It is rumored that there are more than 1,000 Ihekei-Ramen restaurants in Japan and Asia, and that Ihekei-Ramen may have a stronger influence on the ramen industry than Ramen Jiro. I visited the origin of Ihekei-Ramen, Ihekei So-honzan Yoshimuraya, which opened in 1974 in Sugita, Yokohama, and continues to operate today at the west exit of Yokohama Station.
Although the founder, Mr. Minoru Yoshimura, still retains his name in the restaurant as chairman, the restaurant is now run mainly by his son, who is the president, and we can no longer experience the original flavor of Ikei-Ramen made by the founder. Nevertheless, the fact that the restaurant still draws long lines every day, as it did before, probably indicates that the ramen made by his son is as good as that of the first generation.
Since Yoshimuraya is such an extremely popular ramen restaurant, there must be huge lines at peak times of the day and night, and if you are not very good at it, you may have to wait for more than an hour…? As one might expect, it would be tough to wait in line, so we decided to visit the restaurant around 4:30 p.m., when there would be fewer customers. I really appreciated the fact that Yoshimuraya is open all day with no idle time. But that doesn’t mean you can enter the restaurant with zero waiting time…
Relocated to a new location on March 24, 2023…How to get in line at the new Ihekei So-honzan Yoshimuraya
Ihekei So-honzan Yoshimuraya moved to a new location on March 24, 2023, when the lease expired on the previous location. The new location is about a two-minute walk from the previous restaurant, and this time the restaurant is operating in its own building, not renting. This means that unless there are special circumstances, the restaurant will continue to operate in the same location for the foreseeable future, and you will be able to enjoy the taste of the originator of Iekei-Ramen here for decades to come. For those Ihekei-Ramen fans around the country who are hoping to someday enjoy the taste of the original Ihekei-Ramen, rest assured that you will not be disappointed.
Now, with the relocation of the restaurant, there will naturally be some changes to the queueing process. First, please see the map below…
As shown in this map, people line up in order from ① to ② with the first person near the entrance of the store, but only about 10 people can line up in this area from ① to ②, which is not many. After that, the people in line move to area (3), which is a little further away…
This is an alley alongside the grounds of Kanagawa Prefectural Yokohama Hiranuma High School, and the line is quite long and straight, so even if there were to be a 100-person level line, it would be fine.
Thus summarizing how to queue at the new Yoshimuraya restaurant, perhaps the most difficult part is to decide when you come to the restaurant, “Should I line up for (2) or (3)?” But basically, two or three waiters are outside the store organizing the queue, so you can just follow their instructions and you will be fine. When you are waiting in area (3), you can rest assured that they will come to call you when a space becomes available in (1) or (2). By the way, when I visited the restaurant that day, there were a total of 16 customers in the line, and the wait time to enter the restaurant was about 20 minutes.
This is the taste of the origin of Ihekei Ramen! How was the ramen at Yoshimuraya?
Ordering at Yoshimuraya is based on the meal ticket system, and the rule is to purchase your meal ticket ahead of time when you are about to enter the restaurant. Here is what the menu looks like…
While it is possible to create variations by adding more noodles (regular, medium, or large), more chashu pork, or additional toppings, the foundation of the ramen menu is a soy sauce broth based on pork and chicken bones. There is no other choice. Conversely, the fact that this tonkotsu and soy sauce ramen has created a large number of enthusiastic fans throughout Japan is a clear indication of how great this ramen is.
You sit at one of the 17 L-shaped counters along the kitchen (there are also six counter seats and one table for four on the second floor, for a total of 27 seats) and hand your meal ticket to the waiter. At this time, you can customize your order like…
Hardness of noodles (hard, normal, soft)
The thickness of the flavor (thick, normal, light)
Amount of chicken oil (more, normal, less)
So if you have your own favorite flavor, don’t forget to tell the waiter.
After placing my order, I waited about 5 minutes for my ramen to be served.
