Great display of customer service makes noodle chain even more tourist-friendly.

If you’re looking for a great place to eat tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen, Ichiran is one of the best places you can go to. This Japanese chain is so famous for its hearty bowls of tasty noodles, served within moments of ordering through bamboo curtains to diners in solo booths, that it’s become a must-visit spot for a lot of international tourists, a fact that our reporter Seiji Nakazawa recently learned after reading rave reviews about it on English-language forum Reddit.

One particular comment that stood out for him was one from an international visitor who stopped by Ichiran in Shinjuku after spending over a week in Japan. The comment raved about the price — 980 yen (US$6.68) for a bowl of tonkotsu ramen in Japan compared to $23 (3,374 yen) in New York — while also mentioning a unique aspect about the dining system that totally surprised them.

The review was so good that Seiji himself decided to stop by for himself, heading to the same branch at the Shinjuku Station Central East Exit, which was located down a flight of stairs.

The counter seats were lined up side by side, each with their own bamboo-curtain covered window and a moveable partition to separate them, as is common at Ichiran branches.

▼ On the side of the wall, however, were a couple of things Seiji hadn’t seen before.

The order sheets, which are handed to staff through the bamboo curtain, were now conveniently tucked away in a pocket on the wall. They used to sit on the table in the form of a pad, so this was a handy way to give diners more table room.

More surprisingly, however, was the collection of wooden tablets on the wall, which seemed like a brand new addition to the chain, as he hadn’t seen them before the pandemic. Each tablet had a  request or statement printed on it, so customers are now able to communicate a wider range of desires without even speaking.

Simply press the call button at your table and present the tablet to staff behind the curtain, who will then be able to respond accordingly. By using the below tablet, for example, you no longer have to worry about staff clearing your dishes away by accident if you leave the table temporarily.

These wooden tablets were what the Redditor had praised so highly, and Seiji could understand why. Having travelled overseas himself, he remembers feeling incredibly nervous having to order with staff at restaurants when he could barely speak the local language.

▼ Ordering at a place in London like this might seem easy for a local, but for Seiji, it was incredibly intimidating.

Based on his own personal experience of having to make requests in a foreign language abroad, Seiji thought the wooden tablets were a fantastic idea, and he’d love to see more restaurants around the world adopting a similar system.

▼ The wooden tablets are printed in English on one side and Japanese on the other, so both locals and tourists can use them.

The tablets read: “I don’t know the ordering process”, “I’m leaving my seat for a moment”, “It’s noisy”, and “I’d like a kids bowl and utensils”, suggesting these are the most common points customers wish to address while dining at Ichiran.

As it says on the sign upon which the tablets are hung: “At Ichiran you can make your request without speaking.” It’s one of the many reasons why Ichiran is well worth a visit, regardless of where you come from, and with their unique toilet setups, you won’t ever have to worry about requesting a new roll of toilet paper either!

Restaurant Information
Ichiran Shinjuku Station East Exit branch /一蘭 新宿中央東口店
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-34-11 Peace Building B1F
東京都新宿区新宿3-34-11 ピースビルB1F
Hours: 10:00 a.m.-6:00 a.m.

Photos © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]