Survey into noodle joints reveals some chains people may have never heard of.

As we head into winter, our craving for piping hot bowls of ramen is now getting even stronger, which has us wondering…what’s the best chain to go to for your noodle fix?

Line Corporation, who runs Japanese messaging app Line, sought to find the answer to this question, by surveying 5,254 men and women aged 15 to 64 from all over Japan, asking them: “What’s your favourite ramen chain?”

Let’s take a look at the top three responses below.

3. Kourakuen

In third place, we have Kourakuen, a well-known chain that’s served up some outlandish limited-time creations in the past, ranging from chocolate ramen through to mochi ice cream ramen. When asked why they liked the chain so much, proponents noted its “cheap prices“, “good value for money” and “convenient locations“. It’s interesting to note that flavour wasn’t mentioned in the top reasons why this chain is so popular, making price and convenience the main draw points here.

2. Ichiran

Ah, Ichiran. With its hearty tonkotsu pork bone broth and thin, straight noodles — a hallmark of Hakata-style ramen, which the chain is famous for — Ichiran wins favour with fans for serving up meals that are notably delicious. However, taste isn’t the only thing that makes this ramen chain so popular, as many respondents also mentioned how easy it is to eat there, especially when dining alone, thanks to the individual booths and bamboo screens between diner and server, which means you don’t have to interact with anybody when eating there.

▼ The booths at Ichiran.

1. Tenkaippin

In the number one spot, the most popular ramen chain is Tenkaippin, a serendipitous result for a chain whose name translates to “best product under the heavens“. Tenkaippin is famous for its “kotteri” (“thick”) broth, which a lot of respondents praised, lauding the chain for its “delicious broth”, “delicious noodles” and “ease of eating there when dining alone”.

▼ The broth is so good the chain has even sold it on its own, without noodles, in takeout cups.

While Korakuen, Ichiran, and Tenkaippin were the top three most popular chains nationwide, Line delved a little further, looking at the results by region, which revealed some interesting insights.

The first-place getters by region are listed below:

  • Hokkaido: Ramen Yamaokaya
  • Tohoku/Kanto: Kourakuen
  • Chubu: Sugakiya
  • Kinki/Chugoku/Shikoku: Tenkaippin
  • Kyushu/Okinawa: Ichiran

Looking at the above results, it’s clear that regional pride is strong across the board, as Korakuen is headquartered in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture, which is located in the Tohoku region, Tenkaippin is based in Kyoto, in the Kansai region, which is also referred to as the Kinki region, and Ichiran hails from Kyushu. Sugakiya, who makes the ramen fork, is headquartered in Nagoya, the capital of Aichi Prefecture, in Chubu, while Yamaokaya, a chain that’s even had hotel rooms themed in its honour, has its headquarters in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

▼ Yamaokaya’s miso-broth ramen is particularly popular

Interestingly, 30 percent of respondents said they don’t eat at ramen chains, which is a surprisingly large number for a sample of this size. With so many great local ramen joints, Michelin-starred restaurants, and instant noodle options, though, you don’t always have to go to a big-name chain to eat ramen.

So next time you’re in Japan, feel free to visit one of the popular chains listed above to see what makes them so good, and then go exploring on your own for hidden gems like this one, which is so secret it doesn’t even have a name at all.

Featured image: Pakutaso
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