Alone With Your Ramen My acupuncturist in Nagoya is from Fukuoka, and Fukuoka folks are passionate about their ramen. When I asked where I should go to get Fukuoka ramen in Nagoya, he replied Fukuoka. When pressed, he said, there is a place, downtown, that comes close. Its a chain, but its good. It does express our passion. There are dividers. Dividers? So you are completely alone with your ramen. When you open the sliding door to Ichiran, you are greeted by a vending machine. This is common in Japanese ramen shopsa vending machine selling tickets for your choice of ramen, side dishes if there are any, and drinks. No one at the shop handles money. I used to think this signaled bad quality but actually it is quite the opposite. Got my ticket, and I enter a long narrow corridor. There is a single counter with dividers. Each cubicle is like a cockpit, everything within reach. To the left is a spout for my water. Right above it are cups. Chopsticks, to my right. There is a small devise that serves two purposes: 1. to call for help 2. detonates a loud trumpet tune called Charumera when I place a small plate on it, announcing that I want extra noodles. Business cards to my left. Above is a shelf for your bags. Behind you is a hook for your jacket and umbrella, and a box of tissues to catch the snot that inevitably oozes out as you consume hot soup. The stools are bolted to the floor predetermining the distance between you and the ramen. Its close. You cant really be any taller than 55″. There is a slip of paper with a red pen (which is attached to a chain). It looks like a test. There are multiple choice answers to circle. Do I want: 1. no garlic 2. some garlic 3. a lot of garlic; 1. small noodle portion 2. medium 3. extra; Egg, no egg; how spicy; how rich the soup? Before me, a mini bamboo blind is up. The opening is about the size of a small TV and I only see the lower torso of workers running around. Someone approaches. When she bows, I catch a glance of her face, but otherwise, the opening shows her middle. She takes my ticket and the slip of paper. She lowers the blind. Suddenly I am alone, in my cubicle, contemplating the arrival of this ramen. The only sounds I hear are aggressive slurping of noodles, sniffling, and the deafening Charumera. The ramen makers in their mobile carts used to blow this tune back in the day to notify the neighborhood that hes arrived. This seems to blare every few minutes letting all of us know that someone is ordering more noodle. There is no conversation. *snip* My blinds open. A beautiful bowl appears, presented by a pair of delicate hands. She bows again, tells me to enjoy my ramen, and closes the blinds. It smells delicious. *snip* More at the LINK.