Midnight Ramen, Try Life as a Salaryman


WordsRebecca Zissmann

©Agathe Hernandez

In France, well oiled evenings often end with a sandwich, a kebab or a take out crepe to soak up the excess. In Japan, you should head to a ramen-ya, open after midnight for a comforting and nourishing broth to help wash away the sins of the evening.

There, drinking is often part of one’s professional obligations. Nomikai, literally drinking meetings, between colleagues after a day at work are more than simple bonding sessions. They allow people to let loose and shed the inhibitions which prevent employees from normally complaining to their superiors for example. Codified rituals, these evenings encourage the consumption of alcohol and give way to excess, which is often forgiven the next day. It is these rituals that have given way to the stereotype of the Japanese salaryman stumbling through the streets of the city in shirt and tie at the start of an evening.

It is not uncommon for these groups to gather themselves once again at an all-night restaurant such as a ramen-ya. Here there is no judgment, just a bowl of soup and some noodles. Some restaurants, such as the chain Ichiran offer to limit interactions between clients and staff; ordering takes place at a small booth where you receive a ticket number corresponding to your seat before taking a seat at a counter equipped with a sliding blind, separated from other clients with panels forming a sort of box so you can eat in peace. The blind is lifted and the food deposited without client or server ever having to exchange glances. It doesn’t get quieter than that for a solo dinner.

In Paris, Le Fooding has teamed up with the beer makers Asahi to launch the event Bouillon de Minuit this autumn, offering the chance to grab your own Midnight Ramen at one of the French capital’s bistros. Thirteen chefs have come together to organise fifty dinners with a set menu, starter, main, dessert and beer for 20 euros. This is a real godsend for those who are nostalgic for Tokyo nights. Better yet, a number of these late night spots are a stones’ throw from the city’s best nightlife, for example Peco Peco in Pigalle or the in-house restaurant at club Badaboum.

Those who aren’t quite yet ready to face a late night solo dinner can get into the mood with the Netflix series Midnight Diner, adapted from Yaro Abe’s manga. The show features the owner of a small restaurant in the district of Shinjuku as he encounters a series of improbable clients. A chain of comic scenes accumulate, accompanied by the most appetising of traditional dishes, enough to whet one’s appetite and entice you out for your own Midnight Ramen.

Left: ©Marine Bidaud / Right: ©Matthieu Jauniau-Dallier