Welcome to my ramen dream... Currently being interpreted in Ramen Burger Land... Looking for a good slurp? Email me ! - Keizo

Sunday, September 5, 2010

In search of the ramen buddha... (EPIC!)

Day 307:

Forgive me for clogging your rss feed, but there was no way I could do this day justice with only 5 pictures. In all, I took over 250 pictures and it was hard enough narrowing it down to just this many. So without further ado, let's go find this ramen buddha!

At 6am, the suns rays shined through the glass much as it would have 100 years ago and awoke my ramen spirit with a mission. There was only one way to seek out the ramen buddha. I must first identify and slurp the 3 bowls to ramen liberation. Some may say it's the key to finding your inner ramenhism.

So after a quick morning meditation session, while enjoying the view of Mt. Daimonji, I was ready.

"Follow the man in the Bassanova shirt and he will lead the way," I was told.

Shinnyo-do, located just down the hill and south from where I was staying atop Mt. Yoshida, is in fact a favorite of the ramen buddha. Unfortunately, this was not his season.

The 30 meters tall pagoda is an impressive structure and an awesome sight to see in person. I've been told that the best time to visit Shinnyo-do is in the Fall when the late Autumn leaves litter the landscape and convert the already beautiful scene into a tranquil paradise.

A little further south is Kurodani, a temple representing the Jodo sect. The imposing ceremonial gate at its entrance is massive. Legend says that the ramen buddha helped rebuild this temple in 1942 after it was destroyed by fire in 1934.

Anyway, I'm getting hungry. I think it's time we pass through the Heian Jingu Torii en route to our first bowl.

Takakura Nijo (麺や 高倉二条) is the second highest ranked ramen shop in Kyoto, according to Ramendb. With nothing artificial about their ingredients and a noodle that is made with whole wheat, this ramen shop breaks out from the traditional 'Kyoto-style' and gracefully produces an elegant new-style that has become popular amongst the locals.

One thing is for sure, it's a beautifully crafted bowl.

Even their tsukemen is naturally photogenic.

The soup is a fishy tonkotsu blend that has an unexplained sour tinge. It's quite refreshing and I can understand why it is so highly ranked. The whole wheat noodles are similar in texture to soba, but I was surprised to see that it had more chew than I expected. Soba lovers may find this ramen addicting.

The chashu is a one-of-a-kind, remarkably moist, oven-roasted masterpiece. Its ambitious flavor rejuvenates the taste buds as it melts above your tongue. Overall, this ramen is a new style surviving in a city rich in its traditions--a new style that is key for understanding the important message of ramenhism.

After the first bowl, we did a quick ride-by on the outer edge of Nijo-jo, one of the most famous castles in Japan. The ramen buddha may have been in there, but I wasn't willing to pay the entrance fee to see him. I wanted to escape the heat.

This green tea slushie from Ippodo (一保堂茶舗), a three-century-old tea company, was just what we all needed.

The Takase River is a canal that used to play a major role in transporting materials into Central Kyoto, but now it just runs parallel to Kyoto's famous drinking district.

The most popular ramen shop along this river is arguably Miyoshi (博多長浜らーめん みよし), which is actually the same shop that started it all for my boy Nate. I didn't have time to enjoy a bowl (nor was I drunk enough), but I'm glad I got to see where Nate's ramen virginity was taken. haha.

The man in the Bassanova shirt said "this way!" so I followed him through the Gion district. It was too early for the geiko and maiko to be out, so we zoomed quickly through without a sign of the ramen buddha.

We also zipped passed the popular Yasaka Shrine. I remember my mom taking me here as a kid. I didn't see the ramen buddha then, so he must not be in there now. Time to go check out a Sanmon so I can free myself of the three passions.

The main gate to Nanzen-ji is fascinating. It symbolizes an entrance to the three roads to Buddhist liberation. For 500 yen you can also climb up to the second floor to see various paintings and images of Buddha.

Within the confines of Nanzen-ji stands a red-brick aqueduct called Sosui that still supplies water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto City. Etched into the ground stones surrounding Sosui are the five elements that seem to go relatively unnoticed by most visitors.

Saisho-in, a sub-temple of Nanzen-ji, is home to an artist-priest and carver of Noh masks. The mask with the horns is that of the jealous woman. If you are familiar with Japanese weddings, the bride sometimes wears what is called a tsunokakushi, which is used to hide the horns of jealousy.

On the outskirts of the temple is a Yudofu Restaurant that has been in business for over 300 years. It's a favorite of Michael and Lani's and a must visit if you're in Kyoto. Unfortunately, I couldn't fit it into my ramen budget. Next time!

One of the best things about having a local guide is that they take you to all the cool spots where tourists don't normally go.

Where dragonfly's aren't disturbed by your presence.

And where philosopher's walk as a form of daily meditation.

Deep within the mountain villa of Shishigatani, lies history that has yet to be uncovered.

Could this be where the members of the Shishigatani Incident conspired against Kiyomori? Or is this the house of the ramen buddha?

One thing is for sure, we need more ramen! So after a quick ride through the ramen-rich neighborhood of Ichijoji, we set our sights on the #1 ranked ramen shop in Kyoto.

Shikura (紫蔵) is located near Kyoto University and when I first saw a picture of one of their bowls, I couldn't believe my eyes.

Could it really be that the #1 ranked ramen shop in Kyoto serves a style made popular in Yokohama?

Unbelievable. The #1 ranked ramen shop in Kyoto serves a bowl of Iekei ramen. Albeit it's an Iekei ramen with a Kyoto twist, but it's still Iekei. I was so in shock I wasn't sure what to think.

I needed to consult the magic spinach ball.

By 'Kyoto twist' I mean Iekei with a hint of chicken. They actually don't do a bad job and I can see why Kyoto-ites have fallen in love with this foreign style. It just goes to show you how versatile ramen really is. There are no limits and there are no boundaries. Anything is possible as long as you can dream it.

After spending an entire day in search of the ramen buddha, I was still out of luck. I needed to have one more bowl to reach ramen liberation and a midnight ramen run was the answer. Unfortunately, the place I wanted to go to had run out of soup. #$%@!

No worries. Across the street was Ramen Akatsuki (ラーメン あかつき), which serves a more traditional bowl of Kyoto-style ramen.

It's a light tonkotsu-torigara blend, a perfect midnight snack.

No glitz, no glamour, just a simple bowl to enjoy at the end of a long day.

It's definitely liberating. This day has certainly changed my outlook on life and ramenhism. And as I slurped the last noodle and drank the last drop of my bowl....

The ramen buddha appeared...

*Please note: The ramen buddha is fiction and just a figment of my imagination. And yes, I do eat too much ramen.


  1. great post and lovely pictures! thank you (and your iron stomach) for all the hard work!

  2. Well, this entry was worth the wait! The Japan Tourism Board should be paying you. I want to visit Kyoto now in the worst way. Thanks for including all the links to help this SoCal native understand the cultural significance of the sites you visited on your road to liberation. Does anyone do a Kyoto style bowl in LA?

  3. your best post yet. love the scenic pics. -wall st. pundit

  4. Thanks and you're welcome! No kyoto style in LA i'm afraid.

  5. Hi Keizo,

    Nice photos! :) I love Kyoto. :) So was Shikura worth the #1 ranking? What was your fav? :)

  6. That tsukemen looks great. I was thinking that the presentation looks very soba-like.