Professional mixed martial artist swaps the fighting ring for a different stage.

There are a lot of ramen restaurants around Japan, but not many of them provide you with a show while you eat your meal.

Over at Hakata Ramen Himawari, in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, a show is what you’ll get, because here the donburi bowls and noodles fly through the air, in an acrobatic display that’s attracting noodle lovers from around the nation.

▼ A quick flick of the wrist and a spinning ladle of noodles is just the start of the performance.

Our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma headed out to Himawari, hopping on a train at Shinjuku Station for the roughly one-hour train ride to see the ramen show. Stepping out at Higashi Tokorozawa Station on the JR Musashino Line, the restaurant was about a 20-minute walk away so Masanuki decided to rent a bicycle from outside the station, at a cost of 70 yen (US$0.61) for 15 minutes.

It was a cold and windy trip on the bicycle, which only made him more hungry for ramen when he arrived at Himawari, which means “Sunflower” in English.

Masanuki was lucky to get a seat at the counter as it was midday, a peak busy period with lots of diners arriving for lunch. He ordered the Himawari Ramen for 1,000 yen ($8.66) as it was the local specialty, and from his front-row seat, he could see the show had already begun.

The chef was expertly drying the noodles fresh from the pot by throwing them high in the air. Masanuki had his heart in his mouth while he watched him, but the chef was an expert, making no mistakes each time an order came in.

As he watched the show, Masanuki couldn’t help but wonder if the noodle acrobatics might be compensating for lesser-quality meals, but when his order arrived, he needn’t have worried — it was beautifully presented, looking like something you’d get at a fancy ramen restaurant.

The Himawari Ramen includes toppings like egg, seaweed, spring onions, corn, and a delicate mound of mentaiko cod roe in the centre.

As the full name of the restaurant suggests, the noodles here are cooked in the style of Hakata ramen, which is known for its tonkotsu pork bone broth and long, straight noodles.

The ultra-fine straight noodles had a great chewy texture, entwining themselves beautifully in the broth which was creamy and delicious, having been cooked with pork bones over several days.

▼ These noodles were absolutely delicious, and they hit the spot perfectly, both in terms of the belly and the back pocket.

As he came to the end of his meal, Masanuki turned his attention away from his bowl and back to the activity on the other side of the counter. Just at this moment, the chef called out “nagemasu” (“throw“), to alert the other staff member, his wife, to the fact that something was about to come hurtling her way.

▼ That something turned out to be…a donburi bowl.

That wasn’t the end of the acrobatics, because once she had the bowl in her hands, it was time for the noodles to make their way through the air between them.

Masanuki held his breath as he feared the noodles would splatter all over the floor, but this husband-and-wife team made it all look too easy.

Of course, there’d be no way the duo could do this with a full bowl of broth and noodles, so this special part of the act is reserved for kaedama, extra servings of noodles that diners add to the remaining broth in their bowl.

Masanuki was particularly impressed by the way the chef’s wife caught the kaedama time and time again without changing her expression at all — the sign of a true experienced artist!

While the two put on a great display, there’s actually some method to this madness, as the air travel helps to drain the noodles to the perfect extent, so they retain the right amount of moisture by the time they’re served to customers.

▼ Check out all the action on video below:

After speaking to the chef, Masanuki discovered that his name was Takashi Maeda, and he was once a professional mixed martial arts fighter. Although his stage has now changed, the chef’s fighting spirit shines through at the restaurant, where he gives a first-class performance, supported by many fans.

▼ Maeda still knows how to hold an audience, only now he does it with a perfect combo of skill and flavour.

While the restaurant is making waves for its acrobatic noodles, they also do a great Shiso Gyoza (Perilla Leaf Gyoza), which is so popular it’s sold in a vending machine outside the store. The vending machine is also stocked with fried rice, karaage fried chicken, and Hakata ramen, complete with an extra serving of noodles — flying act not included.

Hakata Ramen Himawari is a great place to stop for a bowl of Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen, and the aerial noodle show it’s served with is definitely worth seeing. So next time you’re looking for an unusual way to satisfy your noodle cravings you might want to stop by this little-known gem, and you can always finish the day with a soak at these nearby onsen hot spots to really warm the cockles on a cold winter’s day!

Restaurant information
Hakata Ramen Himawari / 博多らーめん ひまわり
Address: Saitama-ken, Tokorozawa-shi, Hibita 110-4
Open: 11:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.(Wed-Thu) 5:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.(Thu-Sun) ※時短要請期間中は要請に従った時間まで
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
Website (Instagram)

Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]