The toppings are three large pieces of grilled seaweed, spinach, and a piece of chashu pork, all of which have become synonymous with Iekei Ramen… The surface of the bowl is almost completely covered with these toppings, giving the appearance of a simple but luxurious impression. Yes, the customization of the flavor this time was the hardness of the noodles, the intensity of the flavor, and the amount of chicken oil, all of which are normal. In other words, it is truly normal.
Let’s start with the soup… The first sip is slightly oily and you can feel a light thickening on the tip of your tongue. The first mouthful is slightly oily, and you will feel a light thickening on the tip of your tongue! It is not a strong impact, but rather it spreads softly. The soy sauce, which has a light edge to it, gives the soup a crisp impression. There is almost no sweetness. To be honest, I was expecting the soup to be much thicker, but it gave a surprisingly urban and stylish impression.
The noodles for this are flat, medium-thick noodles made by “Sakai Seimen”, a familiar name in Iekei Ramen. These noodles are already an established standard. They are smooth and chewy. The aroma of wheat spreads softly when you bite into them, and their presence is as strong as that of the soup. Each noodle is short, so it is easy to eat and slides easily down your throat. Also, the portion is rather large, even though it is a standard serving, so it is quite satisfying for the stomach.
The main topping, chashu pork, has a mild smoky smell compared to other Ihekei Ramen I have had, and the thin slices make it easy to eat. However, the pork flavor is very strong. It is packed like a high-quality ham. If this kind of chashu pork had been made since 1974, when the restaurant was founded, it would have been perceived as very avant-garde…
Contrary to my initial expectations, the default ramen of Yoshimuraya, the headquarter of the Yoshimuraya family, was quite sophisticated. In that sense, I was honestly surprised. From Chairman Yoshimura’s belittling tone on TV, I thought he was making ramen with a stronger flavor….
But this is the quintessence, or rather the axis, of Ihekei-Ramen. If we use this as a reference point, you can see how other restaurants have added their own unique arrangements and variations to their Ikei-style ramen. When I think about it, I am in awe of the culture of Ihekei-Ramen, or rather, the history and background of how it has spread so widely in the world today. It is definitely a legendary restaurant that plays a part in the history of ramen in Japan, and I don’t think there is a single ramen lover who will regret visiting it.
Iekei So-honzan Yoshimuraya’s Ramen topping menu (prices include tax)
Nori (seaweed) 60 yen
Ajitama (seasoned eggs) 50 yen
Vegetable field 100 yen
Spicy miso green onion 150 yen
Cabbage 100 yen
Onion 100 yen
Fresh spinach 250 yen
There are 8 directly affiliated stores nationwide… Access to Iekei So-honzan Yoshimuraya is a 7-minute walk from the nearest station, JR Yokohama Station.
There are 8 Iekei Sohonzan Yoshimuraya stores nationwide…
Sugitaya (Isogo-ku, Yokohama City)
Atsugi-ya (Atsugi City, Kanagawa Prefecture)
Hajimeya (Uozu City, Toyama Prefecture)
Takamatsuya (Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture)
Joetsuya (Joetsu City, Niigata Prefecture)
Suehiroya (Kanagawa-ku, Yokohama City)
Uchidaya (Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka)
Kan2-ya (Konan-ku, Yokohama City)
(Note: As of September 2023, according to Wikipedia). All of these stores have been approved by Chairman Yoshimura, so if you have had Iekei ramen at one of these stores, you can safely assume that you have had genuine Iekei ramen. If you are a fan of Iekei-style ramen, please stop by and try the flavors of these directly-affiliated stores when you are in the neighborhood.
Now, here are the details of the stores. Restaurant data is here…
Iekei So-honzan Yoshimuraya Out of 5
.Address: 1-6-4 Okano, Nishi-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 220-0073
Phone number: 045-322-9988
Business hours: 11:00-20:00
Closed: Monday (if Monday is a national holiday, the restaurant is closed the following Tuesday)
Parking: No parking lot
Credit card payment: Not accepted (meal ticket system)
It is also an 8-minute walk from Hiranumabashi Station on the Sagami Railway Main Line.
P.S. Tonkotsu soy sauce ramen (produced by Island Foods) supervised by Ieke So-honzan Yoshimuraya can also be ordered by mail order using Amazon or Rakuten….