The "Ramen-Kai"

More than three dozen of Kitakata's over 100 ramen shops are associated with the Ramen-Kai. You can identify which shops from the banner「喜多方老麺会(Kitakata Ramen-Kai)」proudly displayed in front of these shops.

Kitakata Ramen Style

Kitakata ramen is known for thick, wavy noodles in a shoyu (soy sauce) based soup. However, other styles, like salt and miso, are also popular, and there are variations in the noodles as well. Served simply with slices of roast pork and other toppings, Kitakata ramen fits the image that many Japanese people have of what ramen is.

Things to Know about Kitakata Ramen

1. The History of Kitakata Ramen

Kitakata ramen started with a single young man...
It started over 100 years ago, with one young man...
Blowing his "charumera", a small bugle, to draw attention; a young man from China pulled his food cart along the streets selling "Chinese Soba." The term "ramen" didn't exist yet, much less ramen shops, but this one man would soon have a profound impact on Kitakata's noodle culture.
Kitakata is known for its "kura", traditional storehouses, and its reputation for fine "sake". Tourists, hungry after a day of sake tasting and sightseeing, were drawn to the aroma of noodles in hot soup. From that humble beginning, history was made.

2. The source of Kitakata ramen's splendor

Pristine water from Mt. Iide
Blessed by the surrounding mountains, Kitakata city sits in an immaculate water catchment originating from Mt. Iide. Thanks to the Tsugamine falls, amongst others, and their high mineral content, the ground and tap water that flows to the city were selected to be among the best in Japan during the Heisei era (1989-2019). It all starts with water, and what results is the superior quality of the ingredients that go into ramen; from soy sauce and miso to the vegetables that are locally grown and of course, the water that the soup is made from.

3. Kitakata's Breakfast Ramen

In Kitakata, rather than topping off a night with ramen, many eat it with the rising sun!
In Kitakata, rather than ending a night out with a bowl of ramen, many eat it with the rising sun!
A somewhat unusual, but increasingly popular trend, hearty ramen in the early morning is part of a typical day for many in this city and has become a touchstone of Kitakata culture.
Why are so many ramen shops even open in the morning? It has its roots in the working culture of the townspeople. Factory workers hungry after overnight shifts, farmers finishing their pre-dawn work, young people returning for the weekend after an overnight train ride home from their urban jobs, all found comfort in a hot bowl of ramen in the early morning cold.
The breakfast ramen culture is alive and well. Come see for yourself how the hot, nourishing Kitakata ramen has supported a century of life in this city.

