There are two main reasons why people generally visit Asahikawa, Hokkaido. One reason is Asahiyama Zoo, the most popular zoo in Hokkaido, and the other reason is ramen. After being here for almost one year, I had been to a few ramen restaurants, but not nearly as much as I should have. To me, all ramen tastes good, so I had never really sought out the special ramen shops here before. But then, I started to become curious about the local ramens’ popularity. To help guide me on which shops I should visit, I asked Asahikawa’s “Ramen Guy” for help.
The “Ramen Guy,” named Michael Bugajski, is a 32-year-old native Chicagoan who has been living here for the past two years. He has also made it a personal goal of his to visit all of Asahikawa’s ramen shops. Out of interest, I asked him where he thought were the best places to eat ramen here.
Q: So you are known as the “Ramen Guy” by many English teachers in Hokkaido. How did you get that name?
A: I suppose it's not the worst reputation to have? I love ramen, and my obsession actually started back in 2011 when I lived in Niigata, and it felt natural to pick it back up here in Hokkaido. After researching and hitting many of the famous shops here, I started having to dig further, and soon enough, people started asking me for ramen recommendations whenever they came through Asahikawa (and sometimes, even Sapporo!) Since then, my legend began to spread at new teacher orientation and other meetings, until "Ramen Guy" really just stuck. It really took on a life of its own when I started to have people I don't know come up to me and say "Hey, aren't you the Ramen Guy?!”
Q: Why did you decide to try to go to all of the ramen restaurants here?
A: Finally, I've hit the big time! When I moved to Asahikawa, one of my coworkers, whom I shall lovingly refer to as Ramen Sensei, had just completed his tour de Asahikawa of ramen, and amassed reviews and pictures of over 400 shops in Asahikawa. He took me under his wing one day at lunch, when of all the teachers, he and I both pulled out our phones to take pictures of our ramen. He has since retired, but I'd like to think that his legacy is living on in me and my arteries. I don't know if I'll ever match up to his lofty accomplishment, but a guy can dream, right?
Q: Of all the ramen restaurants in Asahikawa, which ramen restaurant is your favorite? Why is it your favorite?
A: Asahikawa is blessed in that it has an amazing representation of ramen, even if the town's specialty is shoyu
, or soy sauce-based ramen. I’ll admit, I have a soft spot for Santouka
, because my actual first experience of Asahikawa ramen was in my hometown, Chicago, which sports its own Santouka location! But since then, I definitely think I've found my favorites. One of my longstanding go-to's for ramen is Himawari
in Pulp-cho. While not my first experience with horumon
(organ meat) ramen, their karaimiso morumen
raises it to a work of art. If you go, go early, and be prepared to wait! Even if you don't like horumon, I would recommend trying this ramen and see how it will change your mind!
One thing to keep in mind about Asahikawa-style ramen, is that it is usually pretty oily. They started adding additional oil to the soup in order to help keep the heat in the bowl during those cold winters, and the practice has kinda stuck!
Santouka is a famous ramen shop with locations around the world, but the shop’s starting point was in Asahikawa. Although Asahikawa is known for its shoyu (soy sauce-based) ramen, Santouka’s specialty is shio (salt-based) ramen. This ramen shop is one of the “big three” for Asahikawa ramen. Santouka is a 3-minute walk from Asahikawa Station. (Photo by author)
Himawari is famous for its horumon ramen. Its spicy miso ramen is also very good for those who like spicy food. Himawari is a 20-minute walk from Asahikawa Station. (Photo by Michael Bugajski).
Q: What are your other top choices? Why?
A: Oh wow! My top choices for Asahikawa? For shoyu
ramen, I would actually have to jump on the Aoba
bandwagon. Generally recognized as one of the oldest ramen shops in the city, their shoyu is a thing to behold. Not decked out with toppings, this really lets the flavor of the broth shine through.
This ramen shop has been open for over 70 years, and is often regarded as the most popular ramen shop in Asahikawa. Aoba is a 7-minute walk from Asahikawa Station. (Photo by Michael Bugajski).
Another favorite of mine would be the shoga
(ginger) ramen from Mizuno
. This might be the only ramen in Asahikawa I wouldn't mind eating every day. The soup is delicious, the noodles are the best kind of al dente, and the toppings are always fresh. Best of all, its probably one of the cheapest bowls you'll find in Asahikawa. Strongly recommend calling ahead if you want to go, because the shop is just the master and his wife, and they sometimes close early, or take a day off.
This shop has been open for 50 years and is the only place where you can eat ginger soy sauce-based ramen in Asahikawa. “Ginger noodles Mizuno” is a 21-minute walk from Asahikawa Station. (Photo by Michael Bugajski).
