Ramen the Japanese Rave About: 3 Must-visit shops in Hokkaido's Asahikawa
Asahikawa Ramen is the local ramen variety in Asahikawa City, Hokkaido. This ramen is flavored with soy sauce, uses thick wavy noodles, and is classically served with a broth using pork bones and chicken as well as fish broth giving this dish a complex flavor that is high in fat content. Now there are many Asahikawa Ramen shops in the city, but we'd like to share three of our recommended favorites.
There are various ideas as to the origin of how or why Asahikawa Ramen was born, but the consensus is that it was created around the end of WW2. In 1947, "Ramen house Aoba" which started as a small shop in the city center, along with "Hachiya" (The Bee House) a former ice cream shop started making this ramen in the same year, and now are long-established stores. It is from these humble times it is said the classic style of Asahikawa Ramen was born.
Both stores use thick wavy noodles and ample amounts of soy sauce for flavor. Plenty of grease and fat lay on top to make sure the soup is slow to cool even on cold days as this district is known to have days where the temperature can drop to under 30 below zero in the middle of winter.
Even though this basic idea of these ramen stores is the same, the taste is far from, as the ingredients and recipes are unique to each shop. We visited these two establishments as well as a new comer that is making a name for himself.
1. "Ramen house Aoba," the orthodox choice
Ramen house Aoba currently has two locations. One is a 5-minute walk from Asahikawa station with the newer location situated inside the "Asahikawa Ramen Village" closer to the suburbs. For this adventure we visited their main location.
At the end of the war, Mr. Kichiya Murayama (Kichiya) started this business and the store quickly grew in popularity. Soon after it caught on, he moved locations occasionally until in 1989, his son Toshihisa Murayama joined the business, and they moved to the present location.
Currently the founder’s grandson, Yuichi Murayama, along with his father, are continuing the succession and integrity of the business.
We inherited the taste created by the founder and over three generations, have continued to use the exact same soup recipe made in the very beginning. This traditional soup recipe has lasted for nearly 70 years which mixes seafood and meat for a soup sensation packed with flavor. The soup is simmered slowly for hours, being watched carefully to make sure it never comes to a boil.
The classic Asahikawa Ramen noodles are thick and wavy. The thickness allows the soup to be easily absorbed into these noodles while the wavy shape is used for slurpability! Ramen house Aoba has used these noodles since its founding.
When tasting this soup, the flavor of soy sauce is gentle and mellow, with the flavor of seafood just enough to tingle your nose. The grease loaded on top may give the impression this dish is rather heavy, but do not worry, they will adjust the soup to your liking.
This dish is so hot you may sweat, but so good you will not want to stop. This long-established store has kept its recipe since its foundation. Today it is still a very popular shop where many tourists from near and far come to eat. Some locals claim that this is the only ramen shop for them. If you find yourself in the area be sure to stop in for their Asahikawa Ramen, Shoyu Ramen or one of their many other options
- Address 〒070-0032 北海道旭川市2条通8丁目二条ビル1階／Nizyou Bld.1F, 2-jodori-8, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido, 070-0032, Japan
- Phone Number 0166-23-2820
Hours of Operation: 9:30 ~ 14:00, 15:30 ~ 19:50 last order
(Sundays and National holidays 18:50 last order) ※ Summer time extensions available
Closed: Wednesdays (Thursdays when a national holiday falls on a Wednesday)
2. "Hachiya" (Bee house) with powerful flavor
This dish is characterized by its savory taste and rich appearance. Hachiya currently has two locations in the city. The main location is a ten minutes stroll from the Asahikawa Station with the second location five minutes away from the Asahikawa Shijo Station. Once again, we decide to visit the main location.
Hachiya was founded in 1946. Mr. Enao Kato of the first generation opened it up initially as an ice cream shop. At that time, shortly after the end of the war he would sell ice cream using honey as it was hard to get sugar using the ration system after the war and that is where the name came from.
Not long after the open of the ice cream shop a neighbor, originally from China shared the art of making Chinese noodles. He was unable to copy his method but arrived at his own ramen recipe.
As pig farming was popular in Asahikawa, he would make the soup pork bones that I was able to get for free. The strong smell from these bones led to his trial production of adding fish into the mix. From there he tested all sorts of products like red snappers and mackerel, boiled them together and completed this soup.
The basis of the soup is not just about throwing two soups together. Both the pork bone soup and fish broth are chilled overnight in a large tank and from there we must be sure to remove impurities.
