Kanji Cheat Sheets

Kanji Cheat Sheet: Using the Ramen Ticket Machine in Japan

Because the longer it takes you to order ramen, the longer it takes to eat it.

One of the greatest things about Japan is the country’s near-limitless ramen options. Between the wide variety of regional styles and toppings, you could eat a different bowl every day if you really wanted to.

There’s cold ramen to chill you out during summer and even vegan ramen if you’re into that. Some people prefer tsukemen, noodles you dip in a separate bowl of broth, while others love abura soba, ramen with little to no broth. Practically every ramen shop boasts an original recipe, so you may as well try them all.

Sapporo style ramen from Hokkaido, Japan

That being said, it can be a chore ordering your ramen of choice without knowing Japanese. Thankfully, with Japan being the Blade Runner-esque future country of tomorrow that it is, most ramen shops have simple and easy to read machines that let you order their delicious noodles with the simple push of a button. Yes. That is what constitutes living in Blade Runner in my world.

Ramen in the machine

Once you make your order, a ticket will pop out. Just hand it over to the chef, and in a couple of minutes, you’ll be wharfing down noodles and slurping like a native.

English Japanese Romaji
Ramen らーめん ramen
Cold dipping noodles つけ麺 tsukemen
Miso ramen 味噌ラーメン miso ramen
Soy sauce ramen 醤油ラーメン shoyu ramen
Salt-based ramen 塩ラーメン shio ramen
Chicken ramen 鶏ガララーメン torigara ramen
Spicy Sichuan-style ramen 担々麺 tantanmen
Chilled noodles 冷やし中華 hiyashi chuka

Now, the last thing you want to do is hold up the line because you want to use this as an opportunity to study Japanese. The hungry band of salarymen behind you can only passive-aggressively sigh so much until the cook comes from behind the counter to assist you. Then you’ll end up pointing at pictures on the wall, and grunting kore (this) like you’re Disney’s Tarzan.

Ramen toppings (and beer)

Any good ramen enthusiast knows how important toppings are. The flavor can change considerably depending on what’s put in the bowl. There are tons of different toppings, but here is a quick list of the classics. May as well order an ice-cold beer on the side while you’re at it.

English Japanese Romaji
Marinated egg 味付玉子 or  味玉 ajistuketamago or ajitama
Roasted pork チャーシュー chashu
Bamboo shoots メンマ menma
Green spring onion 青ネギ aonegi
Seaweed 海苔 nori
Draft beer 生ビール nama bi-ru

Customize your ramen even further!

Do you like thick soup or an oily texture? How about the firmness of the noodles? Not every shop will let you choose, but if a place wants to be the Burger King of ramen and let you have it your way, you might as well know your choices. This part usually comes after you hand your ticket to the chef, but you might see the options on the ticket machine itself.

English Japanese Romaji
Large serving 大盛り oomori
Normal serving 並盛り nami mori
Spicy 辛味 karami
Noodle firmness 麺の硬さ men no katasa
Hard かため katame
Normal 普通 futsu
Soft 軟らかめ yawarakame
Soup thickness 味の濃さ aji no kosa
Thick こってり kotteri
Light あっさり assari
Oiliness 脂の量 abura no ryou
More 多め oome
Light 少なめ sukuname

More noodles!

Lastly, if you’re still hungry after your first bowl, there is a magic word you can use. Kaedama, which means, “a second serving of noodles,” is used for when you’re out of noodles, but still have soup leftover. Not every shop will have it as an option, but many do. It usually costs around ¥100 and can typically be ordered from the machine, but you might have to ask the chef directly.

English Japanese Romaji
Second serving of noodles 替え玉 kaedama

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