My name is Toshiyuki Kamimura, and I am a Ramen Wonk. For more than 20 years, I have travelled all over Kyushu as a ramen writer. To date, I have visited several thousand restaurants, as well as noodle factories, wheat farms, and pig farms, to delve into the fascinating culture of Kyushu ramen for my articles.
Looking back at this experience, what strikes me are two things: Ramen is a food that makes people happy And Kyushu's tonkotsu ramen is bar none!
The world has fallen in love with ramen.
There is no doubt in my mind that ramen is the leading Japanese food, and even has the potential to surpass sushi.
In a word, ramen is Japanese soul food, and the basic flavors—tonkotsu (pork bone), soy sauce and miso as well as some other unique blends—and preparation differ from region to region. Of these, tonkotsu ramen has gained a great deal of attention from people around the world due in part to increasing interest in Japan and its cuisine under the “Cool Japan” soft power initiative. The island of Kyushu in southwestern Japan is the mecca of tonkotsu ramen.
I have watched with great interest as ramen scenes have developed in places in New York, Singapore, Thailand, and Italy. Not long ago, ramen shops overseas would alter the recipes to suit the tastes of the locals, but now, it has become standard practice to authentically replicate the flavor and atmosphere of Japanese ramen shops. Naturally, you have to use chopsticks, and the practice of slurping noodles as you eat them is slowly taking hold. The Japanese term tonkotsu is now commonly used instead of the translation “pork bone” as is the term kaedama (extra noodles or noodle refill). Many ramen lovers around the world still treat Japanese ramen as a monolith, but going forward, the distinction is sure to be made among the various flavors, including tonkotsu, miso, and soy sauce as well as the various regional styles, and Kyushu’s reputation as the mecca of tonkotsu ramen will eventually come to be recognized.
When I went to my favorite ramen shop to get a dose of tonkotsu after the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, I felt a sense of euphoria as I slurped the noodles down with the chefs crafting their ramen right in front of me. This made me realize once again that ramen has the power to bring joy into people’s lives.
With Ramen Wonk Kyushu (RWK), my goal is to create a document of the ramen world that can serve as a resource long into the future.
Above all, I want to provide an accurate history of tonkotsu ramen and create a record of the beloved shops that are firmly rooted in their communities. I hope this can serve as a reference for ramen lovers around the world when they are finally able to return to Japan to enjoy ramen.
上村 敏行 Toshiyuki Kamimura
Toshiyuki Kamimura. Kamimura was born in Kagoshima City in 1976. After visiting the island of Yakushima for a photography project as a student at Kyushu Sangyo University, he fell in love with the island life and decided to live there. In 2002 he returned to Fukuoka and began writing about ramen. In the same year, he wrote a series of articles for Kyushu Walker magazine detailing the best ramen shops in Kyushu. This is when his career as a ramen writer took off. He has written numerous pieces on ramen for a wide range of media outlets, and to date, he has covered more than 3,000 ramen shops. He has become close friends with ramen shop owners the world over and has supervised food events, including the Kurume tonkotsu ramen 80th anniversary celebration, the Fukuoka Ramen Show, and the Softbank Hawks Ramen Festival. He also served as a judge for the NEXCO West Japan Gourmet Contest. Outside of Japan, his work as a ramen writer has been showcased in the British newspaper The Guardian and on German television broadcaster ZDF.