Historic ramen restaurant Rairaiken starts serving ramen again in a very appropriate location.

Nowadays, there are ramen restaurants all over Japan, and the dish is getting increasingly easy to find in other countries as well. But every food trend has to start somewhere, and for Japanese ramen restaurants, the starting point was Rairaiken.

Opened in 1910 in Tokyo’s Asakusa neighborhood, Rairaiken was Japan’s very first ramen restaurant. Staffed by founder Kanichi Ozaki and a team of cooks recruited from Yokohama’s Chinatown, Rairaiken found quick success, sometimes serving as many as 3,000 customers in a single day.

▼ Left: Rairaiken in 1914
Right: Kanichi Ozaki

Rairaiken occupied its spot in Asakusa for more than 30 years, but in 1944, with World War II wreaking havoc on ordinary citizens’ lives, the restaurant closed. The closure turned out to be temporary, and in 1954 it reopened in the Yaesu district, near present-day Tokyo Station, and in 1965 it moved again, this time to the Kanda neighborhood. In 1976, though, with no one able to carry on the family business, Rairaiken closed down for good.

▼ Kanichi Ozaki, at the age of 55 on the far left, his son/Rairaiken’s second owner Shinichi Ozaki to his left.

But now, after 44 years, Rairaiken is making a comeback. As part of its mission to preserve and share the history of ramen, the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum has been extensively researching Rairaiken, with the help of Kanichi’s grandson, Kunio Takahashi, and great-great-grandson, Yusaku Takahashi. Through their combined efforts, including Kunio’s first-hand experience of eating ramen at Rairaiken’s original location, the museum has been able to determine the ingredients Kanichi used for his noodles and toppings, and has even deduced which type of currently available flour is the genetic descendant of the variety Rairaiken used when it opened. They also now know the process by which Kanichi made his noodles and prepared the dish, and equipped with this information, a Rairaiken revival restaurant will open within the museum, which is located in the city of Yokohama, about 25 minutes south of Tokyo.

▼ Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum’s recreating of the first floor of Rairaiken’s original building

As for the broth, the museum’s research has shown that while Rairaiken used a soy base (which remains the representative broth for ramen in east Japan), the exact recipe was regularly adjusted depending on what sort of quality ingredients could be obtained and also what customers were enjoying the most. However, the researchers used what information they have to create what they, and Kanichi’s descendants, believe is a delicious modern rendition of Rairaiken’s broth.

▼ The 2020 Rairaiken ramen

▼ Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum interior

The museum hosts a regularly rotating roster of half a dozen ramen restaurant mini branches representing chains from other regions of Japan and even other countries. It’s unclear if the new Rairaiken will also be a limited-time operation, or whether its pedigree is earning it a permanent home within the museum’s walls, but in either case it’ll start serving customers sometime this fall.

Related: Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum
Source: @Press via IT Media
Images: @Press
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