Back when we were in school, we learned that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s a way to fuel up our bodies for the day ahead. In several Japanese prefectures, a popular breakfast choice is the asa-raa or asa ramen (English translation: morning ramen).
When and how did asa ramen culture start?
Asa ramen culture is said to have originated from Fujieda City in Shizuoka Prefecture during the Taisho Period (1912 - 1926). Shizuoka Prefecture is known for producing green tea, with many plantations providing jobs to local workers. These plantation workers typically go to work before sunrise since it is said to be the most ideal time for harvesting tea leaves.
Aramen shop called Marunaka Ramen decided to cater to the plantation workers’ demanding work schedule in 1919 (currently, they open as early as 8:30AM). Eventually, many ramen shops in the area followed suit, thus giving birth to asa ramen culture.
How is asa ramen different from ramen eaten at other times of the day?
Generally speaking, asa ramen can refer to any type of ramen served in the morning. However, places like Shizuoka Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture have distinct asa ramen offerings.
For Shizuoka, there’s Shida style or Marunaka style, which has a bonito- and soy-based soup. It has smooth noodles and is served with char siu meat that’s more on the lean side. Shida ramen is also served with two bowls of noodles — hot ramen and cold noodles; the former is eaten first and the latter is for finishing the dish.
Kitakata City in the Fukushima Prefecture is known for Kitakata ramen which is also enjoyed as asa ramen. It’s served with a soy sauce base, thick curly noodles, green onions, and a load of char siu meat and bamboo shoots. This type of ramen is said to cater to many agricultural workers based in Kitakata City who need that extra boost of energy and stamina after working early in the morning in the fields, cultivating and harvesting rice, hops, and more.