Fukuoka Prefecture is renowned by noodle aficionados around the world as birthplace of Hakata ramen. Another local favorite, not as well known, is Nagahama ramen, a specialty of central Fukuoka. It takes its name after the neighborhood in Chūō Ward, where it was first introduced by a small stall named Nagahama-ya—along with the concept of kaedama, a second helping of noodles.
Originally founded in 1952, Nagahama-ya catered to fishery workers who typically had time only for a quick meal. With thin noodles and thick soup of pork bone broth, it soon became popular and the line between Hakata and Nagahama has been steadily growing thinner.
To make matters more confusing, there are numerous “Nagahama-ya” in Fukuoka today, including those founded by former employees of the original. With slightly altered names aplenty, several of them claiming to be the ganso (“original”), it now requires a huge hassle to seek out the one true, original original.
The confusion went on as the original closed in 2008 due to the major roadwork in the area, leaving only its (officially sanctioned) branch open to rival the impostors. Two years later, the branch closed permanently as the original returned to a new location.
On its former site now stands a number of neon signs, arrows and banners indicating the new location, declaring that it is the only original “original” Nagahama-ya. It may seem like a historical site, and indeed, many locals consider it to be Fukuoka’s most significant cultural heritage.
Know Before You Go
A regular serving of ramen at Ganso Nagahama-ya currently costs ¥550, and you can get a second helping of noodles for ¥100. First buy a ticket from the vending machine and place it on the table; your ramen will be ready as soon as you take a seat.