This ramen shop is so popular it’s impossible to get into. Don’t worry though–there are other ways to try its delicious ramen!

Restaurants with clout in Japan–whether that’s because of a TV spotlight, a Michelin star, or Insta-worthy dishes that went viral–are destined to become the place to eat, but that comes with a caveat: long lines and overfull reservations. That happened to a ramen restaurant called Iida Shoten in Yugawara, Kanagawa, about an hour-and-a-half west of central Tokyo. This once-small shop earned the grand prize in the TRY Ramen competition–which some consider to be the foremost authority on ramen in the world–two years in a row, and was also featured on TV.

As a result, the shop, now referred to by some ramen fans as “the Holy Land of Ramen”, earned so much popularity that they had to switch to a reservation-only system in 2020, of all years. Unfortunately, that didn’t make it much easier to eat there. Although reservations for each week open up at noon every Tuesday, they get booked up so fast that it’s almost impossible to get one.

But don’t worry. If you’ve been wanting to try out Iida Shoten’s famous ramen, we’ve got two ways to actually do so without waiting in huge lines or frantically refreshing the reservation page at noon every Tuesday.

1. Go to the sister restaurant that serves it

Besdies the original Iida Shoten restaurant in Yugawara, there’s only one other shop in all of Japan that serves Iida Shoten ramen, and it’s in Numazu City in Shizuoka Prefecture, which is a little over 2 hours by train from Tokyo (if you take the bullet train).

It’s called “Yugawara Iida Shoten,” and, shockingly enough, it’s in a food court at the Lalaport Numazu mall!

You may turn your nose up at food court ramen, but you’d be a fool to do that here. What they serve here is the exquisite ramen you would expect from Iida Shoten itself, though it has a much smaller menu than the original Iida Shoten ramen shop. We ordered the Shoyu Ramen (made with soy sauce broth) for 950 yen (US$7.15) and the Premium Shumai for 450 yen.

The thin-cut noodles were deliciously slurpable, and the surface of the broth glistened with plentiful chicken fat. The large pieces of char siu pork slices also had a faint chargrilled smell, which was mouthwatering.

The broth was unbelievably delicious, directly delivering the umami of chicken. It’s made with specially-chosen ingredients and without MSG or other chemical seasonings, so it’s somehow both light and rich. This is the kind of broth you want to gulp down after the noodles are gone.

Looking at it from an objective standpoint, this was pretty simple ramen, but because it was so polished we couldn’t help but get the sense that this is an entirely new kind of ramen. It almost felt like finding it in a neighborhood shopping mall was cheating.

The shumai, or steamed meat dumplings, were pretty delicious too. The meat was coarsely ground, giving each one a very rich flavor. They had a great texture and weightiness to them, which we thought they would pair perfectly with beer.

Naturally, since this sister branch is in a food court, no reservations are necessary, and outside of peak hours, the lines aren’t that long. It’s a little far to walk from Numazu Station, but easily accessible by bus, and it’s right off the Numazu Bypass, so it’s easy to get there by car, too.

There are lots of things to do in the coastal city of Numazu besides just eating Iida Shoten ramen, like visiting some of the city’s pristine swimming spots, but if a long-distance trip isn’t in the cards for you, don’t worry. There’s another way to try this sought-after ramen, and you can do it without even leaving your home.

2. Order frozen packs online 

Yes, Iida Shoten ramen is available to order online! In order to have something comparable to what we ate at the store in Numazu, we ordered the “Chicken Broth Soy Sauce Ramen 3-meal Set” (3,500 yen). In addition to the soup and noodles, it also came with char siu pork and bamboo shoots. All you have to do to prepare it is heat it up in hot water.

We found the home-delivered Iida Shoten to be just as good as what we ate in Numazu! Sometimes, when the ingredients in ramen are frozen, they lose a little bit of what makes them delicious, but we didn’t get that sense at all. The thin-cut noodles were just as slurpable, and the soup still had plenty of chicken fat to add depth to its flavor. We couldn’t get enough of it!

If we had to be picky about something, we might say the chashu was a bit juicier and tastier at the restaurant. But truth be told, we could hardly dream of finding a better quality ramen to eat at home.

Though we weren’t really sure if a food court ramen shop or frozen ramen would really be able to give us the true experience of Iida Shoten, even with the assurance of the brand behind it, both versions completely blew us away. Out of all the ramen we’ve eaten–and we’ve eaten a lot–Iida Shoten’s ramen would, without a doubt, be placed in the highest class.

▼ The owner of Iida Shoten, Shota Iida.

We should be clear: these two options don’t offer the same exact flavors you’d get from eating at Iida Shoten in Yugawara, but the quality was just as good as what we’d expect from the restaurant, and we can’t deny how delicious they were. We can’t wait to one day try the real thing! They also have different dishes you can’t order online or find in Numazu…

Shoot. We wanted to be able to conclude that you really don’t have to go to Yugawara to have a satisfying Iida Shoten experience, but in actual fact our samplings just made us want to go to the original shop even more. Hopefully we can get a reservation one day…but in the meantime, we’ve got our eye on trying other specialty ramen, like the Sakura Tororo Ramen from ramen chain Mitsuyado Seimen!

Restaurant information
Yugawara Iida Shoten / 湯河原 飯田商店
Shizuoka-ken Numazu-shi Higashi Shiiji Higashi Hara 301-3 Lalaport Numazu 3F Food Court
静岡県沼津市東椎路 字東荒301-3ららぽーと沼津3Fフードコート
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (last order at 8:30)

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