Jiyouken is Hakodate shio (salt) ramen at its simplest and finest. Located off a small, quiet street about 10 minutes' walk from the JR Hakodate train station, the atmosphere of the restaurant is authentic and straightforward. On a weekday at lunch, the wait was no longer than 10-15 minutes. Seating consists of a counter and a few tables, but the turnaround is fast. The simplicity of the shio ramen allows for the various ingredients to shine, including the taste of the clear salt broth, the firmness of the house-made noodles, and the flavor of the chashu (pork). The Japanese-only menu includes other items including various ramen types (shoyu, shio), excellent chahan (fried rice), soup noodles (tan men), cold noodles, curry rice plates and gyoza. Prices are affordable and value is excellent for this level of quality. The shop is closed on Tuesday, but open all other days for lunch and dinner.
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I first visited Japan in 2001 and since then have returned many times. With the efficiency and reliability of its transportation, the graciousness of the people, and the dedication to quality in food and service, Japan has been my standard for modern travel convenience. Every return has reminded me of the remarkable depth and diversity of the country with no two trips being alike, despite retracing steps through familiar neighborhoods. The constant dynamism of the urban centers combined with the emphasis on tradition, sense of aesthetics, and attention to detail make it one of the most exciting places to visit and an inexhaustible land for novel experiences, modern and ancient.