“Ramen Alley” is a famous area in the Susukino area of Sapporo. It is a very narrow pathway with Ramen shops on either side. Another up and coming Ramen area is located in the Sapporo JR Train Station. We had seen a documentary on the Japanese NHK television network about the Ramen Restaurants there. Because these 2 Ramen locations were in opposite directions from one another, and we were planning to visit the Susukino are that evening to view the ice sculptures and eat Curry Soup, we decided to go to the train station location.
It was quite a long walk from Odori Park to Sapporo Station so we decided to take the “warm” route through the Sapporo underground shopping mall. Instead of having to brave the cold to shop, this underground mall features all kinds of stores and shops from souvenirs to food to clothing. We left the cold and snow of the city street and walked down the stairs to relative warmth. We then found ourselves not knowing which way to go. So hubby went to ask directions at a kiosk and I went to the big map on the wall. Looking lost, as I guess I do quite a bit, a gentleman came up and asked if he could help me find something. I explained, he nodded yes and gestured for me to follow him. Passing hubby, I motioned for him to follow us and this nice man walked with us about 5 minutes and located the “intersection” where we turned right. The man told us that it was about a 15 minute walk to the station, so we thanked him, said good-bye and were off.
As we were walking, we noticed other “intersections” where you could turn (right) and go down a completely different corridor of stores. Some even appeared to be department stores. We didn’t have time to explore, but I couldn’t imagine how big this underground “mall” must be. We walked…and we walked…and we walked…more than 15 minutes, I know. We finally came to the JR station, but of course, we couldn’t read the signs and there were so many possible turns/entrances that we couldn’t figure out where to go from there. One wise person told me that, if needing help, always approach a younger person because they are more likely to understand and/or speak English. So I scanned the crowd and picked out a woman that looked young (although everybody looks young to me these days) and pleasant. So I stopped her and asked her how to find the Ramen restaurants. And not only did she speak English but she lived in Maryland as a child – woo hoo! She said she wasn’t in a hurry, and would take us there!
We chatted as we walked about 10 minutes to the Esta department store. The lady told us that the Ramen restaurants were on the 10th floor. We again expressed our appreciation and said good-bye. Arriving on the 10th floor we realized our search was not over yet. There were many restaurants on the 10th floor and looking at the placards in front of each shop didn’t help. None of them looked like a Ramen shop. We kept passing this darkened hallway with an lighted archway entrance, but we certainly didn’t know what that was. Lucky for me, hubby walked around the corner saw the tell-tale red lantern (indicating a Ramen shop or other low cost restaurant) hanging there and said, “this is it!” He recognized the hallway from the TV program we had watched. There were about 6 or 7 tiny Ramen shops in this area that I later found out was called “Sapporo Ramen Republic.”
As we waited in line outside the shop, a waitress gave us an English menu. A few minutes later she came back to take our order. What a great idea – taking our order as we waited to lessen our wait time after we got seated and ensuring a quicker turnaround of each table…maximum efficiency and maximum profit! We each ordered a soy based Ramen soup with an order of gyoza. The food was absolutely delicious – the gyoza maybe the best I’ve had. My only complaint was the lack of space…tiny table, tiny chairs and too many of each in the small shop. But I have to remember that most Japanese aren’t as tall and big as my husband and I. All in all a great lunchtime adventure and boy did we appreciated being out of the snow and cold for awhile!