I'd like to think that this little ramen ramble of mine, posted on these ethereal pages so long ago, played some small part in the "Ramen Renaissance" now sweeping America's vibrant places, as per the link following...
If you're under 100 years of age and are interested at all in food, especially the finest oriental cuisine, then you probably saw the Japanese movie Tampopo, and if you saw Tampopo you know what it means to get a ramen craving, like you did after the movie.
As to the ideal venue for craving ramen, Japan is the Ramen Empire. The ideal ramen emporium (forget about making ramen at home; do you make truffles at home?) is the epitome of the greasy chopstick. One of my ramen parameters says that if the counters sparkle, the waitresses are radiant and you can see clearly out the windows, seek thy ramen elsewhere..
Whenever I've moved to a new neighborhood in Japan, one of my first priorities has always been to find the best ramen shop within a half-hour's walk (some urgencies are more pressing than others), which isn't easy, there are so many flashy imposters attempting to cash in on the rep of the one true noodle nirvana to be found in any town.
In such a quest, the best person to ask is a local college student if you can find one, because ramen may be excellent brain food, but it's also low in price. And the difference between run-of-the-mill ramen and ramen for the gods is about the same as the difference between here and heaven, which is reason enough to go looking.
For example, I right away found the best ramenya in this country neighborhood - it may even have an edge over the one I used to go to in Kyoto - but if you think I'm going to give you the name of either, you're out of luck; they're too crowded as it is. The one I go to now still has those sort of naugahyde seats and smeary plastic chandeliers, with greasy red pepper and garlic paste jars with long-handled spoons in them. Their tonkotsu is perfection, I always get the chashu (from the Chinese for 'roasted pork'; once you've found perfection, why change), in which the pork, roasted to near disappearance, is sliced even nearer disappearance until it's little more than a fragrant rumor residing atop the chewy deliciousness of the noodles swirling in the tonkotsu, with some garlic paste just here and some red pepper paste over here...
Back later, I'm going out to get some ramen. Tonkotsu chashu, kudasai...
--PLM, Feb. 2003
"Ramen is its own culture in Japan, with noodle shops that have rabid fan bases and their chefs drawing crowds waiting two hours in line when a new shop opens. It even has a distinct genre of books and movies dedicated to its lore."