Updated: Jan 19
Chuka Soba Tomita (中華蕎麦 とみ田) is unanimously considered the no. 1 ramen shop in Japan. Celebrated overseas in the documentary "Ramen Heads", award-winning Tomita is a ramen (technically, tsukemen) game-changer. If you plan to visit, here's exactly what to do and how to order.
They have an efficient system at Tomita Ramen. You have to arrive early in the morning to purchase food tickets from their vending machine. After this, they'll assign you a time to come back and eat. The line for the vending machine is on the left side - #1 in the photo below.
After you're done purchasing tickets from the vending machine (instructions below), line up by #2 in the photo. This is where staff will take your tickets and assign a time to come back.
On a weekday, these 2 lines start from 8:00 am. On the weekend or a national holiday, they start from 7:00 am. Note that Tomita is located in Matsudo, Chiba. It's about an hour from Tokyo.
The wait time can depend on the season. It's usually shorter during the summer months. For example, in August if you arrive at 8:00 am, you might only wait 20 min. and be asked to return at 12:00 pm. The very first seating is from 10:40 am. Be sure to arrive at least 15 min. before your assigned time. When you arrive, line up at #1 again.
What and How to Order
Once you're at the end of Line #1 in the morning, you'll be faced with the vending machine below. Tomita serves both ramen and tsukemen. But it's their tsukemen (dipping noodles) that they're most famous for. As per the black and white labels below, tsukemen takes up the 1st and 2nd rows. Ramen is on the 3rd row.
The labels are organized based on noodle portions. For the tsukemen, the "Regular" noodle portion is 250 grams. XXL is 560 grams. The most popular combo is the Regular portion Tsukemen (¥1,100) and All Toppings (¥850). You'll find these 2 options (buttons) with little red stars above.
Japan's No. 1 Ramen (Tsukemen)
Tomita's tsukemen is everything you'd expect it to be. It's the pinnacle of tonkotsu gyokai (pork and fish tsukemen). The broth is thick and creamy like Thanksgiving gravy and is sweet, sour and salty all at once. It's also grainy, with a touch of tougarashi spice to add a little heat.
The in-house made noodles are the freshest of fresh and super thick. Like an umami magnet, they pull in the deliciously chunky broth.
If you get all toppings (特製), you're treated to a wonderful assortment. This includes a slice of sudachi citrus for acidity, broiled chicken pieces, slow-cooked pork that's like a fatty ham, excellently fatty pork bits, rolled pork chashu, and a supremely runny egg.
Inside, you get to see Tomita-san himself. He moves both like a surgeon and an artist - precisely and gracefully.
Tomita Ramen is a time commitment. But if you're able to make the time, you'll be handsomely rewarded. You can also brag about visiting Japan's No. 1 ramen shop to everyone.