If you’re looking for the best ramen in Tokyo, there’s no better place to start than in Shinjuku. With its bright lights and buzzing energy, the neighborhood draws visitors in like moths to flame. And with ramen joints crammed into every available corner, there’s definitely no shortage of top notch places to choose from. So to help you make sense of the overwhelming supply of options, we’ve whittled it down to the top 10 ramen places you must try while you’re in the Shinjuku neighborhood.
First, let’s go through the basics of broth.
The different types of ramen are divided by how their broth is flavored. It’s so much the heart of the dish that ramen chefs will build their brand names around their special take on the broth. Here are some of the common types of ramen you’ll likely come across in Shinjuku.
- Shoyu Ramen – A soy sauce based soup, simple and very popular in Tokyo.
- Miso Ramen – The broth is mixed with miso, looks cloudier and tastes extra savory.
- Shio Ramen – Light in flavor, only salt is used in the broth.
- Tonkotsu Ramen – Cooked with pork bone, the marrow mixes into the broth to give it a rich and creamy taste.
- Tsukemen – Noodles and soup base come separately. Use the broth like a dipping sauce.
- Spicy Ramen – As the name suggests, the noodles come in spicy sauce.
How to order through a vending machine
Most ramen shops in this area take your order through a vending machine located at the front of the establishment. Just walk up to the machine, insert your money, and pick the ramen you want from the menu (most come with pictures of the dishes next to their name). The machine will spit out a ticket for each item in your order. Hand them over to the waiting attendant, then take your seat and wait to chow down!
1. Ichiran Shinjuku Station Central East Entrance
Focusing solely on tonkotsu ramen, this popular joint also wins for the most surreal dining experience. Cut out all but the most minimal of human contact by ordering via vending machine. Then get seated at a counter with side partitions so you can avoid eye contact with your neighbors. Or fold the partitions back if you want to chat with a friend. Dishes are served from behind the counter where a server pushes out your order by lifting up a curtain at just such a height that you can’t see their faces. They really thought this concept through, right down to the self-service water dispenser at your seat.
The ramen itself has a rich and flavorful broth with deliciously tender slices of pork. The restaurant gives you maximum control over customizations, letting you specify such things as the richness of the broth, spiciness, firmness of the noodles, and type of onions. And all these small tweaks are made by filling out a sheet of paper available in several different languages. This place is no frills, no talking, all ramen.
- Name: Ichiran Shinjuku Station Central East Entrance
- Address: 3 Chome-34-11 Shinjuku, Tokyo
- Access: 3 minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station (Higashi Exit)
- Opening hours: 24 hours, daily
- Website: http://www.ichiran.co.jp/english/html/kt_shinjuku.html
2. Menya Musashi
Find authentic Tokyo-style shoyu ramen at this legendary ramen shop, featured numerous times on Japanese TV. After ordering at the vending machine, let the staff know what size you want as well as whether you want kotteri (heavier flavor) or assari (lighter flavor). It’s the same price no matter which size you choose but be warned, go for the large at your own risk. The broth comes with hints of fish and yuzu (citrus fruit) and the noodles are thick and chewy. Topping it off are generously thick slices of rich chasu pork. The restaurant is popular with beginner-level ramen-goers as its well-balanced flavor knows how to toe the line between richness and zest.
In addition to the food itself, you get a bit of a show out of the open kitchen where you can watch the head chef yell out orders to the staff and entertainingly whip up each bowl with an extra heaping of flare.
