The Ramen Girls Festival 2016 (ラーメン女子博'16 - Ramen girls Festival) rolled into town today, temporarily occupying a prime bit of real estate slap bang between Yokohama’s showpiece Redbrick Warehouses (赤レンガ). Never could one imagine a finer setting for slurping up some noodles.
The festival is the brainchild of Morimoto Satoko (森本聡子) who, according to the festival homepage, wants to promote the culture of women being able to go out for ramen, even if by themselves. Her quest began 12 years ago, and if the opening couple of hours of this year’s event are anything to go by, she looks to be doing sterling work.
The first thing to clear up about the Ramen Girls Festival is that it’s not ‘girls only’. Anyone can rock up to the event and get fed. There is, however, a ‘girls only’ zone occupying a section of the festival site, which affords female festival goers the best choice of tables and chairs. Don’t be discouraged though fellas, there’s plenty of other seating to go around.
There are 12 ramen stalls here, all lined up on one half of the site. Each represents ramen shops carefully selected by Morimoto herself on the basis that they have ramen dishes ‘dedicated/devoted’ to ラーメン女子 / ramen joshi (girls).
As with all of Japan’s food festivals queueing plays a key role. At the time of visiting the longest lines were for 中華そば すずらん / Chuka Soba Suzuran (from a Tokyo based joint whose ramen the menu describes as being, “more than just ramen, this is high quality Japanese cuisine”) and 黄金の塩らぁ麺 ドゥエイタリアン / Ogon no Shio Ramen Due Italian (another Tokyo operation that, again according to the menu will .. “make a girl’s heart feel rich”).
Ever the outsiders, we were drawn to the stalls that looked a little lonely. First up - Hawaiian themed ramen. Yes, it seem implausible that anything ‘Hawaiian’ in Japan wouldn’t be getting plenty of attention, but at 麺屋 (menya) Hulu-lu there was only one person being served. We went with the ピリ辛まぜSOBA (a limited dish for the festival, see pic above, left). It had a bit of a spicy kick to it, and the lack of any soup was seen by this eater as a good thing. Oh, and it was decorated with hibiscus flower. A lovely touch.
Next up, yes, another short queue. This time for Miso Noodle Spot 角栄 (KAKU-A) (Tokyo), which was serving curry ramen (see pic above, right). We paid an extra 100 yen for ‘meat topping’. Definitely on the mild side, and lacking a bit of a kick, it did, however, line the stomach nicely.
The Other Stuff
The Ramen Girls Festival is a ticket based operation. A tent at the back of the site takes your money (tickets sold in values of 900 yen, which will get you one dish). At the time of being served, we think we were told there was no place to get refunds, so don’t get over excited. Goods from other stalls (drinks etc) are cash only. There’s no smoking on the actual site, but there is a smoking space just around the corner. Baby-faced festival goers will be asked for I.D, at least the locals will, anyway!
The site isn’t particularly big, but there were plenty of places to park bums, some nice tunes scrolling on the sound system (we head some Tribe Called Quest), and the overall vibe was one of relaxed sophistication befitting of the target slurpers. Not that we were counting, but we’d venture to say the split between girls and dudes was 50/50.Aside from ramen, the festival hosts stalls selling drinks (canned beers 400 yen, alcopops 300 yen, soft drinks 200 yen), beauty products, breath care products (could be needed), tapioca drinks (450 yen), chocolate pizza, and, perhaps the highlight of the non-ramen options, cakes that look like ramen dishes from the festival (900 yen) as made by Maple Cakes (read more about Maple’s offerings in a post by one of the City-Cost community here).
We like what they’re trying to do here. Ramen joints can often be the preserve of the knackered / pissed salaryman, or if not, the ramen eating experience can sometimes appear to be like that of a first meal after a hunger strike. This festival adds a bit of much needed class and contemplation to the ramen scene. Yes, it’s a ‘girls’ festival, but it can also be enjoyed by the fellas, and we don’t mean that in any leering, salacious sense. Eat up, and enjoy the vibes. Highly recommended (unless you don’t like ramen)!
More on the Menu
There are menus all over the festival site, none of them in English. We list the stores here, with a brief description as translated from Japanese (in the order that they appear here):
黄金の塩らぁ麺 ドゥエイタリアン / Ogon no Shio Ramen Due Italian: See above.
蔭山樓 / Kagayamarou: A Tokyo operation, urged to appear at the festival by Morimoto. Good place for solo dining.
顔相タンメン屋 / Gansou Tanmenya: The reason Morimoto became a ‘ramen girl’. A pioneer of tanmen. From Gifu.
自家製麺 ほうきぼし / Jikaseimen houkiboshi: Beautiful shopkeeper (the website’s words, not ours). Consumers are likely to become addicted to this no-soup ramen. From Tokyo.
新旬屋 麺 / Shinshunyamen: Yamagata store that makes dishes with chicken’s ovaries!
中華そば すずらん / Chuka Soba Suzuran: See above.
チラナイサクラ / Chiranaisakura: Owner hails from Nagano, but the store is based in Tokyo. Dishes are served by staff wearing yutaka.
Miso Noodle Spot 角栄 (KAKU-A): See above.
麺屋宗 / Menyamune: From Tokyo, a best seller at regional ramen events. Specializes in ‘shio’ ramen. They made a new menu for girls, for this event.
麺屋 (menya) Hulu-lu: See above. (From Tokyo).
ラーメン神豚 / Ramen Kami-Butta: From Kanagawa. A store for those who worry about calories, and queueing alongside .. men!
ラーメン香月 / Ramen Kazuki: Famous for ノスラー aka, nostalgic ramen (don’t ask). Dishes look heavy, but leave a refreshing aftertaste. From Tokyo.
地球 (ほし)の中華そば / Hoshi no Chuka Soba: Prize-winning ramen, with menus limited to this event. From Kanagawa.
麺屋 翔 / Menya Shou: Offers the strongest ‘Shio’ ramen in the Shinjuku area. From Tokyo.
ラーメンダイニング (Ramen Dining) Jingu: Recommended for meat-loving girls! From Tokyo.
Dates: Thurs March 17, 2016 - Mon March 21, 2016
Hours: 11:00 - 21:00 (L.O 20:30) *NB. Finishes at 20:00 on the 21st (L.O 19:30)
Costs: 1 ticket = 900 yen = 1 ramen dish (site entrance, free)
Location/Official name: ラーメン女子博'16 - Ramen girls Festival -