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Tips and Manners to Know Before Going to a Ramen Restaurant

Ramen is a Japanese dish popular with foreign tourists. If you've never eaten ramen in Japan before, here are some tips to know before you head to a restaurant.

Things to Know About Paying

There are two ways of paying in ramen restaurants: one is by buying a ticket from a machine and the other is by paying at the cash register.

■If there is a ticket machine
The ticket machines are located by the entrance, and there you can buy a ticket. Everything you want, from the ramen to toppings to side dishes, has its button on the machine so please make sure to get the tickets for everything you want. After you get the tickets, you hand it to an employee.
Many places only have Japanese on their machine, so if you need help when you get to a restaurant, please ask an employee.

■If paying at the register
After you're seated, you order by flagging down an employee. You pay after you eat, so when you're ready to leave, stop at the register first. Sometimes a check will be left at your table, and in those cases, please bring it with you to give to the cashier.

Restaurants that will let you customize your order

There are plenty of restaurants that will let you customize your order to your liking.

■Toppings
Many restaurants have a toppings menu that include items like seasoned egg, char siu, nori seaweed, menma (fermented bamboo shoots), and more. Add as many as you'd like.

■Hardness of the noodles
For Hakata ramen, a popular type of ramen that's made with thin straight noodles and tonkotsu (pork bone) soup, many restaurants will let you choose the hardness of the noodles when you order. For Hakata ramen, this is the order from hardest to softest: yuge-doshi ("passed through steam"), kona-otoshi ("flour washed away"), harigane ("wire"), barikata ("very hard"), kata ("hard"), futsuu ("normal"), yawa ("soft"), bariyawa ("very soft"). Yuge-doshi and kona-otoshi are both practically raw, so it's not recommended for first-timers.
*"Bari" means "very" in Hakata dialect.

■Kaedama
Even if you've finished, but you're still left wanting, you can order "kaedama." Kaedama is a second serving of noodles. Usually, for Hakata ramen, restaurants offer kaedama (not every restaurant does, though). It's only a second serving of noodles served in the bowl you just ate out of, so be careful of ordering it if you've finished the soup.

How to eat ramen deliciously

In Japan, when you eat noodles like soba and udon, it's customary to slurp. Ramen is the same, and being able to slurp makes it even more delicious. You can eat the noodles with plenty of soup, and the air that comes into your mouth with the noodles will bring the fragrance into your nose for an even better-tasting dish. You might think that slurping is bad manners, but when you're in Japan, please try it when you eat noodles.
The trick to slurping is to take in air with the noodles and soup, and let the air fill your stomach while the noodles and soup stay in your mouth. If the noodles are long and you can't slurp them completely, it's ok to bite them in half.

When you're finished eating

Ramen restaurants are not places to stay for a long period of time. After you've eaten, you can take a few moments to relax, and then get up from your seat. In restaurants where there's a counter for your empty ramen bowl, it's best to put the bowl there before you get up.

Extra: Difficult even for Japanese people?! Restaurants with special orders

There are some restaurants where you can order more than just toppings and the noodle hardness.
For example, at Ramen Jiro, a restaurant that has an incredible number of enthusiasts, you can pick the amount of vegetables and pork backfat you want, whether you want garlic, how thick you want your soup, and more. The staff calls out when the noodles are done, so you can tell them what you want then. Fanatics use magic words like "mashi" (extra serving) and "mashi-mashi" (double servings), but you can just ask the server "futsuu" (regular) or "ohme de" (extra) "onegaishimasu" (please).

Please use this as a guide when you go to eat ramen!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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