- Name: Menya Musashi
- Address: K-1 Build. 1F, 7-2-6 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo
- Access: 8 minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station
- Opening hours: 11am – 10:30pm, daily
- Website: http://www.menya634.co.jp/index.html
It might be a little hard to find this hidden gem, located on the second floor of a wooden house in Shinjuku’s colorful and historic Golden Gai district. If you get lost amid the plethora of creaky dive bars and food joints, you can easily ask a local to help you find this famous place. Once inside the entrance, a narrow set of stairs – as well as an unmistakable aroma – lead you up to the tiny 8-seat restaurant. The specialty of the house is their bold niboshi broth, made from a slow process of boiling dried sardines for 12 hours. Guests might find the flavor unusual at first but once you get used to it, you’re in for a satisfying meal. And in case you’re not in the mood for the strong niboshi flavor, Nagi offers a variety of other ramens and tsukemens to meet your needs. The best part is the place is open 24 hours, making it the perfect late-night stop after a full night exploring all the bars right next door.
- Name: Nagi
- Address: Shinjuku Golden-gai (G2 street) 2F,1-1-10, Kabukicho, Shinjuku,Tokyo
- Access: Located in Golden Gai, 7 minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station
- Opening hours: 24 hours, daily
- Website: http://www.n-nagi.com/
Anyone claiming to be a true ramen lover will need to try tsukemen at least once. A relative of traditional ramen, tsukemen splits the noodles and broth into separate bowls. You can eat it by taking a chopstick-ful of noodles and dipping it into the sauce before slurping it up. The dish is popular in the summertime since it tends to cool down a lot faster than ramen.
Fuunji’s version comes with thick, chewy noodles served alongside a creamy broth made with fish and chicken. In the soup, you’ll find all the usual ramen ingredients like tasty pork, seaweed, bamboo shoots, and soft-cooked egg. A sprinkling of smoked fish powder tops off the bowl and adds an extra facet to the flavor. With only 15 seats at the counter, lines can get a bit long for this establishment. But turnover is fast and you’ll find the food is worth the wait.
- Name: Fuunji
- Address: 2-14-3 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
- Access: 6-minute walk West from JR Shinjuku Station South Exit
- Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 11am – 3pm and 5pm – 9pm
- Holiday: Sunday
- Website: http://www.fu-unji.com/
Despite being out of the main hustle of Shinjuku, you’ll still often see a line forming outside this small, 18-seat ramen shop specializing in both tonkotsu ramen and tsukemen. If you opt for the ramen, you can choose between a black or red option. Of the two, the black bowl is slightly richer in flavor. After making your selection, you can customize your order further by specifying your preferred noodle consistency: harigane (extremely hard), barikatai (kind of hard), katai (hard), futsuu (normal), yawarakai (soft), or bariyawarakai (very soft).
If you go for the tsukemen, don’t worry if you find yourself with extra broth leftover at the end. Just tell the waitress and they’ll bring over a bowl of warigae, or rice porridge, for you to mix into the broth. The porridge dilutes and thickens the soup so you can finish up every remaining bite.
- Name: Tatsunoya
- Address: 7-4-5 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo
- Access: West of Seibu-Shinjuku Station
- Opening hours: 11am – Midnight
- Website: http://www.tatsunoya.net/
6. Gonokami Seisakujo
Feeling like you need more shrimp in your life? Then this place has you covered. Gonokami Seisakujo translates into Five’s God Factory and they make no qualms about their star ingredient: shrimp. You can choose between three different shrimp tsukemen: basic shrimp, shrimp miso, and tomato shrimp. The tomato broth could be likened to a bisque. And with the pesto topping and slice of baguette on the side, it definitely hints at a European fusion vibe. The broths come paired with nice buckwheat noodles, thicker and chewier than regular noodles. Overall the flavor is rich but much less intense than most other tsukemen restaurants. This brings out greater subtleties in the flavor, such as a slight sweetness naturally coming out of the shrimp.
- Name: Gonokami Seisakujo
- Address: 5-33-16 Sendagaya, Shinjuku, Tokyo
- Access: East of JR Shinjuku Station near Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
- Opening hours: 11am – 9pm
- Phone: 03-5379-0203
7. Bankara Ramen
If you’re the type of ramen eater who likes your broth on the heavier, fattier side, Bankara Ramen is where you need to be. Their dishes are not for the light eater. Bankara Ramen centers itself around its signature tonkotsu broth that really coats its chewy, medium thick noodles in oil and fat. In case the hearty pork bone broth wasn’t enough, the layer of oil at the top of the bowl and the tender chunks of pork guarantee a filling meal. But if you’re not into all the oil, just ask for “abura hikaeme” (little fat).
