Kyoto usually brings to mind history and elegant culture, and for good reason. However, Kyoto also has more colleges per capita than any other city in Japan, giving it a second, very different personality.
One particularly good example of these dual personalities is food. While Kyoto has many exceptional kaiseki restaurants, there are also many restaurants for college students, and that means ramen. In fact, on Higashioji-dori, between Ichijoji and Shugakuin stations in northeast Kyoto, there are currently fifteen ramen shops, with no fewer than five more a fairly short distance away.
Perhaps most surprisingly, especially given Kyoto’s reputation for delicate, subtle, refined cuisine, what most of Japan thinks of as thick, rich ramen (like Hakata-style tonkotsu soup, made from pork bones) is considered “average,” or even relatively light, in Kyoto. For ramen, and seemingly ramen alone, Kyoto craves nothing more than something rich, thick, and flavorful.
Kyoto prefers a type of soup called marudori paitan (a type of chicken soup made by cooking chickens, meat and all, at a rolling boil, instead of the usual clear chicken stock made by simmering carcasses without the meat, making sure to prevent it from coming to a boil), and in extreme cases the soup is thick enough to nearly be a sauce — the noodles sit on top of the soup, instead of sinking into it, necessitating stirring.
In fact, the original Tenka Ippin (a relatively famous chain, known for their rich chicken soup) is located in this part of Kyoto, and in recognition of local and nationwide ramen preferences, their thickest and richest ramen soup is only available at their original shop in Ichijoji.
If you find yourself in Kyoto and you’re a fan of ramen with rich, thick soups, it’s worth making a trip to this area to try some out! My personal favorite is Akihide (the last one in the video), but when there’s this much competition, you’ll find that everyone is great, just as a matter of keeping up with the surroundings.
One big surprise, when working with multiple languages, is that loanwords often have different meanings from the original language. This is natural, of course, as languages change and evolve over time, but it’s always a bit of a surprise to run across.
For example, English has a few loanwords from Japanese that are now almost unrecognizable: “tycoon” in English refers to a rich and influential businessperson, but it comes from 大君 (taikun), an old term used to refer to a sovereign (akin to “his majesty”). Likewise, the word “honcho” — usually “head honcho” — is used in casual American English to mean “the person in charge,” brought back after the soldiers in the postwar occupation learned the word 班長 (hanchō, “group leader”).
Of course, many English words have different meanings in Japanese. オリジナル (“original”) in Japanese is more or less exclusively used in the sense of “originality,” or “new and unique,” as opposed to its usual English meaning of “the first.” On the other hand, グッズ (“goods”) is closer in nuance to “merchandise” in Japanese, generally being used to refer to, say, licensed character merchandise (“character goods” in Japanese) or sporting goods (スポーツグッズ). Despite being a perfectly fine phrase in Japanese, referring to “original goods” in English is going to raise some eyebrows — something like “commemorative items” or some form of “merchandise” would be much closer in meaning to the Japanese, depending on the context.
These are good examples of how many loanwords change: often, a loanword has a narrower meaning than the word in the original language.* “Sauce” in English can mean any type of sauce, such as dipping sauces or béchamel sauce or barbecue sauce, but the loanword ソース in Japanese by itself usually refers something more along the lines of Worcestershire sauce specifically. On the other hand, English does the same thing: the word “salsa” was taken from Spanish, where it simply means “sauce.” As a result, the Japanese word サルサソース (“salsa sauce”) effectively means “sauce sauce”!
*Once in a while, interestingly, the opposite happens. For example, the English word “juice” has been adopted by Japanese as a loanword and, over time, has come to also encompass basically all other cold, sweet, non-alcoholic drinks, such as, say, cola.