A look at the ramen shops of Kitakata

Sakuyama Shokudo
Carefully crafted from the ground up, the water, vegetables, and rich stock of niboshi sardines and chicken make this a flagship bowl of Kitakata ramen. You'll see sake glasses lined up with the ramen bowls, too.
https://goo.gl/maps/ZqnAqKwReCBz4vVL7
Aka Renga
A famous location used in television shows and such, the soup here is light, yet boasts a pleasant depth. The stewed pork is different from the typical thin slices, and is closer to chunks, but still melts in your mouth. Home-grown side dishes of fresh, crisp veggies keep many customers coming again and again.
https://goo.gl/maps/etHrhW7cagXW7YeTA
Ippei
A primarily bone-based broth, niboshi sardine stock is added for an additional depth of flavor. Without fail, mornings here are bustling, filled with local regulars and visitors alike.
https://goo.gl/maps/WBAmcJ1SyHE2VS9m6
Namae Shokudo
A welcoming atmosphere with some of the friendliest staff around. The wide tatami seating in addition to the counter makes this a popular spot for families with kids. The highly acclaimed soy-sauce base is light and poppy, and the miso base is a hearty one with garlic notes.
https://goo.gl/maps/Motqfm14bNikwHZV6
Kado-ya Shokudo
One of the longest running shops in Kitakata, this is classic ramen! If you only eat one bowl your whole visit, many recommend this to taste one of Japan's earliest ramen styles.
https://goo.gl/maps/8ppakppePuZUoEAF9
Hisaji-ya Shokudo
Only thick, hearty bones for the stock here. A shop with delicious standards, they are very picky about the soy-sauce used in the broth. After storing the finished broth to bring out a smoother flavor, the harmony of the springy noodles, buttery pork slices, and honed broth is a truly a treat.
https://goo.gl/maps/tBEvjXRSP1GVGm2L6
Shokudo Ito
The broth has been perfected since the 32nd year of the Showa era (1957), and they have found the perfect noodle  to compliment it. "Kura Ramen" is their trademark, topping-filled bowl and can be enjoyed with either a soy-sauce or salt base.
https://goo.gl/maps/FERyu68rghR7iJqYA
Kohei
Their highly regarded "Shikkoku Ramen" (jet-black ramen) uses a uniquely dense soy-sauce, procured from the distant Nanao city in Ishikawa. The ramen is dense and dark at a glance, but has a shockingly bright and crisp flavor. Come for the ramen, but you'd be missing out if you don't try their hand made gyoza dumplings!
https://goo.gl/maps/FT5MTjCNKR8aXi1H8
Ramen Maruya
A clear, perfected soup that has stood the test of decades. Started in the 29th year of the Showa era (1954), they have preserved their simple yet refined flavor. Soy-sauce base is a given, but they are also well-known for their miso variety.
https://goo.gl/maps/jEewoe6AEnZHF1Tf9
Fukushima-ya
The soup is prepared daily with noodles brought to perfection within the sake cellars of Kitakata. With a complex blend of ingredients in the light yet robust stock, the slightly curly noodles make for both an excellent miso or soy-sauce flavored ramen.
https://goo.gl/maps/tMELBifLKXiafDxS9
Tamayoshi Shokudo
This restaurant opened in 1972, the 47th year of the Showa era. A warm and inviting mood is backed up with an extensive menu of ramen and rice dishes. Their typical Kitakata ramen, as well as their more hearty miso ramen set are popular items. Adjust the density of the flavor, and firmness of the noodles to your liking as well.
https://goo.gl/maps/psvfNvefRB3r1Nid7
Kura-yoshi
A reason for this shop's popularity is the way the chef makes it a slow-dining experience, focusing his years of skill into every bowl. The soup is rich and complex, made from pork and chicken bones, konbu seaweed, niboshi sardines, along with a host of vegetables.
https://goo.gl/maps/NjMC1WYrhxweDaVy9
Abe Shokudo
Abe Shokudo keeps their recipe unchanged, and goes above and beyond to serve the highest standards of noodles and soup. The balance of pork and niboshi sardine broth is exquisitely done, making many a regular diner here. It's not common for a line to be out the door on busy days.
https://goo.gl/maps/836v15xJ6Qne55537
Kura-Ichiban Yamaguchi
This is true Kitakata ramen! The chef is a long-time ramen shop owner, and his hand-made noodles are a custom match for the superb broth. Try their famous lean slices of pork topped with green onions here.
https://goo.gl/maps/2fGepbXrB7ZPyMES9
Kondo Shokudo
A special ramen utilizing only the best ingredients. The noodles here are on the thick side, and have created a large fan base. The green onions are crisp and fresh, making a scrumptious duo with the tender slices of pork.
https://goo.gl/maps/zBQKX5Ws5iYcTGvH9
Matsu Shokudo
The crown jewel here is their sliced pork. Its soft, nearly melting texture, and slow-cooked aroma capture all who try it. Complimented by the vegetable-heavy soup, this ramen has a refined balance. A must for anyone who likes pork topping.
https://goo.gl/maps/Kk4auEL51GQe3MBh7
Ban-nai Shokudo
A golden, mellow soup that is quite the legend. Their signature dish, aptly named "meat soba", literally shields any view of the noodles with a blanket of sliced pork, scrumptiously slow-boiled in soy sauce. The noodles are thick, with a high moisture content, making for a springy and absorbent texture. This ramen is very popular with all generations.
https://goo.gl/maps/ryZHL9mhD2KvQiB1A
Daisangen
Resulting from years of perfection, they recommend their miso ramen to you! The soup and noodles are of course a match made in heaven with a nice, crisp stack of vegetables as a topping. If you're really up for a full belly, order some of their famous gyoza dumplings, too!
https://goo.gl/maps/a2okv2eESrnayyxx5
Ito Shokudo
Open until the late hours of the night, many stop by for some soothing ramen after a night of drinking. The soup is mostly niboshi sardine, and the simple, light flavor makes it easy to drink the soup to the very last drop.