After some time and multiple tests, I was still unsatisfied with the soup so I decided to add lard. However, as the lard was added, the appearance of the soup grew worse so I continued to tweak it.
This unique scorched lard is unique to Hachiya. Here they broil backfat until it looks almost like tar then this is added into the soup.
In 1947, as soon as this store began offering a unique ramen with scorched lard, it grew in popularity. Soon after they stopped selling ice cream and continued on as a single option ramen shop. Their signature ice cream has since been reintroduced to the menu and now it is a popular secret menu item.
The taste of the broiled lard can be tasted in the soup along with the taste of pork and fish. While it is rich and strong in flavor, it has a refreshing taste.
Each flavor is blended exquisitely and it has a sense of unity. As these noodles are the signature wavy noodles particular to Asahikawa Ramen, it collaborates well with this soup with the noodles gradually inheriting the taste.
This ramen, with its super strong taste and unique atmosphere, have left many fascinated.
Hachiya Asahikawahonten蜂屋 旭川本店
- Address 〒070-0033 北海道旭川市三条通15丁目左8／Hidari8, 3-jodori-15, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido, 070-0033, Japan
- Phone Number 0166-23-3729
Hours of Operation: 10:30-16:00
3. Asahikawa Ramen Ittetsuan - incorporating elements of Japanese cuisine
The last shop we visited was located in the "Asahikawa Ramen Village" about a 15-minute drive from Asahikawa Station in the same direction as the Asahikawa City Asahiyama Zoo.
"Asahikawa Ramen Village" includes eight Asahigawa ramen noodle stores, including ramen house Aoba. Here small servings of ramen can be purchased and sampled so you can find your favorite shop.
In this ramen village we decided to visit Asahikawa Ramen Ittetsuan.
This shop was formerly a Japanese restaurant offering ramen located near Asahikawa station. In 1999, they opened this ramen shop under the name "Muso Ren Matsuda," later changed to "Ichaturo Ann Matsuda," and in 2014 became an independently run shop using the name named "Asahikawa Ramen Ittetsuan. "
Along with their Royal Road Asahikawa Ramen, they are offering a new local ramen option. We decided to give them both a try.
While other shops generally use fish-based soup to relieve smells such as pig bones, this shop that was originally a Japanese-style restaurant, take a different approach. Fish and soup stocks are prepared from mackerel, kelp, boiled fish, dried shiitake mushrooms and many other ingredients that are mixed in this soup that has been flavored with pig bones and chicken parts and are boiled for an entire day and night.
Although it is a double soup, a characteristic of Asahikawa Ramen, this soup has a strong Japanese fish flavor that differs from the rest.
"Mini-ramen (soy sauce)" is made using half the noodles of the Asahikawa Ramen (700 yen including tax). This simple dish is what we offer at "Asahikawa Ramen Village" for the customers eating comparison.
When you try this dish, the soft taste of soy sauce and the scent of seafood hit you just right. While you may pick up the flavor of pig bone, you will surely notice the mellow and delicate Japanese-style flavor.
Asahikawa is a city synonymous with ramen, but because of the pig farming industry, the custom of eating grilled pork has taken root.
So, with 8 shops in this village providing this option of "Asahikawa Soy Sauce Hormone Ramen" along with Asahikawa Ramen are considered to be the soul foods of the area.
The essence of the pork bits dissolves in the soup, giving the soy sauce a taste like miso ramen, it has a mellowness and a rich taste. These pork bits have no smell, and are soft and crispy are easy to eat.
Asahikawaramen Ittetsuan旭川らーめん いってつ庵
- Address 〒 079-8421 北海道旭川市永山11条4丁目 あさひかわラーメン村／Asahikawara-menmura, Nagayama 11-jo-4, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido, 079-8421, Japan
- Phone Number 0166-47-7855
Hours of Operation: 11: 00-20: 30 (L.O. 20: 00) * L.O times are tentative and may change
No set holidays
Asahikawa Ramen is known as the noodle dish with a double flavored soup, but the flavors vary widely depending on the shop. In addition to the stores we visited there are plenty more. We are certainly looking forward to visiting even more shops! We encourage you to find the cup of your choice!
Written by : Nobuhiro Kawashima
Spots showcased in the article
- Asahikawaramen Aoba
- Hachiya Asahikawahonten
- 蜂屋 旭川本店
- Asahikawaramen Ittetsuan
- 旭川らーめん いってつ庵
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*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.