Tomita Ramen, or Chuka-Soba Tomita (中華蕎麦 とみ田), is often regarded as Japan’s no. 1 ramen shop. Consider this your full-on guide! This includes all the ins and outs.
Tomita Ramen – Background
The captain of this legendary ramen ship, Tomita-san, enjoys rock star-like status in Japan. This even extends overseas, particularly after the international release of the documentary “Ramenheads”.
Today, Tomita-san's company manages 10 shops in Japan. Most of these are in Tokyo and Chiba (East of Tokyo).
We’ll be focusing on their flagship shop in Matsudo, Chiba (about an hour from Tokyo). For it’s only at their flagship shop that you get a glimpse of Tomita-san himself. Consider it hallowed ground.
What to Know Before Going
At their ever popular flagship shop, you now need to make a reservation on the platform Omakase. Before this system, you would simply line up, as below.
Below is what the ticket machine looks like. Note: the machine layout may have recently changed. Money in first, button pushing (ramen selecting) second.
While Tomita does serve ramen, it’s their tsukemen that takes top prize. If you’re visiting for the first time, you have to order their tsukemen (dipping ramen). Furthermore, you might as well order it with all toppings.
Tomita’s thick tsukemen soup hits you with strong flavors from all directions. You have everything from a grainy bitterness via dried sardines (niboshi) to supreme richness from boiled pork bones. There’s a lot under the hood.
Yuzu citrus in the soup adds a refreshing acidic jolt. There’s a kick from a pinch of tougarashi spice. For toppings, the pork and chicken chashu are only the finest cuts, each prepared in a different way. The list goes on and on.
Similarly, the noodles are made in-house, with the wheat flour blend carefully vetted by Tomita-san. These noodles are beautifully thick, working work like an umami magnet to pull in the complex symphony of soup.
How Does it Compare to Others?
First of all, the hype surrounding Tomita is well-deserved. Tomita-san is obsessed with perfection…and many believe he’s achieved it. It’s quite a treat to watch him work his magic at the Matsudo flagship shop.
So there’s no questioning the dedication and quality level. But is Tomita really worth setting aside half a day for? Is their product that much better than others?
In the world of elite tsukemen, all three of these shops (and some others) stand tall. It therefore isn’t a question of difference in quality – Tomita vs others. At such an already high-level, it can simply come down to personal preference. Tsukemen specialist Menya Itto, for example, has a more chicken-forward soup. If you like chicken and less fish flavors, you may like them best.
If you are strapped for time, Tomita’s flagship shop might not be the best option. Even though they have a proper system, you do have to kill time in Matsudo before being called back. With the travel time, this can add up to a lot of hours.
Other Branches, Tidbits
However, there is significantly less waiting at Tomita’s other shops. They have a shop inside Narita Airport, Terminal 1 (temporarily closed). There’s another near Tokyo station. Are there any drawbacks to these shops? Besides Tomita-san himself not being there, do expect a greater factory-like approach to the food.
On a separate note, Tomita often ties up with 7-Eleven Japan, selling their official instant ramen or even fresh ramen. Below is a fresh, cold ramen only available 7-Eleven in the summer. Keep an eye out for that distinct Tomita logo (とみ田) when you’re shopping at Japan’s biggest convenience store chain.
In summary, there are other ways to enjoy Tomita’s storied tsukemen (outside of the trek to Matsudo). But at least once, you’d likely want to see the rock star himself prepare your tsukemen.
Matsudo Flagship Shop:
Tokyo Station Shop: