female diners. Ramen Jiro isn’t having any of that. It’s stuck by its formula of heavy-weight offerings, and its fans love the restaurant all the more for it.

Like a younger sibling doing whatever he can to carve out a separate identity from his older brothers and sisters, some of the branches serve their own unique varieties of ramen. As part of a continuing pilgrimage to try them all, we recently visited a Ramen Jiro location in Hachioji, about 40 minutes outside the Tokyo city center.

The Hachioji branch’s exclusive ramen offering is a special kind of tsukemen. Flavor-wise, tsukemen isn’t any different from regular ramen, but instead of being served with the noodles floating in the broth, they come dry with a bowl of dipping sauce on the side.

▼ Your ordinary tsukemen

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We headed to the Hachioji Ramen Jiro to try their naminori tsukemen (“wave rider tsukemen”). Only 50 people a day get to eat this limited-quantity masterpiece, and we’re not the only ones willing to make the trip for it, so we made sure to arrive early.

Like many ramen restaurants, you buy a ticket for what you want from a vending machine, then hand the ticket to the cook, which eliminates the time needed to take orders and give change. Since the naminori tsukemen is exclusive to this location, there’s no button for it, so we followed the directions on the handwritten sign and bought a ticket for regular tsukemen, then told the cook to make ours a naminori.

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What makes the naminori special is the treasure trove of free toppings available, and we asked for them all: cheese, diced onions with raw egg, powdered fish meal, and boiled quail eggs. We also ordered a nice cold can of Asahi, since we left sensible restraint behind somewhere around the middle of the last sentence.

Here’s the physical manifestation of that mountain of decadence:

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As we mentioned, when you order tsukemen the dipping sauce comes on the side in a bowl. With all of our toppings though, we couldn’t even see the sauce underneath it. In order to be able to actually use the sauce, we first had to eat enough of our toppings to secure a proper dipping perimeter.

▼ Nope, no way that’s fitting
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▼ Aerial view

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We started with the vegetables, giving a cursory tip of the hat to proper nutrition. Of course the vegetables were slathered in cheese and fish meal, so this was no dainty green salad. Next, our carnivorous instincts kicked in and me moved on to the chinks of pork. Eventually the fissure we had opened up allowed us to make visual contact with the sauce underneath. We took a few sips to open up a little more room in the bowl, then finally dipped our noodles in.

▼ The onion/egg mixture

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▼ Glorious meat

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▼ Finally, we’re actually eating tsukemen

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It was definitely worth the wait.

Since the diced onions with egg come in a separate dish, we decided this was the time to mix them together and toss them into the dipping sauce. This brought out even more of the sauce’s flavor, surprising us with a fresh sensation in the middle of our gargantuan meal.

And that’s really the reason to make the trip to the Hachioji Ramen Jiro. If all you’re after is quantity, you can find more fearsomely gut-busting bowls of ramen without leaving downtown Tokyo. But something as big as the naminori tsukemen that gives you so much variety that you can enjoy it to the very end is truly a rare thing.

Nice work, Little Bro.

Restaurant information:
Ramen Jiro –Hachioji Yaenkaido #2 Branch (ラーメン二郎 八王子野猿街道店2)
Address: Tokyo, Hachioji City, Horinouchi 2-13-16 (東京都八王子市堀之内2-13-16)
Operating hours: Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 4:30 p.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 4;30 p.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m.
Closed Mondays
Closest station: 10 minutes’ walk from Keio Horinouchi Station (京王堀之内駅)

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Insert images: 01ch.com, RocketNews24
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