This guy must now be a hero to his classmates.

Japan is understandably proud of its unique food culture, and also aware that over the last decade Japanese cuisine has been skyrocketing in popularity overseas. So if you’re a foreign national in Japan, “What kind of Japanese food do you like?” is something you can expect to be asked sooner or later, and most likely it’s going to be sooner.

So when Jun Nappe, a 16-year-old Japanese-German student studying abroad in the town of Yanagawa, was being interviewed by a local TV station and got asked that question, he probably didn’t realize how significant his answer was going to end up being. Nappe told the interviewer that he really likes ramen, but that he was sad that the school he attends in Japan, Yanagawa High School, doesn’t serve ramen in its cafeteria.

Of special note here is the fact that Yanagawa is in Fukuoka Prefecture, which is one of the prime ramen regions in Japan. Specifically, Fukuoka is known for tonkotsu ramen, made with a richly flavorful pork-stock broth, and the prefecture is also where the mega-popular Ippudo tonkotsu ramen restaurant chain was founded. Nappe’s offhand interview remarks eventually made their way to the ears of Shigemi Kawahara, the founder of Ippudo and chairman of its parent company Chikara no Moto Holdings, at which point the 71-year-old Kawahara decided to make the ramen-loving teen’s school lunch dreams come true, in the way seen in the video below.

▼ Nappe himself appears at the 45-second mark.

Reaching out to the private school, Ippudo began talks with Yanagawa High to add Shiromaru Tonkotsu ramen, the restaurant chain’s signature dish (shown in the photo at the top of this article), to the cafeteria lunch menu. In order to ensure that the noodles, broth, and other ingredients would match the taste that’s won a loyal customer base across Japan, Ippudo dispatched a team of employees to train the Yanagawa High staff in how to prepare the Shiromaru.

February 5 was the first day for Ippudo to be served at the school, and the response from students was extremely positive, with roughly 500 of them, about 150 more than usually purchase lunch at the school, showing up for a bowl of Shiromaru. And while the ramen wasn’t free, at 500 yen (US$3.45) a bowl, it was a couple hundred yen less than Ippudo charges for it in their restaurants. Though the February 5 ramen service was billed as a one-day Ippudo ramen festival, from the end of this month Shiromaru is scheduled to become a permanent menu option at Yanagawa High. Making the whole thing extra special is that Yanagawa City doesn’t have a normal Ippudo branch, so now the students can enjoy its ramen without having to make an out-of-town excursion.

Online reactions to the unexpected development have included:

“Nappe is a hero.”
“So jealous!”
“I wonder if they’ll offer ‘kaedama’ refills of noodles [like they do at ramen restaurants]?”
“Ippudo for just 500 yen is a really good deal.”

A few commenters also expressed concerns about the nutritional balance of ramen as a school lunch, and it is true that tonkotsu is one of the less-healthy ramen varieties. That said, it’s worth remembering that Ippudo ramen is being added to the school’s menu, with other options like curry, rice bowls, and lighter noodles still available, so there’s probably nothing wrong with an occasional indulgence in some Shiromaru to lift students’ spirits before their afternoon classes.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun via Yahoo! Japan News, YouTube/FBS福岡放送ニュース
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