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Living Japan

Behind The Plastic Curtain - Authentic Street-side Dining in Japan.

JAPAN | Monday, 20 June 2016 | Views [1580]

Identified by their plastic curtains, simple, single line stool- to-counter seating plans, and street-side locations; semi-outside ramen bars are a symbol of fast food dining in Japan, and an absolute must-have experience for anyone visiting the country in search of an authentic, atmospheric and budget-friendly Japanese dining adventure.
How they work:
As with most Japanese style fast food places, street-side ramen bars are very much in the business of catering for people on the go and customer changeovers are fittingly swift. On week nights targeted customers are usually salary men/ women  and other day workers in search of a quick bite to eat and a beer after clocking off from work. Throughout the evening there seems to be an unspoken rule between diners and staff to eat and drink up quickly and then leave so as not to disrupt the steady, subconscious orderly flow of outgoing and incoming customers (a rule which is especially noticeable in larger cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto). This steady flow of custom usually begins to naturally slow down the closer the clock moves towards the last trains of the night, and that allows for more loitering, and more relaxed banter between customer and staff, but you probably won't get to see this in action anytime before at least 11:00pm.
Most street-side ramen bars begin rolling open their curtains between 5:00 pm and 6:00 in the evening, and then close somewhen between 12:00am and 3:00 in the morning. Despite their more traditional 'Mom and Pop' feel, payment transactions are nowadays usually exchanged via modern ticket vending machines, where customers can select their chosen ramen bowl by pressing the corresponding picture coded buttons on the vending machine (most bowls are usually priced at around ¥700) That ticket is then handed to the server, and ensures that the customer can eat up and leave without having to wait to settle their bill. 
Given their small size (most street-side ramen bars can usually only seat between five and ten people), the distance between customer, chef, and server is therefore very small. This arrangement rewards diners  with an opportunity to not just smell, but also see their food being prepared whilst listening to continuous energetic staff cries of 'Irasshaimase' (a Japanese term for 'welcome') towards incoming customers, and the occasional passionate bursts of 'Kampai' (the Japanese expression for 'cheers') from other high spirited customers making the most of their nighttime liberation from work. 
Although usually a time short in duration a bowl of ramen enjoyed in a street-side ramen bar is a fun and very Japanese experience, and one that definitely shouldn't be passed up.

Tags: dining, experience, food, japan, ramen, street food

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