If someone told me when I woke up today that I'd meet several famous ramen chefs and one of my idols, I probably would have laughed and gone back to sleep. But as it turned out, I didn't have time to sleep. I needed to be in Yokohama by noon for day 2 of the ramen expo for a special invitation only event. For I had an invitation from the President of Sun Noodle himself, Mr. Hidehito Uki. I've actually been looking forward to this day for a very, very long time.
Since I arrived a little early, I decided to head into the expo alone and scope out the grounds to see if anything was different. Luckily, I still had my pass from yesterday (which I was apparently supposed to return) and was able to get in without a problem. My first stop? Back to the Nippon Ramen Association booth! Today's limited edition bowl was being brought to us by Maejima-san from Setagaya.
Wow! I've a had a love/hate relationship with Setagaya in the past, but when Maejima-san is actually doing the cooking he has the ability to make taste buds melt. Wow!
I had a little more time to kill so I decided to check out Yondaime Keisuke's new tsukemen.
If you love shrimp and lobster, you'll love Keisuke. Period. This time he took it a little further with these fettuccine-type noodles. Impressive.
Uki-san arrived just in time and then handed me this VIP pass. Uuuuuh really?? For me?? And then the dream within a dream began...
We walked around the expo and even though I had already seen every booth at least twice, with Uki-san by my side it was like I was walking with ramen royalty. He taught me something new at almost every booth and it gave a whole new meaning to being there.
After walking up an appetite we were ready to eat. (I was actually still a bit full, but I wasn't gonna pass up this bowl.)
I decided to try the ramen from Nagi again cuz I was craving some ginger.
Uki-san ordered the curry udon from Setagaya.
Then as we were finishing up our bowls, famous ramen chefs just started showing up. Mr. Takehiro Tsujita from Tsujita sat down in front of me and we started talking about his plans to open up a shop in LA next year. Honestly, I didn't recognize him at first and when I finally asked him his name and he told me I almost jumped out of my seat.
Then we got a special delivery of the udon being served at Koujiya from the owner himself.
Mr. Teruhisa Shimizu. He also owns all the Ramen Dai shops.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the chairman of the Nippon Ramen Association Mr. Kenji Chiba of Chibaki-ya. I've met Chiba-san once before back in March of 2009, but I've never had the opportunity to sit across from him and hear him talk. I was speechless...
My body was starting to feel numb, but the day was just getting started. I then followed Uki-san to check out then new factory noodle making machines. Hey, those look familiar!
Then on our way up to the 'social gathering' of famous ramen people, I got to meet the vice-chairman of the Nippon Ramen Association Mr. Hiroshi Nakamura of Daimonji.
Social gathering? With ramen celebrities? Was I really experiencing this?
Mr. Keisuke Takeda of Keisuke. I was so nervous...
Mr. Ramen himself, Tsukasa Maejima of Setagaya. Still nervous...
My idol, Mr. Hiroshi Oosaki of ラーメンバンク. I can't move my legs...
Okay the beer has started to flow. This is Mizutani-san, a friend of Uki-san. She owns a ramen shop in Saitama and she's the best at getting tons of free samples that would normally cost a lot. Thanks to her I got to lug 6 kilos of salt home. haha.
She wanted me to post a picture of her and Keisuke on my blog. I gladly oblige. Keisuke was awesome by the way. He came over to talk to us and explained how he got into ramen from being a classically trained French chef. Plain and simple it was because he loves ramen. And shrimp. Makes perfect sense.
I couldn't believe it. It felt so surreal. To even be breathing the same air as these people felt crazy. That's Nakamoto-san of Mouko Tanmen Nakamoto on stage with Maejima-san and Oosaki-san. Crazy!
Uki-san, I can't thank you enough. For you to help me live this dream cannot be put into words. You are awesome!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
At some point, I think I stopped breathing...