I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Akiko Yano -- Ramen Tabetai (ラーメン食べたい)

Today, Toronto got socked with a snowstorm that hadn't been seen in 5 years supposedly. Quite the result considering last year was the year without a Winter in my fair city. But whenever a ton of snow gets plopped down either here or in Tokyo (which did get smacked with the white stuff a few weeks ago), I get the craving for that wonderful steaming bowl of Japanese noodles. It is available every day of the year, of course, but I think Winter is the perfect season to slurp down some tonkotsu or miso ramen.

Akiko Yano(矢野顕子) thought so, too, apparently, thus "Ramen Tabetai"(I Wanna Eat Ramen) that she had written and composed as a track for her 7th album, "Oesu Oesu" in June 1984. I actually first heard the song on her 1996 BEST album, "Hitotsu Dake"ひとつだけ....Just One), as a re-arranged version, so I was quite surprised to hear the original version through the video above. It's as if the band Santana had decided to give their tribute to the famed Japanese dish, and so it also stands out since the early 80s had her performing a number of technopop tunes. This one, though, has a slick somewhat disco beat to it. A couple of months after the album release, "Ramen Tabetai" also got its due as an official single.

The refrain has Yano wanting her ramen this way according to her lyrics:

Don't want any BBQ pork, don't want any naruto (a thin slice of fish cake with a spiral pattern),
Won't order it fancy
Put on the onions, put on the garlic, just pour it on

Can't agree with her choice totally....I DEMAND my pork and naruto in any ramen.

However, as we go further into the song, there's some depth in there, as in any decent ramen stock:

It's tough for guys, but it's tough for women too.
It'd be nice if I could become a friend
These exhausting days, I wanna talk so
Read the letter with the huge words with all your might, eh?

I will eat my own ramen. I will eat it on my responsibility
Next time I come, I'll come with everybody, I'll even bring my grandma
But, but, 
For now I wanna eat it alone, I wanna eat ramen.

Although there was no official gender segregation when it came to ramen restaurants or any of the Japanese fast food places such as gyudon joints, back around the time that Yano had written this song, it was hard for women to enter ramen joints by themselves. There was a heavy feeling that such places were only for men, and I think Yano wanted to say (perhaps in a tongue-in-cheek way) that she also wanted to break through the Noodle Ceiling to get her chance to slurp down a bowlful of the good stuff by herself without feeling intimidated. I don't think she was particularly trying to make a political statement against any perceived "Women Not Welcome"policy amongst the ramen restaurants of Japan, though, and as it was, the powers-that-be certainly didn't think so, since the corporation Myojo Foods was more than happy to use the song as a commercial jingle.

Years later, during my time in the various ramen joints of Tokyo, it looked like that the Noodle Ceiling was broken for the most part, since I've seen women coming in alone or in pairs, and there was nothing even remotely resembling a sidelong glance from any of the male customers or staff.

As for Toronto, my city has been in the middle of a ramen boom for the past couple of years. It seems like our little corner of Ontario has also discovered the joy of a bowl of pure Japanese comfort food.

A steaming bowl of shio cha-siu
at Santouka in downtown Toronto


  1. Oh boy, now I'm craving some ramen, too. Need this deliciousness to get me through the tough times of difficult weather and stuffy noses.

    Back to Yano, I love this song. She is one of those talents who's very skilled at what she does, but hides the fact beneath fluffy songs about ordinary experiences. Thanks for shedding more light on it and Yano's sense of humor. Subtlety is best.

  2. Hey, nikala.

    Man, on a night like tonight, if I had been stuck downtown, I would have tried to make a beeline for Santouka, Sansotei, Kenzo or Kinton. This definitely would have been categorized as a ramen night with the thickest slabs of pork and the richest soup, topped with bean sprouts and that all-important soft-boiled egg.

    In the few interviews I've seen of Yano, I think she has that wonderful sense of humour in both English and Japanese. I ought to talk with one of my former students. He and his wife are huge Yano fans and they went to her concert last December.



Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.