A crowd of people surge up the steps of the main shrine at Kamakura (Kamakura Hachimangu). An immense line of people were waiting. They were allowed forward in groups of several hundred at a time. Video displays explained that preparations had begun at 5am. Japanese people visit shrines at the beginning of the year hoping for luck (basically wanting to get get “right” in a (ambiguous but desired) practical-spiritual sense. I’ve heard that 80 percent of all Japanese will visit a shrine during this period of the year. Most will claim a religion (usually Buddhism), but they do not consider themmselves “believers.”
I took this at 6am on a Saturday morning. Young people who stayed out all night at clubs in Shibuya dancing to hip-hop, techno, and whatever else is cool. People were gradually emerging in 2’s and 3’s to go home, and some congregated in shops like this one to grab a bite before heading to the train station. Ramen — it’s good 24 hours a day.
I love ramen. My favorite is Tonkotsu ramen loaded with garlic. The best shops put a bowl of raw garlic cloves on the counter, and I add 2 or 3 to the broth which is usually thick with garlic already. If you’re looking for great, strong tasting ramen, I recommend Ippudo Ramen (in Ebisu, Yokohama, or Takadanobaba). I like the thin, hard noodles (and, of course, the powerful taste). I also love Jangara Ramen in Harajuku. I always order the Kakuni Ramen. Kakuni is extra fatty, stewed pork. After eating Kakuni Ramen at Jangara with extra garlic I always feel a bit queezy, but I think it’s worth it. Anyway, I always go back.
The ramen shop in the picture is forgettable as far as I know. Ramen is fast food in Japan. Tokyo must have thousands of little ramen shops serving up average fare, but when you find a good one you’ll know.