Beyond Top Ramen: Hidden Treasure at Tsumugi in Akihabara

IMG_7629Akihabara is one of those neighborhoods that is synonymous with Tokyo. Its electronics shops and more recent stores dedicated to the obsession with Japanese comic books (manga) and animation (anime) represent many of the modern images that people around the world have of Japan. It’s also home to maid cafés and the wildly popular all-girl musical ensemble AKB48. If you visit Tokyo, Akihabara may be one of the places you will go to. And while you are there, you will probably at some point look for something to eat… perhaps ramen, at a place called Tsumugi (らーめん紬麦).

On a recent trip to Tsumugi, I ordered the house special, the Tsumugi ramen, in large size.

The noodles were the centerpiece. They looked and tasted like udon noodles rather than the usual ramen, though not as thick as standard udon. In fact, Tsumugi’s noodles are made with Sanuki wheat flour from the island of Shikoku, which is normally used in the region’s famous udon and explains the firm but chewy texture. Great stuff! And there was lots of it!

The soup was also delicious, soy sauce-based with some vinegar added in and a slight spiciness, perhaps from chili oil. Everything was topped with pork, green onions, Japanese leeks, bamboo shoots, and a green-leafy vegetable.

Tsumugi is not an easy place to find. It is located on the quieter east side of the Akihabara JR Station, next to the elevated highway in the basement of an MUFG bank (there are signs for two MUFG separate bank offices within tens of feet of each other, so be careful). Look for the swirly red, white, and blue barber shop pole, go inside the building, and down the stairs to a fluorescent-lit hallway. Down the corridor to the right is Tsumugi, a very mom-and-pop looking place with the ubiquitous ramen shop vending machine ready to accept your order.

One of the things I’ve discovered as a foreigner in Tokyo is that you have to adjust your sense of space and awareness when looking for places in the city. In America, most things tend to be at eye level and intuitively located. In Tokyo, you often have to think in a much more multi-dimensional manner, looking up for a sign and/or store that is several stories up in a building or down for a place located in a basement. There are also many wonderful places that are hidden away where you usually don’t expect them to be, such as a back alley away from a major street. For example, there’s a Michelin-rated sushi restaurant that you can only get to by walking through a parking garage.

Again, the Tsumugi ramen was very enjoyable and I left full and ready to check out the rest of Akihabara. It’s a great place to go to if you’re in the neighborhood, assuming that you can find it.

Tsumugi
B1, Dai San Higashi Building
1 Kanda Hirakawacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
 
Business Hours: Monday through Friday 11:30am-2:15pm, 6pm-8pm; Saturday 11:30am-4pm; closed Sunday and every 2nd & 4th Saturday
 
Getting there: Take the JR or the Metro (Hibiya Line) to Akihabara. Tsumugi is located to the east of the Akihabara JR station and right off of the Metro station, next to the elevated highway. Look for the MUFG bank (there are signs for two separate MUFG bank offices within tens of feet of each other, so be careful) and for a red, white, and blue barbershop pole. Go inside the building and immediately down the stairs to the basement level. Tsumugi is down the corridor, the last shop on the right.
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2 thoughts on “Beyond Top Ramen: Hidden Treasure at Tsumugi in Akihabara

  1. What a great post! You’re absolutely right when it comes to adjusting your sense of space and awareness when looking for places in Tokyo–not relying on everything being at eye level.
    When I visited Tokyo a few years back, Akihabara was one of my favorite spots. We went on a walking tour to the different alleys and back streets, tiny tucked in shops, and maid cafes, which we probably wouldn’t have found without the help of our guide and it was just wonderfully bizarre. 🙂

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    • Thanks for the great comment! Many of Tokyo’s neighborhoods are made to be wandered aimlessly around. Even if you have a set agenda of things to see, you often benefit from taking detours to check out a side street here and there. I don’t know where else you have gone in Tokyo, but I would also suggest walking around Nakameguro and Kagurazaka. They may not be as active and as well known to foreigners as other neighborhoods, but they are great for wandering about. The river area in Nakameguro is especially popular with locals for cherry blossom viewing.

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