Ginza restaurant will let you skip waiting in line if you plan ahead…and pay a fee.

The general rule of thumb with ramen restaurants in Japan is the longer the line of customers outside, the better the ramen. So if you find yourself walking past Ginza Hachigou and see there isn’t anyone standing around and waiting to get in, you might assume their food’s not very good.

However, Hachigou’s fans would strongly disagree with you, and those fans include the world-class evaluators of the Michelin restaurant guide for Tokyo, who have given Hachigou a star two years in a row, in 2022 and 2023.

So why no line outside? Because you can now make reservations to eat at Hachigou.

▼ Hachigou as you’re likely to see it, with no line out front

Conventional reservation systems, where you reserve a seat a day or more in advance, are rare for ramen restaurants in Japan. Part of that likely has to do with the casual atmosphere of most ramen restaurants, as well as the fact that many of them are run by a small employee crew, often with customers buying meal tickets from a vending machine since there’s no cashier/greeter on the staff. About the closest thing to a ramen restaurant reservation system you’ll find are seiri-ken, strips of paper that some ramen restaurants hand out when they know they’re going to be full that give you time block to come back and line up at later in the same day.

Of course, there are only so many seiri-ken to go around, so snagging one often requires getting to the restaurant before it opens, and even then you won’t know what time block you’ll be able to eat in until you have the ticket in your hand. In other words, at popular ramen restaurants, the seiri-ken system usually involves waiting in at least one line, then, assuming you got in that first line early enough (i.e. spent enough time waiting in line), you’ll get a ticket to come back and wait in line again, which may or may not be for a time when you’d usually want to be eating. So Ginza Hachigou (which, as its name implies, is located in downtown Tokyo’s Ginza neighborhood) introducing a conventional reservation system, where you can pick a date and time from the comfort of your home and then just show up at the restaurant when it’s time to eat, is a big time-saver.

▼ Ginza Hachigou’s ramen

As for what makes Ginza Hachigou’s ramen special, prior to entering the ramen field owner Koji Matsumura was the head chef at the luxurious ANA Crowne Plaza hotel in Kyoto, where he worked for 36 years preparing high-end French cuisine. Wanting to provide delicious meals to a wider clientele, he’s now opened three ramen restaurants in Tokyo. Ginza Hachigou’s defining characteristic is its broth made with uncured ham for a salty, savory flavor.

Reservations can be made through reservation website TableCheck here, with reservations for the following week opening at 9 a.m. every Saturday (the restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays) and a maximum size of six people per party. Selectable seating times are 12:30, 1, 1:30, 2, and 2:30 p.m. As for why there are no dinner reservations, like some other top-tier ramen restaurants, Ginza Hachigou stays open until they run out of ingredients for the day, and it’s such a regular occurrence that it’s best to think of it as a lunch-only place (the Ginza Hachigou website doesn’t even list an official closing time).

Two other things to remember when making a reservation: First, you only have your seat for 30 minutes, so don’t plan on lingering for too long over your noodles. Second, there’s a 500-yen (US$3.35) service fee charged per person (not per party), which is not applicable to the price of the food you order. That effectively raised the price for the least expensive bowl of Ginza Hachigou ramen from 1,200 yen to 1,700, which is pretty steep for ramen, but, on the other hand, still rather affordable for a Michelin-starred meal.

Ginza Hachigou isn’t going reservations-only, though. The reason you can’t make a reservation for noon is because from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. seating is still for walk-up/line-up customers, with roughly 30 bowls of ramen exclusively for them each day. So if you balk at the idea of a reservation service fee, or if you’ve come to appreciate the time waiting in line as part of the complete ramen dining experience, that option is still open.

Restaurant information
Ginza Hachigou / 銀座 八五
Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-14-2
Open from 11 a.m. until broth runs out

Source, images: PR Times
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