Orochon ramen restaurant makes a bold, unappealing claim.

There are over 800,000 restaurants in Japan, and a whole bunch of them are ramen restaurants. With so much competition, any individual ramen joint has to do something special to stand out, which is why so many of them have signs and advertisements telling you how great their noodles broth, and/or toppings are.

So we were pretty shocked when we were driving though the town of Isehara in Kanagawa Prefecture, Tokyo’s neighbor to the south, and came upon a restaurant with a sign proclaiming that it serves the worst-tasting ramen in Japan.

▼ 日本一まずい! = The worst-tasting in Japan!!

That…shouldn’t be something to get excited about. Obviously, the better-tasting your restaurant’s food, well, the better. So while the sign said “The worst-tasting in Japan,” logically, whoever’s reading it should also, logically, take it to also mean “Stay away!”, right?

And yet…

…we found ourselves walking through the entrance of this restaurant, called Rishiri, all the same. Yeah, we realized our stomach and taste buds might end up hating us for this, but our inquisitive mind just had to know just what could make Rishiri’s ramen the worst in the entire country.

Rishiri specializes in orochon ramen, which is a pretty rare ramen variant that originated in Hokkaido Prefecture (orochon is a Ainu word meaning “brave”). Orochon ramen is a kind of miso ramen, the most popular broth base in Hokkaido, but with a spicy kick to it. Rishiri actually lets you select how spicy you want your broth to be, with a sort of confusing system that starts at Spice Ranking 7 (no spice), then increases in heat up to Spice Ranking 1, which is then surpassed by Spice Ranking Special 1 and, at the restaurant’s pinnacle of piquancy, Spice Ranking Special 2.

Honestly, we were already using most of our mental capacity grappling with the unusual “worst-tasting ramen in Japan” flex, so we didn’t have much brain power to weigh those various menu options, so we just went with the standard Orochon Miso Ramen, which is Spice Ranking 4, for 980 yen (US$6.35).

It is, you could say, not an especially pretty-looking bowl of ramen, but it didn’t look that bad either. Surprisingly, it actually smelled really good, far better than we’d have expected “Japan’s worst-tasting ramen” to smell.

But looks and smells alike can be deceiving, so we braced ourselves as we picked up a mouthful of noodles with our chopsticks and went in for our first taste. Before our flavor receptors fired up, though the first thing we noticed was the excellent consistency of the moderately thick noodles, neither too soft nor too firm. Then the flavor came on, which turned out to be…


And no, it wasn’t just fantastic by nature of being a few notches above our lowered expectation of “worst-tasting in Japan.” This is just seriously good ramen, with the vegetables lending a subtle sweetness to the broth and a noticeable and pleasant spicy kick to it too.

▼ The kikurage mushroom was impressively large

A lot of people like to add a pat of butter to their miso ramen broth, so we ordered one as an additional topping for 80 yen. As it melted and mixed in, it imparted a smooth, rich creaminess, so we got to enjoy two different broth flavors in one meal.

It was all so good that before we realized it, we’d finished off our entire bowl of Japan’s “worst-tasting” ramen.

Thoroughly satisfied in every way except regarding our curiosity, we had to know what the deal is with Rishiri’s sign. So we asked the restaurant’s manager, and he told us:

“We wanted a sign that would attract people’s attention.”

It certainly had caught our eyes, but it’s still a bold move to call your own food terrible-tasting. Still, it seems to have worked for Rishiri, since there were plenty of other customers inside while we were eating, and this is one case of flagrant false advertising that we’re happy to forgive.

Restaurant information
Rishiri (Isehara branch) / 利しり(伊勢原店)
Address: Kanagawa-ken, Isehara-shi, Kushihashi 68-5
Open 5:30 p.m-12:30 a.m
Closed Mondays

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