Dig Into Kyushu’s World Famous Ramen
Japanese ramen is a wildly popular dish around the world. One flavor in particular – Kyushu’s tonkotsu ramen – has become a huge hit in North America, Europe, and Asia. The number of visitors to Japan hungering for the authentic tonkotsu taste is skyrocketing. Here, we introduce you to the best of Kyushu ramen and provide tips on what to look for when you visit. Additionally, we spotlight AEON shops, which offer a wide selection of items ideal for souvenirs.
Kyushu, the shrine to ramen that everyone has their tastebuds set on
The key to ramen is making a strong broth from chicken stock and pork bone. Close attention is also paid to the thickness and texture of noodles, as well as the toppings, producing extremely diverse variations. Every region of Japan boasts its own “local ramen”, loved by residents and tourists alike.
Kyushu is particularly famous as the birthplace of “tonkotsu ramen”, which has won devoted fans across Japan and abroad. Tonkotsu ramen varies by region with five main varieties, each offering distinct flavors and ingredients.
“Kurume ramen”, the original Tonkotsu ramen
Tonkotsu broth was created in 1937 in Kurume city, located in the southern part of Fukuoka Prefecture. After much trial and error, it evolved into a white, opaque “cloudy tonkotsu broth” forming the basis for tonkotsu ramen. It’s known for its uniquely rich flavor and straight, firm, somewhat thick noodles.
Seiyou-ken’s Kurume ramen is distinct for its pure broth made with only domestically produced pork bone
“Hakata ramen” is a lightly flavored tonkotsu ramen
Fukuoka’s “Hakata ramen” usually features a lightly flavored broth, with super thin, straight noodles. Because the noodles are stretchy, a small portion is generally served with refills offered. Another distinct feature of Hakata ramen is being able to order noodles with a firmness to your liking.
“Hakata Ikkousha’s” tonkotsu ramen draws out the umami of pork bone to maximum effect
”Kumamoto ramen” presents a mild tonkotsu broth
The milder broth of “Kumamoto ramen” blends chicken stock into pork bone taken only from the pig’s head. Chips of fried garlic and mayu (black garlic oil) are added to this broth, which is sure to generate an intense appetite.
The original Kumamoto ramen created at “Komurasaki” is still made with the same recipe used since the company’s founding.
“Kagoshima ramen” combines pork bone and dried ingredients infused with Awase dashi
As Kagoshima is over 200 km (approx. 124 miles) from Fukuoka, the influence of Kurume’s flavor was minor, allowing for an original tonkotsu ramen to develop. This semi-opaque broth blends chicken stock, vegetables and dried ingredients such as kombu, dried sardines, and dried shiitake mushrooms with pork bone. This ramen is served with pickled daikon and green tea.
Kagoshima’s “Kuroiwa” is a popular restaurant whose noodles are used in locally produced cup ramen
“Nagasaki ramen” is made with a clear ago-dashi broth
“Nagasaki ramen” is known for its dashi broth made from a rare species of flying fish in Kyushu known as “ago”. This clear, light but rich broth gets its amber color from a dashi made with char-broiled ago.
Taikiken’s Ago-dashi ramen, popular for its crystal-clear broth with seafood
Check out the origin of Kumamoto ramen’s unmistakable ingredients
Highly rated ramen restaurant “Komurasaki” pays uncompromising attention to detail. As the birthplace of the original Kumamoto ramen, the staff insist on preserving the same flavor from their start in 1954, preparing the identical broth, noodles and ingredients.
For example, local artisans prepare hand made noodles from high quality raw flour, and thin, crunchy bean sprouts. Both are produced with time-honored techniques.
The many ingredients are carefully selected after scrutinizing their quality. The browned garlic, second from the top on the right, is carefully parched by an artisan over time.
Straight noodles of medium thickness. Special importance is placed on boiling them exactly right.
The source of its delicious flavor is Kumamoto’s natural spring water
The owner of “Komurasaki” reveals that Kumamoto ramen is delicious thanks to Kumamoto’s natural spring water. The river rising from the caldera of Mount Aso and rain water which formed an underground tributary join to form the Shirakawa River, which flows through Kumamoto’s towns and empties into the Ariake Sea. Kumamoto’s bean sprouts and nori are nourished by this mineral-rich water, making it the source of the delicious noodles and broth.
The Shirakawa riverhead, where the springs of Mount Aso pour forth, and the Ariake Sea, which has the greatest tidal range in Japan, are enticing tourist spots. We recommend visitors to Kumamoto to sample ramen and also appreciate the source of the ingredients while enjoying the picturesque scenery.
The Shirakawa Riverhead of Minamiaso village is roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes by bus from Kumamoto Airport. The village contains an onsen with a majestic view of Mount Aso.
Above is the home of nori – the Okoshiki Coast along the Ariake Sea. Below is a cultivation area which produces nori roughly nine months a year. The Okoshiki Coast has remained famous for its sunsets since the 4th century, with beautiful sand ripples at low tide created by wind and waves. The Okoshiki Coast can be reached in roughly one and a half hours from Kumamoto Station by bus or via the JR Misumi Line.
After hunting down Kyushu ramen, why not take some home?
Once you decide on your favorite ramen you’ll want to bring some home as a souvenir. The AEON MALL Kumamoto carries a wide selection of ramen from all over Kyushu, including local Kumamoto ramen. Noodles come in a variety of types, from raw noodles to dried, stick noodles. Treat yourself to flavors of Kyushu ramen which you didn’t get the chance to try during your trip.
Happy WAON is the mascot of the Ramen Corner and AEON’s e-money “WAON”. The name embodies the hope that many of people will use the service at a wide range of stores, in diverse situations and with a variety of sentiments.
“Stick ramen”, made from boiling stick-shaped dry noodles, is a staple of Kyushu ramen eaten with the family
Kyushu’s local ramen can be purchased as a single souvenir or in a set
You can also enjoy Kyushu ramen in the restaurant area of AEON MALL Kumamoto.
Kumamoto Ajisen ramen (left) and Kurume ramen (right) of Seiyoken, which started as a small food stall
Check out the new and improved AEON MALL Kumamoto!
The concept of AEON MALL Kumamoto centers on the “AEON STYLE”, offering visitors a lifestyle experience. The mall is also popular with Kumamoto residents for its convenience and wide selection of local products.
A local specialty of Kumamoto Prefecture is the citrus fruit “Banpeiyu”. Larger fruits have diameters of up to 25 cm (roughly 9.8 inches).
Globally-loved character Kumamon is the official mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture. There’s a multitude of merchandise that would make great souvenirs.
Within the AEON MALL Kumamoto is natural Onsen “Kashima Yumoto Suishun” where visitors can enjoy 13 types of baths on the premises, including an open-air “rotenburo”. Highly recommended as a refresher during your shopping activities.
AEON MALL Kumamoto
Address: 2232 Nagaike, Uejima, Kashima-machi, Kamimashiki gun, Kumamoto Prefecture
Open: 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
*Business hours may vary by store.
Directions: Roughly 20 minutes from the Kumamoto Bus Terminal by bus
Lend support to Kumamoto through the Gotochi WAON (local WAON) !
AEON’s e-money “WAON” also offers “local WAON”, an ideal souvenir for the trip, emblazoned with designs that embody the region’s character. AEON donates a portion of the money used with the “WAON” card to local governments in order to stimulate regional economic revitalization, environmental conservation, tourism promotion, etc. “Kumamoto – Fire Country WAON” also benefits Kumamoto Prefecture’s industry development and regional revitalization projects.
Kyushu ramen will move both newbies and veterans with its delicious flavor. Travel through Kyushu to eat your fill!