https://goo.gl/maps/x9LnzpLHUuroh9279
Tanpopo-tei
Located right next to the Kitakata Ramen-Kan, this ramen shop pursues the perfection of flavor with boundless passion. Their prized "spicy sesame ramen" is a mouthwatering dish sure to excite and delight.
https://goo.gl/maps/H4hAhrFZKMjPWR19A
Aoi Han-ten
The owner's soup is made to his own strict standards, and even redone if he feels it isn't up to par! The regional vegetables pair with the soup to make a one of a kind combination.
https://goo.gl/maps/xpcbEJAGE3i6G2df7
Tai-an Shokudo
A legendary ramen shop in Kitakata, this was once a featured shop at the Yokohama Ramen Museum. They maintain the classic Kitakata flavor, using niboshi sardine stock for a light and complex flavor.
https://goo.gl/maps/UP1NNajhkimkKsUGA
Kuru-Kuru Ken
The soup here is from a variety of ingredients, with pork meat and bone broth as the base, adding in lighter chicken stock, seafood stocks of niboshi sardine and konbu seaweed, as well stock from shiitake mushrooms and other vegetables. And here, they can tailor your soup flavors and noodle tension to your liking.
https://goo.gl/maps/kFu79w8RWPmgBtJW6
Raimu
From their own special recipe of soft, sliced pork, they choose only the best cuts to roast over an open flame, and add as a topping to their signature bowl. This ramen is a true luxury, and not only looks amazing, but invites your appetite with a delicious smell.
https://goo.gl/maps/u8uT1zf3LUhTMnhj7
Isobe Shokudo
Here, they're very proud of their easygoing soup base made from locally prepared soy sauce. It's classic Kitakata ramen, and as such, they have many long-term repeaters. The additional menu items, like set meals and rice bowls are also quite 
https://goo.gl/maps/AXByMKDExS98C4327
Genrai-ken
This shop is a part of Kitakata ramen history. Ban-kin-sei, a man from China at the end of the Taisho period in Japan (1912-1926) began this shop as a mobile food-cart. The flavor here has stood the test of nearly a century, and their handmade ramen and gyoza dumplings continue to be a  recommendation to all.
https://goo.gl/maps/sbG9h85cDh2dRPuk6
Honke O-Minato Aji-Hei
This ramen shop is synonymous with "proper Kitakata ramen". With two distinct soups, one dense and one light soy sauce, the meat stock has a round and smooth flavor. They have also become famous for their humorous atmosphere and naming of dishes.
"Don-to-koi" ramen, kind of means "Gimme your best shot!" ramen
https://goo.gl/maps/rTwfHZK2iXxyGBz97
Sakurai Shokudo
At Sakurai Shokudo, their star ramen is "Genso Kura ramen", and you can choose between a miso or soy sauce base. With nutrition for their customers in mind, the toppings include ginger and wakame seaweed.
https://goo.gl/maps/fp3ApUbFKanSvHmy9
Marumi Shokudo
The is a must-try ramen while in Kitakata. The soup is additive-free, and all pork used is Japan's unique "egoma pork", a pig raised with "egoma", a perilla plant often used for health benefits, added into their food.
https://goo.gl/maps/FnB4ViFqZ9tNPB6Q8
Shokudo Namae
A simple bowl can contain the essence of Kitakata ramen! This shop is well known for having some of the thickest noodles in the area, that match perfectly with the clear yet robust soup. The marbled pork tops it off to make a delectable meal.
https://goo.gl/maps/CFJVLP26f52ER5DMA
Daiki
Famous for their miso ramen, made with a blend of three different miso pastes from all over Japan. The soup is light, in true Japanese style, and easy to slurp to the last drop.
https://goo.gl/maps/khqSkS635NzvdSDU7
Sugai Shokudo
The ramen looks simple at a glance, but one bite is guaranteed to make you come back. You'll be hooked on the classic and filling Kitakata ramen, full of meat and flavor!
https://goo.gl/maps/mCv2Nh4KVeeajcVq5
Shinise Shanghai
The first owner of this very old shop "Shanghai" actually came in contact with ramen in Shanghai over a half-century ago, and this shop is his ongoing legacy of flavor. Enjoy this tried and true ramen, as well as the kind and welcoming staff.
https://goo.gl/maps/4qXF5GLDjfD5fhqs7
Sugai Shokudo
(bypass shop)
The refreshing soup coats the noodles perfectly, making a delicious balance with their tasty pork toppings. The salt base ramen in particular will make you hope it never ends.
https://goo.gl/maps/RU5Gp1ZZkVy5XTxb8
Aji-an Shokudo
Choose from three different varieties of soups, from light to dense. Their unique recommendation is a wasabi ramen, giving the soup a pungently refreshing feel. The noodles are 100% local wheat, and have the signature moist and springy Kitakata style.
https://goo.gl/maps/v9HRff4MafFDWMZBA
Shiokawa-ya
A consummate bowl using "egoma pork" as a topping. The soup here has a unique shine, and uses a mostly seafood base, with niboshi sardine, konbu seaweed, and small Japanese clams. The "egoma" pork topping is sourced from pigs raised on a healthy diet including locally grown Aizu rice, roasted soy beans, and the egoma (perilla) plant.
https://g.page/shiokawaya?share
Menya Gen
This shop is proud of every aspect of their ramen, from the umami-rich fish stock, to the "rolled" pork topping, and even to the seasoned hard-boiled eggs. Please come and try it out.
https://goo.gl/maps/yM979bzrQJJZL29y9
Shunen
Secret garlic oil that brings out the flavor! Shunen appearance all animal fat is cut and secret garlic oil is used. The soup is refreshing and deep. There are also many local regulars.
https://goo.gl/maps/eBo6nfzwgx1tVbXj7
Namae Shokudo
A welcoming atmosphere with some of the friendliest staff around. The wide tatami seating in addition to the counter makes this a popular spot for families with kids. The highly acclaimed soy-sauce base is light and poppy, and the miso base is a hearty one with garlic notes.
https://goo.gl/maps/Motqfm14bNikwHZV6

Kitakata Ramen MAP

Handy Guide to Walking and Eating!!