Back Alley Ramen on a Saturday Night

Tanukikoji alley, with seventeen hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Looks like a movie set, doesn't it?
Tanukikoji alley, with seventeen hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Looks like a movie set, doesn’t it?

This past Saturday the elder child headed out to a sleepover, so the menfolk and I went out for a rockin’ Saturday night. We headed off on foot to Yamate Station, a nearby train station. We rode a few stops and got off the train at Yokohama Station. Our destination: Tanukikoji, a pedestrian alley with seventeen restaurants tucked inside. Glass, steel, and neon surround sleepy Tanukikoji, just steps away from the bustle of Yokohama Station. Tanukikoji’s restaurants date to the 1960s, though they look much older.

Cy tucks into a bowl of ramen.
Cy tucks into a bowl of ramen.

Despite the history of the Yokohama area, the buildings are all fairly new. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 did a pretty solid job of completely leveling the city and its buildings, as did aerial bombings during World War II. So pretty much any structure in Yokohama was built post-war.

Cy guards the "shared" order of gyoza.
Cy guards the “shared” order of gyoza.

We started wandering Tanukikoji and let Cy pick where we would eat. He chose a ramen shop. Mark and Cy ordered ramen and gyoza, and I pointed to a picture on the wall. I had no idea what it was called, but it looked delicious. It was.

Abura soba, I think. Delicious, I know!
Abura soba, I think. Delicious, I know!

I’m pretty sure that I ate abura soba, a broth-less ramen dish with udon noodles, bean sprouts, slightly spicy ground pork, shredded nori, scallions, a raw egg, and a splash of seasoned broth at the bottom. It came with a big spoon which means mash it all up and enjoy! The egg thickened the sauce perfectly–just like carbonara.

Abura soba, about three minutes later. I could have eaten a second bowl.
Abura soba, about three minutes later. I could have eaten a second bowl.

Shortly after we sat down a father with two small children came in. I asked Mark to spy on what the kids were eating: plain rice and noodles. The father eventually added a slice of pork, but the kids mostly ate white food. Just like American picky eaters! I’m not criticizing the dad or the kids’ eating habits. I just point this out for the benefit of parents who hear well-meaning but irritating comments that typically begin, “You know, in India and Japan children eat just like their parents….”. Maybe some do. But at least two young Japanese children prefer plain white rice, just like American kids. And that’s OK.

Spying on a Japanese dad and two small kids--white rice and noodles all around!
Spying on a Japanese dad and two small kids–white rice and noodles all around!

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