Asa Ramen: What is The Breakfast Ramen? | CoolJapan

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 Breakfast Culture Japan

Would you have ramen for breakfast? (Photo from: Photo-AC)

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.

Cold asa ramen from Fujieda City

Cold asa ramen from Fujieda City. (Photo from: © Shizuoka Prefectural Tourism Association)

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 ramen

A hefty bowl of Kitakata ramen. (Photo from: Photo-AC)

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.

The growing asa ramen culture in Japan

The growing asa ramen culture in Japan, especially in major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Sapporo can be attributed to two things. First, asa ramen is convenient for employees who are commuting to work; it’s now offered in ramen shops located near train stations, main and minor streets, and more.

Sapporo asa ramen

Sapporo asa ramen. (Photo from: Photo-AC)

Second, many ramen shops have started to open earlier in the day to climb up from the economic loss during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This effective business model has been retained by many ramen shops now that things are starting to go back to normal, which adds to the availability of asa ramen in many locations in Japan.

According to a report made by The Japan Times in 2010, “only 20 or so ramen shops [were] open in the morning” in Japan around the early 2000s. Fast forward to the present, over 600 ramen shops all over Japan can now be found under the ‘asa-raa’ category, according to the Ramen Database website. These shops open as early as 4:00AM or 5:00AM depending on the area.

Would you try to have asa ramen the next time you visit Japan?