As a frequent traveler, have you been to Japan? If so, you probably have visited Tokyo but what about Fukuoka? Maybe you have never heard of it? Madeline and I made the trip to Fukuoka while staying in Osaka. We took the bullet train so we could learn more about the 6th largest city in Japan. You can check out our Fukuoka Attractions post here.
While we saw plenty of restaurants in Fukuoka, we only visited one during our day trip to Fukuoka. So, this is going to be about Ramen Stadium. Surely you’ve eaten ramen before. It’s been a college staple diet for decades. The Japanese can take ramen to a new level. I found a book that you will enjoy if you like ramen too.
We took the Shinkansen from Osaka to Fukuoka on a day trip, so we only had about 3.5 hours for our tour and for a quick lunch. I had built Ramen Stadium into our itinerary. The area we wanted to see is in the Gion region of Fukuoka which is just a short subway ride from Hakata station. We saw all the sites we had on the itinerary and the last stop was lunch before we’d head back to Osaka.
Most people that went to college or were struggling to pay for their apartment and survive knew about ramen. In the USA, it came dehydrated in a cup and you put boiling water into it and had an inexpensive meal. I loved ramen too but the kind that were in that cup are a far cry away from real ramen in a Japanese ramen restaurant.
This does not look particularly appetizing but even the Japanese will buy it in block form or in a cup in a pinch. It is sold at any convenience store with flavoring powder and/or seasoning oil. The flavoring is either in a separate packet or loose in the cup.
Of course, the Japanese would prefer their ramen to be fresh. Wouldn’t you? When we talk about ramen, there are so many styles of broth and noodles. If you like ramen in any form, you’ll enjoy it all over Japan.
Since I was a ramen fan and in Fukuoka, I found a place where there are many ramen restaurants all competing for my business. Ramen Stadium is located in Canal City Hakata. The Japanese use Fukuoka and Hakata somewhat interchangeably. When we arrived in Fukuoka on the JR Shinkansen the station name was Hakata Station, not Fukuoka Station.
In my research about food, I knew that ramen was a big deal in this city. Hakata-style ramen is renowned for its flavorful tonkatsu (pork) broth and thin noodles. Ramen Stadium has eight ramen stalls with ramen from Hakata, Kurume, and as far as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Sapporo. We wanted to sample a meal with some Hakata or Kurume style ramen so we could get a taste of the variety of noodles Fukuoka Prefecture has to offer. After all, we were here, we could try Kyoto style or Tokyo style in those cities.
One of the things most tourists do not know about Hakata ramen is the unique Kaedama system where you can have an extra serving of noodles only if you have at least half of your broth remaining. This is definitely handy if you’re hungry, but the portions were so large, we didn’t need to try.
1-chome-2 Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken, Japan 812-0018
We walked south along the river for about 5 minutes to Ramen Stadium. The group of eight popular ramen restaurants occupies the entire 5th floor of the Cinema Building of the Canal City Hakata shopping complex. Ramen Stadium is in the Cinema Building of Canal City Hakata so you can see the big city shopping mall after you’ve seen the normal Shotengai.
There is a pedestrian walkway you can take to the shopping complex. We were already on the street and just used it to confirm that we were in the right place. The complex is huge, and we wandered around trying to figure out where the stairs or escalators were that took us to the 5th floor. Eventually we figured it out.
We knew we had arrived when we could read the signs. I noticed that ramen was spelled differently but it was close enough for me.
The restaurants all give slightly different styles of ramen based on their interpretation of regional style. The sign above shows the eight different restaurant locations, but the descriptions were all in Japanese. We looked for other signs on the restaurants themselves. Ramen Stadium is designed to feel like an outdoor eating area surrounded by yatai - Japanese stalls that typically serve ramen. The yatai were not really stalls to us, they were more like restaurants with limited seating.
Here is the list of the ramen stalls we found at Ramen Stadium although they may change by the time you visit.
Nagahama Number One (Hakata Style)
Ramen Jinanbo (Hakata style)
Shodai Hide-Chan (Hakata Style)
Kurume Honda Shoten (Kurume Style). This is a neighboring region still within the same prefecture as Hakata, but they have their own style.
Gansotomato Ramen Sanmi (Fukuoka Style). This was confusing to me because I thought Fukuoka and Hakata were names for the same place. However, I saw that the broth in this restaurant was tomato based. This was too close to spaghetti with tomato sauce for me but maybe that’s what you’d like to try.
Shinasoba Chibakiya (Tokyo Style). I’ve had this style since I lived in Tokyo on several occasions. This particular style is a broth which is a combination of chicken stock, pork stock, bonito (tuna) stock and kelp. It may not sound good but when I’ve had it in Tokyo it was very tasty. The noodles are Soba which is the Japanese name for buckwheat. Soba are thin noodles made from buckwheat flour, or a combination of buckwheat and wheat flour. They contrast to thick wheat noodles, called Udon. You’ll have plenty of chances to try Udon and Soba noodles elsewhere.
Shinfukusaikan (Kyoto Style). This style is a combination of chicken and pork stock.
Sapporo Ramen Daichi (Sapporo Style). This style broth is a chicken and vegetable stock style.
We were in Fukuoka/Hakata, so I wanted to try the native style. Hakata style is a heavier ramen noodle with a milky white pork flavored soup that's creamier. There were three vendors offering this style with a fourth offering Kurume style which is close and still of the region.
Now, we had to pick a place. I knew we couldn’t go wrong in any selection. Any of the Japanese ramen restaurants were going to be terrific and nothing like what comes out of a plastic boil in the cup variety we have in the USA.
We spotted the Shodai Hide-Chan stall which specialized in Hakata-style ramen with a sweet-flavored tonkatsu, fine noodles, and extra thick sliced chashu. So, what are chashu? They are slices of simmered/braised pork.
I picked this spot because I saw that the owner had won awards for his ramen in New York. The owner is Hideto Kawahara, and it is his family tradition. His father opened Daruma Ramen in Hakata-ku, Fukuoka 50 years ago. In 1993, following in his father’s footsteps, Hideto opened his own ramen house in Hakata, the original Hide-Chan Ramen.
The Tonkatsu Ramen is a rich creamy pork bone soup with thin long noodles. You can get Tonkatsu on it or plenty of other things. I’ve had Tonkatsu in Tokyo on many occasions. Tonkatsu is a Japanese dish which consists of a breaded and fried pork filet or loin. It’s very tasty and available just about everywhere. I wanted to try a different style but still a Hakata style, so I chose the diced pork with chili oil because I’ve had that style in Tokyo and it was delicious.
I pointed at a picture of what we wanted. A friendly person came over and knew I had no idea what I was doing. She said, pay with machine. She pushed the proper button. I paid and a ticket came out that was my order. That was easy enough. The place was very crowded, but we only waited 5 minutes for a table. She showed us where to sit and we waited for our bowl.
We both shared a bowl because Madeline was not convinced she’d like it. She did so we considered getting another bowl but the first one was so filling, we refrained.
As we left we saw the ramen souvenir shop which also presented a photo opportunity.
If you are in the mood for ramen, you should try it anywhere in Japan. We were in Hakata/Fukuoka, so we needed to try Ramen Stadium in Canal City.
Tourists that are staying at the Grand Hyatt Fukuoka only have a short walk to Ramen City. We should know, because we passed it as we exited the Canal City complex and headed back on the sidewalk. We continued to walk toward Gion and take the subway back to Hakata station where we would board our Shinkansen for the return tour to Osaka and later the Hyatt Regency Osaka.