Ramen at Ganko (一条流がんこラーメン 総本家)

Ramen at Ganko (一条流がんこラーメン 総本家)

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Recommended bowl: O.G. Master at Work

Ganko original master Ichijou-san launched his first shop in Takadanobaba back in 1982. When it first opened, Ichijou-san's shop served donburi rice bowls for lunch and simple Tokyo-style ramen for dinner. The shop was little known at the time. In 1983, Ichijou-san embarked on a complete overhaul, transforming the restaurant into Ganko, a ramen specialty shop driven by his obsession and a desire to advance the cuisine — an approach that was still somewhat peculiar in those early days of the emerging Tokyo ramen scene. Most masters were more interested in preparing bowls in the old-school style rather than pushing boundaries. His disciples are now running more than 22 Ganko shops in the Tokyo area., and if you included his disciples' disciples' shops, there are over 50. Ichijou-san spawned an entire scene in Japan. He has been running his current shop in Yotsuya for about 10 years now. Customers still line up daily.

When it comes to the food, Ichijou-san changes his soup stock daily, trying out new things relentlessly. To find out what's upcoming, visit the shop's blog, where Ichijou lists the ingredients he will be using in the following day's soup stock. Sometimes it's hamaguri clams. Sometimes it's crabs. Sometimes it's fruit. This is an entirely original ramen made fresh by a master who has been in the game for decades.

Ordering at Ganko can be a little tricky, as there's no ticket machine and no menu. You'll have to tell your order directly to Ichijou-san or his wife. First-timers usually order the 'Jiyugaoka,' which is the standard bowl served every day. It's available in shio and shoyu. There are other crazy off-menu options available to regulars, such as 'Gehin' (Vulgarity) or 'Akuma' (Devil). These versions are extremely salty and often first time customers are not even allowed to order them (like many ramen masters, Ichijou-san prefers that first-timers try his signature bowl before venturing off-menu).

Back in the day, Ganko had a reputation for having a very strict atmosphere. But Ichijou-san has mellowed in his twilight years and seems to really enjoy his time in the ramen kitchen. He chats and jokes with customers and the shop has a great vibe. But he probably won't be at it too much longer… go now while you still can.

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