Our resident spice fiend puts his tongue to the test in Tokyo’s most competitive ramen neighborhood!

When he’s not testing out 20-yen underwear or hallucinatingly soft bedsheets, our reporter Go Hatori earns his keep by running around Tokyo taste-testing hot, spicy ramen. Recently, that mission brought him to the city’s Takadanobaba neighborhood, which boasts one of the highest concentrations of ramen restaurants in all of Japan.

Although Go isn’t as young as the college kids and language school students who make up most of the Takadanobaba restaurant clientele, he’s got mature wisdom and time-honed experience on his side, and so he felt no fear as he walked through the door of Sekki Ramen, which just opened in Takadanobaba at the end of August. Sekki Ramen gets its name from sekki, the Japanese word for a stone bowl, and its menu of high-temperature, high-spice ramen promised to have Go producing buckets of perspiration, so we tagged along to take pictures of him as he ate.

Taking a seat, Go ordered the house specialty Sekki Ramen (750 yen [US$7]), and true to its name, it comes in a bowl carved out of stone.

Be careful not to touch it, though, because the bowl is heated to over 300 degrees Celsius (572 degrees Fahrenheit)! It’s so hot that when the waiter pours in the broth, the liquid immediately starts to boil, accompanied by an intense sizzling sound.

We looked up to check if Go’s face was showing any sign of fear, only to find our reporter’s face now shrouded in a wall of steam, like he was a ninja hiding in the midst of mystical mists.

▼ Where did you go, Go?

Pro that he is, Go didn’t take advantage of the smokescreen to run away, nor did he attempt to flee as the bubbling broth rose within millimeters of spilling over the rim of the bowl.

Thankfully, the magma-like broth all stayed in the bowl, and there’s even a little extra for you to add yourself once it recedes. With the steam starting to dissipate, we could actually see the broth now, and the mixture of tonkotsu (pork stock) and soy looked mighty tasty, and also, of course, mighty hot.

One of the reasons you’re supposed to slurp your ramen in Japan is to keep from scalding yourself with the hot noodles. So Go grabbed his chopsticks, picked up a mouthful’s worth of noodles, and started slurping…

…only to immediately jerk back from the table because of how hot they were!

▼ “Hotttt!”

Even if you’re an experienced ramen fan, you’ll want to handle Sekki Ramen with care. That said, you’ll be tremendously rewarded for your effort, since it tastes great. As an added bonus, starting off so much hotter than ordinary ramen means that even if you eat at a leisurely pace, you don’t have to worry about Sekki Ramen getting unappetizingly lukewarm before you’re finished.

From Go’s perspective as the person eating the ramen, he had zero complaints, and we were happy for the guy. But for those of us trying to turn his meal into a spectator sport, we could have used more sweat than the subtle shine on his forehead.

But we were in luck, since Sekki Ramen also has a variety of spicy ramens, with the hottest of the bunch being the 980-yen Hyoga Ramen. The name is actually a bit confusing since hyoga means “glacier” in Japanese. Nevertheless, this is Sekki Ramen’s most fiery variety of ramen, and since we’d come to watch Go not just eat, but sweat too, we ordered him a second bowl of noodles.

▼ A hefty helping of togarashi chili and crushed sansho peppercorns.

Like the standard Sekki Ramen, the Hyoga Ramen comes in a super-heated stone bowl, and when you add the broth, a dense cloud of steam comes rushing up to your face. However, with the Hyoga Ramen, all the extra spices weaponize the steam, and just breathing it hits your body with a piquant vibe.

Go would not be intimidated, though, and dug into his second bowl of ramen with the unique blend of bravery and gluttony that we value in our field reporters.

“So how is it?” we asked, and Go replied with just a single word.


Okay, now we were getting somewhere! Go says there’s more to the flavor profile than just pure spice, as the broth’s rich, savory flavors are also still present, but still, his forehead now had some legitimate moisture on it.

But we knew Go could get sweatier still, so we asked the staff if the Hyoga Ramen was really as spicy as Sekki Ramen’s food can get, and they cheerfully informed us that for the same price, you can also request double, or even triple, spiciness to the broth.

So obviously that’s exactly what we did.

Double spiciness!


Triple spiciness!



As he made his way through the triple-spiciness Hyoga Ramen, Go looked like his sweat glands had ruptured, and had to make a point of leaning back in his seat so that his perspiration wouldn’t fall into his food and spoil the flavor. When it was done, he looked visibly older than he had at the beginning of the meal.

▼ Before

▼ After

In need of some sort of liquid to replace all the sweat that had poured out of him, Go called for a cola, which he guzzled down.

After giving him a moment to catch his breath, we asked for his final thoughts on Sekki Ramen, and he delivered an amazingly concise summary.


If we’re being totally honest, we’d usually expect a bit more eloquence from a professional writer. This time, though, we’ll let Go slide, because if a picture is worth a thousand words, than these photos of our spicy ramen fan sweating profusely tell us plenty about the experience on offer at Sekki Ramen.

Restaurant information
Sekki Ramen (Takadanobaba branch) / 石器ラーメン(高田馬場店)
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Takadanobaba 2-14-3, Sankei Building
東京都新宿区高田馬場2-14-3 三桂ビル1F
Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Related: Sekki Ramen
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