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Tonkotsu Ramen Origins

Today, Tonkotsu Ramen is loved by people the world over. But what's the story behind pork bone ramen? For one, it actually might have started out as an accident!

Tonkotsu Ramen Origins - Nagahama Noodles

Tonkotsu Ramen - A Global Superstar

Thanks to global brands like Ippudo and Ichiran, tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen has taken the world by storm. This rich ramen style is not from Tokyo though.

Tonkotsu Ramen Origins - Kokumaro
Hakata Style at Kokumaro in Tokyo

In fact, it wasn't even until the 1980s and 90s that really Tokyoites started to eat it.

Tonkotsu Ramen Origins - Ramen Shop Ippudo Fukuoka City
Ippudo's Original Shop in Fukuoka City

Well before this, tonkotsu ramen was thriving on Japan's island of Kyushu. This is where our story begins.

The Beginning

Kyushu is Japan's fourth largest island. Influenced by Chinese cuisine, locals LOVE pork. It was therefore only naturally that Kyushu ramen would be all about pork.

Tonkotsu Ramen Origins - Ramen Mural Fukuoka
Ramen Mural in Fukuoka, Kyushu

The exact details are as murky as tonkotsu soup. But ramen historians believe that ramen shop Nankin Senryo (南京千両 本家) was the first to invent tonkotsu ramen. This happened in Kurume City, Fukuoka (Kyushu) in 1937.

Tonkotsu Ramen Origins - The Original
The Original Tonkotsu Ramen at Nankin Senryo

It was a sort of hybrid of two ramen styles. The first was a soy sauce-based ramen that began to appear around Tokyo at the time. The second was Nagasaki champon, which features a heftier pork bone based soup.

Tonkotsu Ramen Origins - Nagasaki Champon
Nagasaki Champon at Rairairai in Tokyo

So Nankin Senryo combined these two, creating a clear soup tonkotsu ramen.

Tonkotsu soup actually didn't get cloudy until nearby Kurume ramen shop Sanku (三九) came along in the 1940s. A cloudy soup is the result of boiling pork bones for hours and hours. Apparently Sanku did this by accident, leaving the pot boiling for too long!