Saturday, January 05, 2008
Japan 2007: Eat Ramen, Save Money
Let me tell you something: despite my preconceptions, Japan was not an expensive place to travel. Sure, Japan is famous for extortionate taxi rides, luxurious hotels, and designer stores, but these are not your only options! Train rides are comparable to other big cities, good hostels are popping up all the time, (far cleaner than their European counterparts, believe you me), and the good people of Uniqlo will solve all your basic quality clothing needs. With the favourable exchange rate, I found Japan to be a surprisingly affordable place to travel. Even better, food is cheap cheap cheap. You could easily limit yourself to ¥2,000 a day on food if you're careful (although admittedly, this could spiral upwards if you're not), and almost all those favourites we Australians think of as traditional Japanese fare are cheap, everyday street food. Funnily enough, McDonalds and KFC are more expensive than rice or noodles. No excuses!
Now, do you see the sign in the photo at the top of this post? With the funky green dragon? This is the sign for kinryu ramen (gold dragon noodles), one of the funkiest eating places in funky Dotombori, downtown Osaka. The bottom 4 characters on that sign spell ramen, that Japanese favourite, the ubiquitous Chinese-style noodles which are available everywhere. Ramen are also cheap, at about ¥600 a pop. Those of you travelling to Japan (who don't read Japanese) would do well to try and remember those characters!
Kinryu ramen looked so cool that we couldn't go past it. In the midst of the crazy lights, shops, stalls and restaurants of the Dotombori region (photos to come!) sat this small, dragon-topped noodle bar, with tatami seats and orange laminex tables. And the aroma was pretty amazing. This place is one of those ticket-machine restaurants, where you make your choice and pay at a ticket machine before handing the ticket to a staff member and waiting for a seat.
2 choices: Regular ramen, or chaashuu ramen (ramen with extra roast pork).
Sides of kimchi, garlic and pickles are free and self service.
Tatami seats! Either sit side-saddle or take off your shoes to put your feet up. Shoes and tatami = a big faux pas!
Mmm... noodles. Slurping is expected, so go nuts.
Getting every last drop of glorious, MSG-filled broth...