Make Japan even harder to leave by finishing your vacation with one of the most unique, satisfying ramen meals in Tokyo.
When traveling, the last day of your vacation usually ends up being the least enjoyable. By the time you get up and pack, there’s usually not time to do anything really fun before heading to the airport.
That can be especially frustrating if you’ve come all the way to Japan, and even more so if making your way to the airport means having to skip having lunch or dinner in Tokyo, the greatest city for dining out on the face of the Earth. But if you’re flying out of Haneda Airport, we’ve got good news for you, because the complex is home to one of the most memorably unique ramen restaurants we’ve found in quite some time.
We’ll get the one bad point out of the way first. Ramen restaurant Hitoshinaya is located in Haneda Terminal 1, not the International Terminal. However, the two buildings are just three minutes apart by train, and there’s also a free shuttle bus that runs between them, so a side-trip to Terminal 1 isn’t prohibitively time-consuming as long as you give yourself a little leeway.
While the most common types of ramen in Japan are soy, miso, or pork stock, Hitoshinaya’s specialty is something special: ramen with its broth made from tai, or sea bream. On our visit, we ordered the Tai Dashi Tai Kunsei Ramen (Sea Bream Broth with Smoked Sea Bream Raman), plus a side of ochazuke (usually meaning rice with green tea, but here referring to seasoned rice to pour ramen broth onto). The combo set us back 1,278 yen (US$11.70), which is just a bit on the pricey side for ramen, but the classy surroundings made it seem like a fair price, and if you’re looking to cap your Japan travels with a meal here, a shade over 10 bucks is definitely an affordable luxury.
After a five-minute wait, our order was ready, and we took a moment o admire its elegant presentation.
While the piece of smoked sea bream was the first thing to draw our eyes, we also spotted mizuna (potherb mustard) along with slices of red pepper, tomato, and sudachi, a refreshing lime-like Japanese citrus fruit.
Ramen-tasting always starts with the broth, though, so we scooped up a spoonful and took a sip. Hitoshinaya’s sea bream broth is also seasoned with kombu kelp, resulting in a rich, refined flavor, free of the heavy greasiness found in some varieties of ramen.
Ramen culture traditionally pairs certain thicknesses of noodles with certain broths, but having never had sea bream ramen before, we weren’t sure what to expect. Hitoshinaya uses moderately thick noodles that are straight, smooth, and a little on the soft side, allowing them to soak up plenty of the broth’s flavor.
Leaving the biggest impression on our taste buds was the smoked sea bream. While we’ve enjoyed Japanese tai as sushi and sashimi on numerous occasions, this was our first time to ever eat it as a ramen topping, and the enticing aroma only adds to its deliciousness.
Once we’d finished all our noodles, it was time to pour our remaining broth onto rice (an option also offered by Tokyo’s poisonous blowfish ramen restaurant).
▼ The ochazuke is additionally flavored with kombu, thin-sliced nori seaweed, wasabi, and fragrant leaves of mitsuba herb.
If we have one regret, it’s that since we only have one stomach, we didn’t get to try Hitoshinaya’s other star menu item, the Roasted Smoked Sea Bream Ramen. Given the restaurant’s location, odds are a lot of customers won’t be able to come back anytime soon (though we should mention that Hitoshinaya is outside the security checkpoint, meaning that even non-passengers can easily et there), so we recommend going with a friend so that you can order both types of ramen and share. And when the time does come to hop on your flight home, at least you can take heart knowing that it actually is possible to find great ramen overseas too.
Hitoshinaya / ひとしなや
Address: Tokyo-to, Ota-ku, Haneda Kuko, 3-3-2, Terminal 1 North Wing 2nd floor
東京都大田区羽田空港３丁目３−２ 第 １ ターミナル 北 ウイング２F
Open 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. (non-ramen breakfasts available from 5:30 a.m.)