Sumire and Junren. These two ramen powerhouses serve some of the finest bowls of miso ramen in Sapporo! We'll cover their history and the biggest similarities and differences.
Some Miso Ramen Background
Miso ramen was born in Sapporo City, Hokkaido (Japan) in 1953. We have a little ramen shop by the name of Aji no Sanpei to thank for this.
Furthermore, Aji no Sanpei is still around! Their classic miso ramen is tasty, but on the milder side. Nowadays, miso ramen is a much heavier affair...and we have ramen shops Sumire and Junren to thank for this.
Cue Sumire / Junren
In 1964, Sumire / Junren came on the Sapporo miso ramen scene, dramatically changing it for the better.
You may have noticed that I grouped the two ramen shops together, as "Sumire / Junren". This is because Sumire and Junren were one and the same in 1964.
Come again? The owner used these Japanese characters for his new shop: 純連. But locals weren't sure how to read it, pronouncing it "Junren" - not "Sumire" as he intended. So in a way, his ramen shop was both Sumire and Junren.
Let's fast forward to 1983. The son took over and embraced this mispronunciation, officially renaming the shop Junren.
But this is where it gets interesting. The owner had two other sons. They eventually opened their own miso ramen shops. But they instead decided to go with the name Sumire.
There are resultantly two distinct ramen groups today: Junren (純連) AND Sumire (すみれ). Let's talk about how each of their miso ramen looks and tastes.
As mentioned above, Junren and Sumire come from the exact same family. It's therefore understandable that their miso ramen bowls are going to look and taste similar.
Again, Sumire / Junren introduced a heavier, heartier miso ramen to Sapporo in 1964. How was it different from classic miso ramen at Aji no Sanpei? Sumire / Junren's soup featured and continues to feature a thick layer of greasy pork lard. This keeps the soup piping hot. Their soup is definitely pork bone richer too.
Outside of this, all other miso ramen traits are visible in Sumire / Junren style - stir-fried veggies, thick and wavy noodles, etc.
There are some differences though. Simply put, Junren's miso ramen soup is more pork bone messy than Sumire's. If you're seeking a stronger pork bone flavor, Junren is for you.
Sumire's soup tastes gentler. It's arguably more refined too. This distinction might have helped Sumire gain more mass appeal. Being more business-oriented, Sumire has more branches than Junren and has greater brand awareness in Japan.
This is reflected at Sumire's sleek flagship shop in Sapporo. They have multiple languages on their ticket machine (to order ramen) and even have a gift shop! Junren is decidedly more old-school in their approach.
Getting back to the soup - Junren's soup also has a peppery kick to it. Sumire's does not. In both bowls, the layer of pork lard is similar in terms of thickness. But I'd say that Sumire's is slightly thicker. Despite this, the pork bones in Junren's soup still tip the scale in terms of overall pork flavor.
The noodles are so similar it's really hard to distinguish them. For toppings - you have pork chashu, spring onions, and bamboo shoots in both bowls. Ignore the fact that I added an egg to Junren's bowl.
One topping that stands out to me is Junren's pork chashu. Instead of Sumire's big slice of pork, they do it in cubes. Besides this shape difference, I just prefer their cuts.
Sumire and Junren are cut from the same miso ramen cloth. But as highlighted above, they've gone down slightly different paths.
If you're looking for a stronger, more gritty flavored bowl, I'd recommend Junren. This doesn't mean Sumire serves a light bowl by any means. But their miso ramen is gentler.
Sumire is more accessible (with a branch in Yokohama, south of Tokyo). Junren is not as accessible. If you have a chance to eat at either in Sapporo or elsewhere, I guarantee you won't regret it.
Sumire Flagship Shop Hours: 11 am ~ 8 pm (open every day)
Junren Flagship Shop Hours: 11 am ~ 7:45 pm (open every day)