(salt-based) ramen, I would definitely recommend Ramen Kura
. The flavor they pack into a bowl is amazing, and the flavor profile really blew me away the first time I had it.
"Ichikura Ramen" or "Ramen Kura" is located 9 minutes away from Asahikawa Station. (Photo by author)
Almost on the opposite side of the spectrum, Sugawara
ramen makes an Ume-Shio ramen that may be the single most delicate bowl of ramen I've ever had.
Ramen Sugawara is 14 minutes away from Asahikawa Station. (Photo by Michael Bugajski).
For miso, the town favorite is definitely Yoshino
. If you go there, come hungry! Its an incredibly filling bowl of ramen, that is guaranteed to leave you full for a whole day.
"Yoshinoya" is a 30 minute walk from Asahikawa Station. You could alternatively take the "Shin-Furano Prince Hotel" bus until the "Asahikawa Kosei Byoin" stop. The bus ride will take about 7 minutes. From there, you can walk about 4 minutes until you reach the ramen shop. You can only find the ramen shop on Google Maps by typing "よし乃". Luckily, there are multiple stores, and the one closest to the station is only about a 15 minute walk away. (Photo by Michael Bugajski).
Q: Here is a list someone posted of the top 10 ramen restaurants in Asahikawa. Do you agree with this list? Why?
A: This list definitely has a lot of my favorites! Aoba, Tenkin, and Santouka are the big three of Asahikawa, and perhaps the most well known. Baikoken
is also internationally famous, so it’s always a busy stop! They do have local town favorite Yoshino listed, but not perennial local favorite Daidaiya
If I had any recommendation about this list, it would be to skip the Ramen Village! While there is nothing wrong with going there, most of the original locations for the ramen shops are a pretty short walk from Asahikawa Station. Skip the ride out, and check out the flagship locations instead!
Tenkin was opened in 1952, and is one of the “big three” for Asahikawa ramen. Tenkin is an 8-minute walk from Asahikawa Station. (Photo by Michael Bugajski).
Baikoken is located further away. To go, you can take a bus in front of Asahikawa Station. Look for the Asahikawa Airport Limousine Bus headed for Shin Furano Prince Hotel. The bus ride should take about 7 minutes, and you can get off at “Asahikawa Kosei Byoin”. From there it's a 20-minute walk to the ramen shop. (Photo by Michael Bugajski).
Daidaiya ramen is also far away from the main station. To go, take the same bus headed for Shin Furano Prince Hotel and get off at “Asahikawa Kosei Byoin.” (The bus ride takes about 7 minutes.) From there it's about 15 minutes on foot. (Photo by Michael Bugajski).
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: There are a lot of hidden gems for ramen shops in Asahikawa! Don't be afraid to walk down an alley if you see that ramen sign! Some of my regular spots are places I found quite by accident! Ramen Kasui
(in San-Roku) is popular for being open late in the night for those 2am ramen desires, and Sugawara Ramen (on the Kaimono Koen street) has a mind-boggling selection of ramen dishes to try. Places like Hakkai Ramen
(Kawabata) have great locally sourced ingredients on their menu, and their Pikkinu ramen uses a custom spice mix that their master created that will leave you breathing fire! I've had a few bowls that I won't rave about, but I've never walked away disappointed if I try a new ramen shop!
So there we have it, folks! Here are the top places to eat ramen according to Asahikawa’s “Ramen Guy”:
1. Himawari (ひまわり)
- Hours: 11:00 am - 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm; closed on Mondays
- Shop information
2. Mizuno (みづの)
- Hours: 10:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. (Monday- Saturday); 11:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Sundays)
- Shop information
3. Aoba (らぅめん青葉)
- Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. -7:50 p.m. (Monday - Saturday); 9: 30 a.m. -2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m.-6:50 p.m. (Sundays and national holidays); closed on Wednesdays
- Shop information
4. Sugawara (ラーメンすがわら)
- Hours: 10: 00 a.m.-10:00p.m. (Tuesday-Saturday); 10:00 a.m. -8:00 p.m. (Sundays); closed on Mondays.
- Shop information
5. Hokkaido Ramen Santouka (らーめん山頭火)
6. Ichikura (一蔵)
7. Tenkin (らーめんや天金)
8. Yoshino (よし乃)
9. Baikoken (梅光軒)
10. Daidaiya (橙ヤ)
It looks like I’ve got some eating to do.
It takes one hour and a half to reach Asahikawa Station from Sapporo Station (4500 yen for a one-way ticket). Alternatively, a bus ride takes about 2 hours (2060 yen for a one-way ticket).