Northeastern Japan city to dish up ramen for visitors in new tour

A city in Yamagata Prefecture, northeastern Japan, reputed for its love of ramen, is launching a sightseeing tour for foreign visitors, allowing participants to taste lauded local versions of the noodle soup as they visit landmarks.

The tour offered by Nanyo city aims to promote the region's ramen culture to the world, after the prefectural capital declared itself the "holy land of ramen" last year.

According to surveys by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Yamagata city ranked number one in annual household expenditure on ramen for eight consecutive years through 2020, reclaiming the title again in 2022.

The love of noodles is shared across the prefecture, with Gov. Mieko Yoshimura announcing in October that Yamagata had applied to trademark the name 'ramen prefecture and soba kingdom.'

Yamagata is famous for ramen dishes such as "Akayu ramen", a warming winter ramen characterized by a red ball of spicy miso in its center, and the seafood-based broth "Sakata ramen" from the city of Sakata that won first prize at a ramen-tasting event in Tokyo last October.

Akayu ramen is an original creation of the Akayu Ramen Ryu Shanghai store located in Nanyo, a city with many other spots where visitors can enjoy a wide variety of noodle soups.

The tours, set to be held twice a week from this month, are day trips that participants can join during their stay in Japan. The itinerary includes visits to sake breweries and the centuries-old Kumano Taisha shrine, where ramen will be delivered for participants to enjoy.

The city recently collaborated with Yamagata Railway Co. to operate trains on the Flower Nagai Line featuring the protagonist of "Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles," a manga by Naru Narumi. A ride on this train has also been incorporated into the new tour.

In addition to the day trips, Nanyo is also eyeing creating accommodation packages in the future.

"We want to promote cultural exchange and expand our relationships, connecting the world with our city through ramen," a city official said.

© Kyodo News