More Than a Thousand Ramen Restaurants in the City of Ramen, Sapporo
Sapporo is famous for ramen. You can see signs "RAMEN" here and there, and especially on Ramen Alley (Ramen Yokocho), New Ramen Alley (Shin Ramen Yokocho), Tanuki Menkoi Street, and in Kotoni are many ramen restaurants. Every restaurant has a lot of customers during the Sapporo Snow Festival and in summer, the good season, because many tourists come here.
Sapporo has more than a thousand ramen restaurants, and it's said to be one of the three cities of ramen in Japan. Today in Japan, ramen is called "the popular dish all over the country". What's "ramen"?

What Is Ramen?
Ramen is a Japanese original noodle dish that consists of "noodles" (men), hot "soup", and "ingredients" (gu) ---"ingredients" are on "noodles" in "soup". The noodles are made chiefly from flour. The feeling of the noodles when you slurp and chew them is important in Japan. We have other noodle dishes including "udon" (thick white noodles) and "somen" (thin wheat noodles), which are made from flour, too. But the flour for "ramen" contains more protein than for "udon" and "somen". And the flour is mixed with "kansui" (a food additive which is a solution of potassium carbonate and so on). That helps bring out the good feeling and features the noodles of "ramen". The soup is inventively made from pig bones, chicken bones, fish, vegetables, and things like that. The typical ingredients are roast pork and Chinese bamboo shoots. However, "ramen" doesn't have particular rules in noodles, soup nor ingredients. Depending on regions or restaurants, each noodle with different character is matched with each soup made in different ways and various ingredients, and it's served to their customers.

The Beginning of Ramen
Ramen doesn't have a long history, and originated from a Chinese noodle dish. It was first eaten as a popular dish when "Rairai-ken", a Chinese restaurant, was opened in Asakusa, Tokyo, in 1910. Their chef from Chinatown of Yokohama adapted "Tang Mian" for a Japanese style, which is a Guangdong's noodle dish (served with vegetables and meat in soup) and was eaten in Yokohama for some time, and it attracted their customers. The new dish got popular and established among common people in Tokyo because of a low price.
In Sapporo, Wang Wencai, a Chinese chef, is said to have first served ramen in "Takeya", a Chinese restaurant opened in 1923. But, after the Second World War, ramen stalls opened between 1946 and 1947 founded what Sapporo is today in earnest. The stalls became popular in the period of a food shortage after the war, and the owners of them began to run their restaurants in the 1950s.

The Ramen of Sapporo
Morito Omiya, who founded "Aji-no Sanpei", is the most memorable person among owners and chefs of ramen restaurant in Sapporo. He created "ramen in miso (fermented soybean paste) -flavored soup". Before that, ramen was served only in soy sauce-flavored soup, which was cooked with soy sauce in soup stock of pig bones. He had been looking for new flour, so he kept researching it over and over. At last he found "miso-flavored" soup, which was familiar to Japanese people like soy sauce, and he came up with ideas to put stir-fried vegetables on it. Then he perfected "ramen in miso-flavored soup" and put it on his menu in 1954. This new ramen "with vegetables on it in miso-flavored soup" was significantly popular in Sapporo. About 1960, "miso-flavor" was started at other restaurants and established "the specialty of Sapporo" among tourists. After that, it got known all over Japan, by a demonstration of cooking it and a sale of it at exhibits of the products of Hokkaido in various parts of Japan or by the mass media. Between 1960 and 1970, as "the ramen of Sapporo", it was extremely in throughout.

Ramen in Miso-Flavored Soup by Aji-no Sanpei
A little thick, frizzled, yellow noodle, with stir-fried vegetables including bean sprouts on it, in rich soup used soup stock of pig bones with floating lard.

Ramen as the Popular Dish All over Japan
"Ramen" developed in each place of Japan as a Chinese noodle dish changed into a noodle dish used miso peculiar to Japan in Sapporo. In some areas thin noodles in white cloudy soup stewed pig bones are chiefly eaten, in others thick sort noodles in almost clear soy sauce-flavored soup are. Ramen is fascinating because it's not traditional and it has many variations with free ideas.
Today, ramen is popular as a fast food in Japan. A lot of people are enthusiastic about it. In a big city, Tokyo, there are ramen restaurants where you can enjoy tastes from various parts of Japan, and new tastes are created daily. Some people wait in a long line for delicious ramen in front of popular restaurants even for one or two hours.
In Sapporo, which is famous for "the ramen of Sapporo", there are ramen restaurants from all over Japan. On "Ramen Alley" and "New Ramen Alley" since the 1970s, have many ramen restaurants been, and ramen restaurants with more originality are in "Kotoni". On "Tanuki Menkoi Street", ramen restaurants have been increasing twice for the past one or two years, and you can have a lot of tastes from Tokyo style ramen in clear soup to Kyushu style in rich soup. Other new ramen streets have appeared and got popular.
We can call ramen new Japanese food. If you come to Sapporo, you should have "ramen in miso-flavored soup" at first. And then, enjoy various tastes!

The First Ramen Alley
It started in 1971 and it's famous among tourists.
Tanuki Menkoi Street
It's a typical shopping district in Sapporo. Ramen restaurants with more originality are from 4-chome to 7-chome, Tanuki Street (Tanuki Koji).