We already loved Ichiran, and now we love it even more.

Ichiran is one of Japan’s favorite ramen chains, with fans across the nation having fallen in love with its Fukuoka-style tonkotsu pork stock ramen and unique dining booths that let you focus on your food, and also conveniently help block any possible spray from noodles being slurped by the person next to you.

▼ An Ichiran interior

But now, there’s a new reason to love Ichiran: young kids eat for free there!

OK, technically Ichiran has been giving free ramen to young diners for over a decade now, but the gradual rollout of the service has kept it unknown to many people. It all started when Ichiran managers noticed parents coming in to eat with their young kids. Sometime the parents would share a bowl with their child, transfering noodles and broth from their bowl into a smaller one for the kid before they both started eating.

It’s worth pointing out that two people sharing a bowl of ramen is often considered a faux pas in Japanese restaurants, but Ichiran was unhappy with the situation for an entirely different reason. The chain prides itself on serving you your ramen within 15 seconds of when it’s done cooking, so that you can enjoy it before its temperature and flavor drop, and they felt bad that parents and kids had to spend time transferring their food into a second bowl.

So in 2012, some Ichiran branches started offering free kid’s-size ramen to children who hadn’t yet started elementary school (which happens at the age of six in Japan). In 2018, Ichiran expanded this to all of its branches, and two years later the offer became even more generous. With many elementary schools cancelling their graduation ceremonies because of the pandemic, the chain wanted to give kids something to be happy about too, and so since March of 2020 Ichiran gives free ramen to elementary school-age kids too (Japanese elementary school lasts for six years, with the children between the ages of 6 and 12).

This isn’t a buy-one-bowl-of-ramen-get-one-free type of deal either. For each paying adult, five kids can eat for free.

▼ Our Ichiran-loving reporter P.K. Sanjun could have shared this joy with his daughter for free!

As with many ramen restaurants in Japan, at Ichiran you purchase a meal ticket from a vending machine prior to being seated. Since the kids’ ramen is free, though, you instead order it through the restaurant’s smartphone app. From its top screen, select “meal ticker” (引換券) and then “kids’ ramen ticket” (お子様ラーメン引換券) and “use this ticket,” (この引換券を使う), them show the screen to an employee when handing in the ticket for your own ramen.

Related: Ichiran app (iOS, Android)
Source: Joshi Spa via Yahoo! Japan News via Hachima Kiko, Ichiran (1, 2)
Top image: Ichiran
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