Most eaters will want to stick to the regular ramen. Or push yourself a little further and order the Kaku-ni Bankara ramen, which comes with an extra slice of kaku-ni slow cooked pork in addition to the regular ingredients.
- Name: Bankara Ramen
- Address: 1 Chome-17-5 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo
- Access: Located in Kabukicho, 5 minutes from JR Shinjuku Station East Exit
- Opening hours: 11am – 8am, daily
- Website: http://www.ramen-bankara.com/
8. Tokyo Abura Gumi Sou Honten
What is ramen without its broth? A deliciously amazing way to eat noodles if you’re at Tokyo Abura Gumi Sou Honten. The special here is called abura soba, or oil noodles. It’s basically a brothless ramen where the soup is replaced with a rick pork-based sauce sitting under a full bowl of thick noodles and various other toppings. The sauce comes in regular or spicy flavor.
Once you’re served your order, you first mix all the ingredients together, making sure to get the sauce coated on all the noodles and toppings. Then add in your favorite condiments like minced onion and garlic, rice wine vinegar, and chili oil. Stir it all up once more to maximize flavor in every bite. In case the amazing flavor alone wasn’t enough to sell this dish, it’s also supposed to contain less sodium and fat than traditional ramen.
- Name: Tokyo Abura Gumi Sou Honten
- Address: 13-6-1 Chome Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo
- Access: West side of JR Shinjuku Station
- Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 11am – 4am, Sunday 11am – 9pm
- Website: http://www.tokyo-aburasoba.com/
9. Shinjukugyoen Ramen Ouka
Like any other cuisine, ramen is constantly evolving and chefs the world over experiment with new tastes constantly. Though relatively new to the ramen scene, Ouka in Shinjuku Gyoen has already distinguished itself from the crowd with its unique, halal friendly menu. The shop’s goal was to make Japanese food more accessible to a broader population by being sensitive to varying dietary needs. They even have a vegan ramen bowl, though it’s admittedly not their most requested item.
The specialty of the house is gozen ramen, made with a tomato and sea bream broth. Noodles are mixed into the broth and topped with whipped yuzu that you can mix into the soup for a more complex flavor. A side of egg and chicken come as toppings. And when you’re done with the noodles, you get a cup of rice you can pour the leftover broth into. It’s an innovative new take on this traditional dish.
- Name: Shinjukugyoen Ramen Ouka
- Address: 1 Chome-11-7 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
- Access: 3-minute walk from Shinjukugyoen-Mae Station
- Opening hours: Monday – Thursday & Weekends, 11:30am – 3pm, 6pm-9pm
- Holiday: Friday
- Website: http://www.m-ouka.jp/
Spicy food lovers and chili pepper connoisseurs will delight in this well-established ramen shop which uses 10 different kinds of chilis in their recipe. You can customize the spice level all the way from 1 to 9. Be warned, even the most veteran of spicy food goers may tear up at level 9. For ramen lovers who don’t want all that heat, go for the standard miso or soy sauce based ramens. The unique broth at this joint combines pork and chicken stock along with kombu seaweed and soft shell turtle for a more mellow flavor.
- Name: Rishiri
- Address: Yanagi Build. 1F, 2-27-7 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
- Access: 8-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station
- Opening hours: Monday – Saturday, 6:30pm – 5am
- Holiday: Sunday
With all sorts of flavors and trendy ingredients as well as unique dining experiences, Shinjuku offers something for every kind of ramen lover. Next time you’re in town, be sure to give one of the restaurants on this list a try!
Have a good trip and travel!