Kyoto Ramen Alley, written in kanji as 京都拉麺小路 (きょうと ラーメン こうじ) is a must-see place for ramen enthusiasts, people who love new and interesting places, and the classic gluttonous human-being looking for a way to satisfy their cravings. It is located on the 10th floor of Kyoto Station, and you'll be in a for a tasty treat and an interesting experience if you have some time to stop by.
Kyoto Ramen Alley features ramen from nine different regions of Japan, with each region containing it's own unique variation of ramen. The nine regions span from Hokkaido to Fukuoka, with many regions in between. The different styles of ramen include Osaka tonkotsu ramen (pork-bone broth ramen), Tokushima sukiyaki-style ramen, Sapporo Miso-ramen, and even Tokyo tsukemen (a style of ramen where the noodles and broth come in separate bowls, and you dip the noodles into the broth). With the large variety of flavors and ingredients, there is something for everyone. Even if you don't like ramen, most shops also serve fried rice and gyoza dumplings in addition to ramen. Each bowl of ramen will cost you about 730 to 1150 yen, which is pretty standard pricing for Kyoto ramen shops in my experience.
Going into the ramen alley, you will notice that it has quite an interesting design. Each shop is made to look like a traditional machiya-style ramen shop, and the dark background with dim lighting gives the area the feel of a more immersive cultural experience. I felt that the design of the Kyoto Ramen Alley was just as much a part of the experience as the ramen itself.
When you walk in, you can take a pamphlet which shows pictures of the nine types of ramen, and the region each one comes from. On top of that, the pamphlet gives a description of how each type tastes, the ingredients it uses, and gives a rating for the noodle thickness and flavor profile (rich to light). I highly recommend picking up this pamphlet because it'll help you make sense of the seemingly endless varieties of delicious-looking ramen.
After deciding on which ramen shop to eat at, customers will buy a food ticket from the touch screen menu, and wait in line with their ticket until a vacant seat is available. The shops have large pictures of their ramen displayed outside of the shop, and some shops even have realistic plastic models to give customers an idea of the appearance and portion size of the food orders. Either way, you'll know what to expect as you buy your meal ticket.
After drooling over the various options and struggling to make a decision for much too long, I finally went with the Osaka-style ramen. I was gestured into the shop by the polite Japanese staff after waiting in line with my ticket, and I was served a cup of mugi-cha (barley tea) and some kimchi as an appetizer. The ramen itself had medium noodle-thickness and a satisfying, rich pork bone broth. It was topped with 4 slices of pork, some bean sprouts and a nice amount of green onions.
If you're interested in visiting Kyoto Ramen Alley, you can find it by taking the south elevator of Kyoto Station to the 10th floor. It's open every day from 11:00AM to 10:00PM, and last order is at 9:30PM. If you're not sure where the south elevator is, or if you get lost, there are many tourist information booths available in Kyoto Station, with staff more than happy to help you out.