Get on the ramen bus!

It was recently confirmed that the sport of cricket will be added to the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. This is great news for many countries, but in Japan the sport isn’t widely played. In fact, the only international cricket field in Japan is located in the town of Sano, Tochigi Prefecture.

However, major international sporting events have a way of giving sports like rugby or curling a huge boost in popularity in Japan, so our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma thought he might try to get ahead of the curve, should cricket follow the same path, and set out for Sano.

And it was after attending an event at the Sano International Cricket Ground that Masanuki stumbled upon something even more fascinating, this rusty old bus on the side of the road.

Located only a few minutes from the cricket field, this bus is actually a ramen restaurant well-known amongst locals. Masanuki wasn’t sure if this bus was abandoned or intentionally placed there before being converted to an eatery, but in the end it didn’t really matter – it was here and beautiful in its own dilapidated way.

Its name is Ka-chan Ramen and is only open on Friday and Saturday nights from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

The inside of the bus was surprisingly cozy and Masanuki found some customers happily chatting over some beers. There was a table with tatami mats in one end and some seats along a counter like you’d find in a lot of ramen restaurants.

The owner was very friendly as well and the whole place had a shoddy but sincerely playful vibe, like a fort some kids built in the woods.

There was a variety of ramen on the menu with a wide range of prices as well as a nice selection of snacks. Masanuki decided to try the cheapest type, called just “Ramen,” for 550 yen (US$3.70) to get a baseline for its taste.

It only took about five minutes for his order to arrive. It had a clear broth and all the classic toppings of chashu pork, menma bamboo shoots, naruto steamed fish cake, and green onions.

Aside from cricket, ramen is one of Sano’s other claims to fame and even their official mascot is a dog with a bowl of ramen on its head. What sets their ramen apart is its very smooth soy sauce broth and irregularly shaped noodles.

Masanuki loved the texture of these noodles that mixed well with the broth and other toppings. It was a light ramen too, so he could see it going really well with drinks, and since this bus is open until one o’clock in the morning it would be great to just hang out on the tatami for a while.

After his meal, Masanuki stepped out of the bus and was struck by how silent everything outside was. There were hardly any lights or sounds around, which made his time inside the ramen bus feel like a dream.

Although it looks highly suspicious at first glance, Ka-chan Ramen has great ramen at a great price with great service. Masanuki also heard that their snacks are very good and hopes to try some during his next visit.

With the possibility of a cricket fad in Japan in the near future, this restaurant might see an uptick in customers too. Who knows? Maybe next time he visits it’ll even be a double-decker ramen restaurant.

Restaurant information
Ka-chan Ramen / かあちゃんラーメン
Address: Tochigi-ken, Sano-shi, Tochimotocho 4-5
Open 6 p.m.-1 a.m.
Open Fridays and Saturdays only

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