To be honest, ramen isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when most people think about traditional or authentic Japanese food. Even if its origins are from China, the current version of ramen in Japan is something that has evolved over time to reflect the tastes and customs of the people eating it and making it. Or at least, that’s how it feels when I visit Yottenka in Yoshino Town. It’s a small, stand-alone wooden shop, attached to old truck beds, and with a wooden water wheel in front. Inside is the kind of warm atmosphere that is difficult for visitors to Japan to discover on their own. Shelves of comic books, a box of local fruit, a counter facing the kitchen, and a well-worn center table. In addition to standard flavors like miso, soy sauce, and salt ramen, they have a special sesame ramen, a spicy beansprout ramen, and even chilled ramen for hot summer days.When I went there for lunch the other day, I ordered the miso ramen and gyoza set. The noodles seemed to absorb the flavorful miso soup, as did the slice of pork, which slowly softened as I saved it for last. The gyoza came out hot and fresh, smelling of garlic as I dipped each bite into the spicy red oil. I said “gochisosama” to kind old man and exited the shop with a full stomach.
In the parking lot, a flock of chickens wandered from one end to the other, sometimes seemingly a bit lost, and other times letting out a cock-a-doodle-do. Places like this shop are why I enjoy living in the countryside.