Overnight, the weather took a turn for the worse. Weather hovering just above freezing, with heavy rains and gusty winds, this was the dark side of winter that nobody tells you about. My final full day in Tokyo wasn’t looking good but nevertheless, I had a bloody good motivation to commute in this terrible weather – shopping.
I couldn’t stomach just having Keisuke at the legendary Tokyo Ramen Street. It was certainly unfortunate that my travels did not include commuting through Tokyo station more often, so I decided to return and queue for the chain with consistently the longest queues – Rokurinsha. To battle the queues, I thought I’d skip breakfast and reach the area at eleven, but being still unfamiliar with the labyrinth that is Tokyo station, I only managed to join the queue forty-five minutes later at which point, the queues were already snaking. Unwilling to give up sampling arguably Tokyo’s best ramen, I plugged in my earphones, turned my music up, and joined the queue… It was nearly one when I got in. Like most low to mid-ranged eateries, you make payment first through a machine, where you select your dish and toppings you might wish to add. It spits out a small slip which you hand to the staff who show you your seat. It’s a small claustrophobia-inducing space, but then again, you’re supposed to come in, eat and go.
Rokurinsha only sells tsukemen, which is cold ramen served alongside a hot concentrated broth to dip the noodles in. Originally a seasonal summer’s dish, tsukemen seems to be gaining year-round popularity in Tokyo. My first ten or so slurps are just pure heaven. The soup is rich and meaty, and has been boiled with a concoction of various ingredients including, but not limited to pork, fish, vegetables into what looks like liquid gold. The noodles are slightly thicker than regular ramen, and it’s almost a ramen-soba lovechild which combines the best of both worlds – it has the spring and tangy texture of ramen, and goes down smoothly like udon. This, is by far, the best ramen I’ve ever had. But everything suddenly goes awry. After what seems like a long time, I’m acutely aware I’m less than a third through. The “mountain” of noodles stood seemingly untouched by my efforts to gnaw through it. At some point, it became a real struggle – it was the toughest food challenge I’ve ever faced. Filled with gratitude and appreciation towards these ramen masterchefs, giving up and going never crossed my mind. By now, all of the people who entered the same time as I did had finished their bowls, and left already. I continue to chow down… until delirium had set in, but I do eventually wipe the bowl clean – bloated and feeling queasy.
Then, a Scrubs scratch record moment. The chef took my bowl away, and came back with a bowl filled with liquid. “Supa (soup)”, he says and pours a little of the citrus plum powder thing into it and gestured me to carry the bowl and drink it. Fearing the worst, perhaps an imminent verbal diarrhea, but unwilling to offend, I sip, and it was like an explosion. Like a burst of a thousand suns, the bloated stomach flattened and imploded, and I no longer felt “full”. He smiled, with a twinkle in his eyes, as he saw the amazement in my eyes.
Now, to shop, shop, shop till I drop.