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拉面 La Mian World

the quest for the perfect noodle

Sapporo in Winter! We all know Sapporo had hosted the winter Olympics of 1972 and so you would expect some snow. And snow I got when I visited Hokkaido’s major metropolis this February exactly 41 years after this historic event which marked the first time any winter Olympics were happening outside of Europe and North America. 1972 is an auspicious year for me. This Chinese year of the rat is my year of birth and the (unfortunately overshadowed) summer Olympic games took place in the city where I was born, Munich. I immediately felt at home in the snow covered Sapporo.

What I did not know, and only found out while warming up in my hotel room from the snow blast outside, is that Sapporo has a so called Ramen alley in its entertainment district of Susukino.

Since this year was not the first harsh winter that Sapporoans have experienced, they were smart enough to dig a lot of tunnels underneath the city. So you can practically walk all the way from the main JR railway station to Susukino underground. It is nice and warm and of course features a multitude of shops along the way. Resurfacing at Susukino subway station it is just a short slide on icy roads to the original Ramen alley.

The alley is more like a small passage way between two high rise blocks which is plastered with a long row of small Ramen restaurants. At eleven in the morning most of the eateries were still closed. I imagined that in the evening you will be pushed through this Ramen tunnel as two man can hardly pass here.

Entering one of the restaurants my lovely travel companion and I were obviously the first guests of the day. The open kitchen of this place showcased a massive mess and was in fact not the usual Japanese eyecandy. However, the old man in the kitchen prepared our meal in his lifelong routine way. He produced a beautiful bowl of Ramen and lit a cigarette after his five minutes of hard work while we slurped the noodles as loud as possible to show our appreciation.

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