A bowl of Kitakata ramen with a brown broth and plenty of pork on top

Kitakata Ramen: Ramen for Breakfast?

In the world of ramen, most ramen enthusiasts will tell you that there are three major regional types of ramen. We’ve already talked about Sapporo ramen in our Hokkaido ramen guide and Hakata ramen in its own guide. Now, let’s talk about the third: Kitakata Ramen.

You may or may not know about Kitakata ramen, but this style exploded during the big Ramen Boom and has earned its place in the top three. Let us tell you all about this unique ramen style.

What is Kitakata Ramen?

A top-down photo of a bowl of Kitakata ramen with plenty of toppings
Much like Hokkaido ramen, Kitakata ramen is famous thanks to the local specialty ingredients made in that area. Image via Instagram (@manami_nmi)

Like we mentioned, Kitakata ramen is one of the three most popular ramen styles, right up there alongside Hakata’s tonkotsu ramen and Sapporo’s miso ramen. Kitakata’s shoyu (soy sauce) style hails from Kitakata city, a small city located in Fukushima Prefecture.

This local ramen style features a special type of noodle that is flat, curly and has a higher water content than most other ramen types. The soup is usually light enough that people even eat ramen for breakfast in this town. Kitakata style is so popular with the locals that there are over 120 ramen shops in this town, making it the highest amount of ramen shops per capita. 

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Why is it one of the Big 3?

The Noodles

Like mentioned earlier, the noodles are moisture-rich with more water in them than other types. Kitakata city is close to Mount Iide, which provides fresh water to the town. This fresh water helps the noodles taste amazing and balances the slightly salty shoyu broth.

The Broth

The fresh water doesn’t stop at the noodles, working two-fold with the broth. First, fresh water is great for fermentation, which is what makes Kitakata’s soy sauce, miso and sake extra delicious. This means that the shoyu used in the base is super tasty too. Add the fresh water used to make the broth in the first place and you have a flavorful yet clean broth.

The broth also mixes well with pork bones and chicken bones, which can help to add a bit of complexity to the final soup product.

The Asa-Ra Culture

Because Kitakata style tends to be lighter than other ramen types and the city’s general love for ramen, there is a morning ramen, or asa-ra, culture. This culture came about organically thanks to locals such as factory workers finishing night shifts, farmers looking for a morning meal before they get to work in the fields, and those who just can’t get enough of the taste.

So in this city, many shops open up early in the morning, with some on this list even opening up at 7 a.m. to feed hungry customers! 

A close-up of a bowl of lighter soy sauce ramen with a lot of meat on top
They might be onto something in Kitakata with the morning ramen thing. Image via Instagram (@hiro9diner)

What is the Kitakata Ramen Origin Story?

Ban Kinsei, a Chinese immigrant who came to Kitakata to live with his uncle, was unable to find work, so he opened a cart to sell Chinese noodles and make money. After experimenting and making small changes, he was finally able to recreate the flavor that he was familiar with in China. After this, he opened Genraiken in the mid-1920s.

He created the signature Kitakata noodles that contain more water than typical noodles and is aged before cooking. He taught and trained many ramen cooks in how to make this unique style while even more cooks modeled their ramen after his.

Kitakata Style Restaurant Recommendations


We should at least mention the original Kitakata ramen shop. This shop has stood the test of time without changing their recipe much in the almost 100 years the shop has been open. It’s a very simple bowl of ramen with no big bells or whistles, so if you’re used to more complex flavors in your ramen, this experience may not be for you. However, the gyoza is very popular with the locals.

Bannai Shokudo 

Two bowls of Kitakata ramen with pork slices on top sit on a restaurant tableMany ramen shops in Kitakata use tasty chashu as a topping, but this shop is well-known for its pork belly. Image via Instagram (@kbhrk227)

Bannai Shokudo is a Kitakata native that is starting to spread to other areas outside of Japan. Its long legacy from 1958 and success in Japan and abroad is thanks to its flavorful broth made with pork bone, shoyu, and fresh mountain water as well as the signature Kitakata noodles. Their noodles are even hand-crumpled for their curl.

Lastly, their signature pork belly chashu is well known for the way it melts in your mouth. If you come to Japan, you can enjoy a bowl as early as 7AM when the shop opens.

Kitakata Ramen Ippei

A top-down photo of a bowl of ramen with a cloudy soup and lots of green onion and pork 
This particular shop is well-known for their cloudy, rich, delicious soup that is full of flavor. Image via Instagram (@sada_escape)

Kitakata Ramen Ippei is another popular shop that has put a unique spin on the classic taste. Ippei’s Tokusei Ramen is made with pork back fat boiled in a net in the soup, creating a rich flavor and a fatty soup that stays hot longer.

The soup also has a touch of garlic flavor and has green onions and chashu on top, adding even more flavor to this already flavorful soup.

Katsuryoku Saisen Menya Ajian Shokudo

Katsuryoku Saisen Menya Ajian Shokudo—or Ajian Shokudo for short—is a much newer shop compared to the Kitakata titans on this list. Founded in 2008, this shop offers three different types of shoyu soup: Golden, Chacha, and Gattsu.

Golden gets its name from its light gold broth with a lighter taste; Chacha sits in the middle; and Gattsu has a deep, darker brown broth with a deeper flavor. They also have a delicious miso and a tasty shio and clam base ramen that has become very popular.

The miso base is made with delicious, local aged miso to great effect. As for the shio and clam base, you can get a wasabi shio ramen dish that includes wasabi on top for a flavorful, unique experience.  

A bowl of ramen sits on a table as chopsticks pick up noodles from the soup 
Their shio ramen has actually gained quite a bit of popularity on social media thanks to its delicious taste. Image via Instagram (@satokomorimoto)

Ramenkai Members

The Ramenkai, or Ramen Association, is a group that maintains and upholds the standards of ramen. It was started in 1987 and may have helped save Kitakata ramen. During the great “Ramen Boom” that brought tourists flocking to the town, the quality of Kitakata style started to dip as some shops couldn’t keep up with the crowds.

The Ramenkai helped to uphold and enforce standards, bringing back the quality of Kitakata style and increasing happiness among diners. These days, you can tell which ramen shops are members of the Ramenkai with a special noren business curtain that has ‘老麺会’ (ramenkai) written on the curtain.

With so many Kitakata ramen shops out there, we can’t possibly introduce them all, so you’ll just have to come out and try some of them for yourself. Had you heard of this ramen style before? Have you eaten it before? Let us know in the comments!

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